Saskatchewan

Sask. musician Jeffery Straker on love, loss and his 'life-changing' final moments with his mom

Jeffery Straker says his mother, who died last month at age 73, imparted lessons about being kind and leaving things better than when you found them.

The singer-songwriter says his experience helped him realize grief isn't talked about in society

Jeffery Straker says he took this photograph after going to Handel's Messiah at Christmastime with his mother a few years ago. She died last month at the age of 73. (Jeffery Straker/Facebook)

Jeffery Straker was by his mother's bed when she died in hospital on Feb. 24.

"It's otherworldly, in a way. Mom's only 73, so I did expect I'd have about 20 more years or so. And then you don't," Straker told CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend.

The Saskatchewan songwriter said for him, grief has been physical — but it's not something often talked about.

"It's a feeling beyond sadness. It's like you've been handed two buckets of something really, really heavy that you can't put down, and you're sort of forced to walk around with them," Straker said.

"Through all that I'm surrounded by some really wonderful people and they've really helped me process and understand."

Beverly, a person of faith who attended a United Church, 'said she wasn't scared. She wasn't scared to die,' says Jeffery Straker. (Tompkins Funeral Home)

About two-and-a-half years ago, Beverly Straker went through chemotherapy to treat lymphoma.

The treatment was successful in fighting the cancer, but an infection led to septic shock. Someone with a stronger immune system might have been able to fend off what she couldn't, Straker said.

We told her repeatedly how much we loved her, because really, we really did.- Jeffery Straker

He takes some comfort in the fact he was able to be there with her at the end of her life.

"My brother and sister and I were really lucky to be able to be with her her last couple days in the hospital, and it was really beautiful," he said.

"Your life kind of flashes before your eyes.… We told her repeatedly how much we loved her, because really, we really did.

"And it was a great experience. It really was. I mean, you know, she said it back. That was really meaningful."

An outpouring of support and fond recollections of his mother 'really puts what we're here for into perspective,' says Straker. (Submitted by Jeffery Straker)

Beverly, a person of faith who attended a United Church, "said she wasn't scared. She wasn't scared to die," Straker said.

"It really helped me. It comforted me, I guess, in the long run, although it's still hard to think about — but she was comforted by that," he said.

"And we don't talk about this as a society — like, we're all terrified of death, was one thing I realized in this process. But seeing it happen was actually quite life changing.… It's amazing."

Straker said the biggest lesson he'll carry on from his mother is simply to be a good person.

"It almost seems like practically everyone she encountered, touched … in her time has reached out and said, 'Oh my God, what an amazing soul," he said.

"It really makes you realize that at the end of the day, there is nothing more you can ask for. It really puts what we're here for into perspective," said Straker.

While he says it's something he's tried to do in his life, Straker says "the gift she gave me is to … go forth with even more of … like, leave this place a little better than we found it."

A memorial was held for Beverly at the community hall in Punnichy, Sask., on March 9. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to the Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation.

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend

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