The Day I Became A Motherless Daughter – Part I

“One thing that I know is it will get better. Each and every drought ends in the river.”

– Beautiful Girl – Sarah McLachlan


Mom & Her Scanoe (yes … Scanoe) On the Miramichi River – Our Favourite Place In The World

Isolation. Loss of Identity. Darkness. Guilt. The experience of grief is traumatic and painful beyond what these words can possibly convey, though I can’t find better ones for the job. The single most earth-shattering moment of my life was the day I became a Motherless Daughter, though the long-lasting trauma imposed by that experience did not reveal itself to me for days, weeks, and even years to come.

As I’ve sought out light in the darkness, I’ve begged and prayed for healing to come. It took me a very long time to learn that it wasn’t going to happen. At least, not in the way I’d expected. Some scars remain open wounds for a lifetime. It took an even longer time for me to realize that this wasn’t really such a terrible thing. I certainly did not know this on May 3, 2014. That was the day that changed everything. And looking back now, I realize that I had no idea what was to come.

If you’ve already read my first blog post, you’ll know that the last shove from life that pushed me into starting this blog was the experience I had in participating in the What’s Your Grief Holiday Photo Challenge on my Instagram in December 2018. The photo challenge gave me the opportunity to really dive deeply into my experiences with grief & connect with others. I am now 4.5 years removed from that fateful day, and in the time that’s passed since I’ve learned so many lessons that my heart begs me to share. But before I can do that, I think it may make more sense to start at the beginning.

This story is about the day the life ended
of the person who gave me mine.

My mom and I truly were best friends. We did nearly everything together, and talked about things most mother and daughters would consider completely taboo or awkward. It wasn’t that way with us though. While she might have been intensely strict during my teen years (ask any of my friends from high school!), as I entered young adulthood our relationship  shifted. In the two years prior to her death, our bond evolved even more, when her and my dad separated, leaving all of us hurt and lost but most especially her.


Besties for the Restie!

As my mom struggled to pick-up the pieces, I found myself in a sudden position where I was able to offer her comfort and love that she desperately needed. My mom was really careful to encourage an ongoing relationship between me and my dad, and she never urged me to ‘pick sides.’ But my heart was broken by the separation, and seeing her in pain, I knew my place at that moment in time was by her side.

Though I’d certainly never been through a divorce, and I couldn’t possibly know what she was going through, I was able to relate to the most important thing of all – her heart. Our spirits were so aligned and alike that I somehow was able to offer my mom wisdom beyond anything that I’d actually experienced myself. Through this, we became even more tightly bonded in a way beyond what we’d ever known before.


My Mom’s Last Birthday – Turning 50 With Me & My Siblings

Of course, we argued as well. After all, we were mother and daughter, and that’s what mothers and daughters do. In fact, we were arguing (playfully albeit, but arguing nonetheless) on the day of her death. The night before my mom had spent the night at her boyfriend (she HATED that word, she felt it sounded childish) Kevin’s house, and she’d come home around 9:30 AM. Our house was on the real estate market (as homes often go following a marital separation), and there was a showing that afternoon. So, her and I got started tidying up to make it ‘presentable.’ I made us breakfast (baked eggs in avocado, sprinkled with feta cheese), and we shared coffee followed by a pot of tea. She complained that she’d gained a couple of pounds in the last few months, and I got down on the kitchen floor to show her a new ab work out I’d found on Youtube, trying to force her to do it with me. She couldn’t manage it through her fits of giggles at how ridiculous I looked.

She then told me that her and her boyfriend were heading out for a ride on his motorcycle that afternoon. It was the first sunny day of spring after a very long winter, and she was eager to feel the wind in her hair. A year prior, I would have laughed in your face if you ever told me I’d see my mom on the back of a motorcycle. But that past summer when she’d met Kevin, she’d grown to love it. It brought her exhilaration and joy, and after a period of heavy darkness, I was happy she’d found this.


A Childhood Memory – My Mama, My Sister & I – Life On The East Coast

I didn’t want her to go out that afternoon though. My boyfriend was home in Ontario, and none of my friends were around. I was bored and wanted to hang out. She laughed and suggested that it would be nice if there were two back-seats on the motorcycle so I could come along, and I groaned that I couldn’t believe I was being reduced to a third wheel of my mom’s relationship. I was annoyed. She was happy, and giggly, and acted like a bubbly school girl when Kevin arrived to pick her up. I grumbled and groaned about how bored I was. She laughed it off.

Before leaving the house, she jokingly asked me to do one last scan of the house to ‘make sure no one left their underwear laying around on the floor somewhere,’ and I retorted ‘why the heck would anyone leave their underwear on the floor?’ She shrugged with a laugh and headed out the door.

That was it. Our very last conversation ever was about underwear.

That afternoon, I took our dog and headed over to my grandparents to hang out with them while the house showing happened. After a couple hours, I returned home and made a salad to eat for lunch. At that time, I sent a text to my mom asking if I could borrow her car the following weekend to attend my friends bridal shower out of town. As I sat down to eat, my phone rang and I assumed it was her calling to respond to my text message.

It wasn’t.

Kevin’s voice came over the phone, telling me they’d been in an accident. He explained that though my mom was unconscious, she was breathing.

Unconscious, but breathing. Unconscious, but breathing.
Unconscious, but breathing.

4.5 years later, those words still ring through my head.

