Daytime is risky for the nighthawk. In the evening you can hear them flying overhead, eating mosquitoes and other small insects, but in the daylight they sleep on branches or sometimes even a fencepost, trusting that their feathers will fool predators into thinking they are part of the tree or the post. Last summer I took these photos from only a few feet away while down below the boys, Adam and Daniel, were roasting meat (and sugar) over a fire for their lunch.
My nephew Daniel likes to sleep when the sun goes down but my son Adam, being a nighthawk, prefers to sleep in the daylight hours, thus running similar risks as his feathered namesake. He does his best to blend into his blankets. Though we did not know it at the time, we were spending our last summer with their Grandma Laureen, camping at Gowan’s Grove.
We planned another week with Mom at the Grove this August, but on May 30th she fell and broke her knee. Adam more than any of us could appreciate the pain she must have been going through, having dislocated his patella last spring. When a medical team at Regina General operated on Monday June 1st they found cancer in Mom’s knee. Then, while still under the knife, she had a heart attack. The doctors did not think she’d come out of ICU alive, but she stabilized and they returned her to her hospital room. My sister Alison and I booked Wednesday morning flights. Adam told me he wanted to come too, but he had three exams and four essays to finish, and I argued with him that it wasn’t necessary. I’d go ahead and let him know if he should come.
When Alison and I arrived in her room at noon on Wednesday, June 3rd, Mom opened her eyes and tried to speak. Ray and Heather and my sister-in-law Shann and my niece Carly were all there. We joined them in the waiting, talking, holding Mom’s hand. Adam had called Heather to say again that he wanted to be with us. I called and told him to come.
We sat with Mom for hours, listening to her laboured breathing. When we sang songs to her, “You are My Sunshine”, “Danny Boy, “Goodnight Irene” (which we changed to “Goodnight Laureen”), she would often try to sing along. At eleven that night Adam arrived and insisted he wanted to stay there in the room with her. Heather had already gone home for the night. The nurses found him a mattress and Alison and I went to get some sleep at a Hotel, leaving him to sit vigil through the night. When I arrived back in the morning they were both sleeping.
The palliative care nurse let us know that the hospital authorities had decided Mom should be moved back to her care home, Echo Lodge in Fort Qu’Appelle, by ambulance that afternoon, but I said I didn’t think it made much sense and the nurse agreed, recommending that she be allowed to stay in her room. We sat on through the day, Thursday June 4th, talking and singing, reading and thinking, laughing and crying.
At 5:30 in the afternoon Mom opened her eyes and tried to speak. Alison and Adam went to the bed and told her that we were all there with her. She looked directly into Alison’s eyes for what seemed like 30 seconds and I took this photo.
She gasped once and she was gone.
We are returning to Gowan’s Grove this summer. We’ll have Mom with us. On July the 11th we’re holding a memorial for her there, where we spread Dad’s ashes eight years ago. In the evening, once the sun goes down and the stars come out, we’ll hear the nighthawk flying over the treetops.