I didn’t know it at the time, but learned soon after that Kevin’s hands had been so badly crushed in the accident that he’d had someone else dial the number on his phone so that he could get ahold of me. It was like we were living in two alternate universes on the other ends of the line. I had no idea what was yet to come.

Kevin explained that the ambulance would be taking them to the hospital, and asked me to meet them there. So, I left my salad out on the table, and rushed. My phone battery was nearly dead, and I did not think to grab a charger. I don’t even remember if I grabbed my wallet. After all, I had no idea how long I would be at the hospital. I had no idea that though I would enter the doors one person, I would leave as another.

The entire drive to the hospital, I shook. My body shivered as though it were the dead of winter, and my mind raced. It’s bizarre to look back on that drive, realizing how at the time, I had absolutely no concept of death. She would be okay, I assumed. Because everything always turned out okay. I didn’t think “She won’t die,” or anything along those dies, because it did not even cross my mind as a possibility. Instead, I wondered about injuries, and treatments, and surgeries, and healing. I was anxious, but not paralyzed. I didn’t think about death, because death simply wasn’t on my radar.


Falls Brook Falls, NB

When I arrived at the hospital, the staff took me into a private waiting room in the Emergency Room. Looking back, I realize being taken to a private room should have been my first clue that this was serious. I wasn’t waiting out in the general area with the rest of the people who were there. I was isolated for a reason.

Still, I didn’t clue-in. I didn’t call my grandparents, my siblings, my friends, aunts, uncles … I didn’t want to needlessly worry them. Instead, I thought I’d wait until the prognosis was given, and then I’d let them know. I assumed by the time I saw my mom, she’d be upright in a hospital bed and laughing at herself in embarrassment for giving me such a scare.

I texted my boyfriend, who was due to fly-in the next day, and we had planned to do a Costco run with my mom upon his arrival. I told him Costco may not be able to happen, depending on how bad my mom’s injuries were. Looking back, the fact that I was concerned about Costco is utterly hilarious. Mac responded with concern, clearly understanding the gravity of the situation before I did.

My phone rang and it was the paramedic who was with Kevin. Wherever you are – Wade from Ambulance NB, consider this my shout-out of gratitude for your voice of reassurance on the very worst day of my life. He explained that Kevin had asked him to call me and ensure I was alright and had arrived at the hospital. He could not update me on my mom as she had been taken in a different ambulance, but he reassured me that anything that could be done, would.

In the meantime, Kevin had also gotten ahold of a friend of his and my moms who appeared by my side seemingly out of nowhere. She was able to convince me to call my grandparents who rushed immediately to the hospital. I will never forget the crack in my Grammie’s voice when I told her to come to the hospital, and that there’d been an accident. I pray that anyone reading this can be released of ever having to make a phone call like that.

Shortly after their arrival, the first doctor entered our room. I can close my eyes and see his face as clearly as yesterday, as he uttered the words “no brain activity” I remember my confusion, in having no idea what that meant.

He did his best to gently explain, but I pressed him further.

“So you’re telling me, I’m never going to talk to my mom again?,” I asked.

He said yes, regretfully, and in that moment I felt like I was floating above my body. This wasn’t reality. It couldn’t be reality.

I prayed so hard to God, begging and bargaining in a way I never had before. I told Him I’d give up nearly anything and everything in my life, I promised to change every habit and behavior that brought me gladness,  I insisted that I’d give up nearly every single morsel of joy for the rest of my life if it would change the outcome.

Alas, those were unanswered prayers. I do not know why and if I’m being honest, I’ve stopped asking the question.

All I know is that was the day my entire identity changed. That was the day, I became a Motherless Daughter.

This post is the first of a 2-Part Series telling the story of the day I became a Motherless Daughter. Stay tuned for Part II to be published next week. Be sure to ‘Join Me’ and follow the blog to get notifications to your email inbox of when my blog posts are published so that you will not miss a thing!



Probably One Of The Least Flattering Photos Of My Life … But I LOVE The Memory. Sipping Wine & Chatting Together In the Miramichi River



14 thoughts on “The Day I Became A Motherless Daughter – Part I

  1. Dave says:

    Good lord Heather,this is so well written.i really didn’t want to feel this pain today and didn’t expect to be wiping tears from eyes but it is what it is. I can so remember every momement of that day from the first call I received to the the moment I arrived at the hospital maybe someday I will attempt to write it all down as well.


  2. Cathy Hussey says:

    I’m so sorry that you lost your Mom and a great friend. I met your Mom through hockey. My son Brandon played on Eric’s team. She was a very nice person and I enjoyed our time together as “hockey moms”.


  3. Michael says:

    Heather, the way you share this story puts us all there with you on that day. I certainly remember the moment I got the phone call. We can only try to imagine your pain and grief but learn from you as well that we do get through grief. Not get over it. But get through it. I always look forward to reading from you. You and your mom will forever be beautiful girls to me….


    • heatherjanevarner says:

      I am so grateful to you for that CD and bringing that song into my life. It’s one of my ‘go-to’ songs when I want to feel close to her now. Thank you for the read and the comment. I know my mom cherished all of her memories with you ❤


  4. Pam Bird says:

    Heather you are so talented. You just made me feel like I was right there with you that day. The tears were streaming. Your Mom was so proud of you and I know she still is. You are a remarkable young woman😘


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