it was 1997

After almost ten successful years in the Event Marketing field, I found myself unemployed after a fruitful lawsuit against my employer for sexual harassment. It was better I moved on. A settlement allowed me the opportunity to job search on my brand spanking new laptop.

A few weeks into my new leisurely schedule my Mom called from her place of work. The advertising agency owned by the same company needed a receptionist ASAP. Bored out of mind I took the job. I was quickly promoted to office manager for the production department. It is there that I met the Creative Director. The man I would marry two years later.

a whirlwind romance

A whirlwind May/December (he was 14 years older) romance that took me from city to city, cottages to hotels and frequent trips to the Bahamas leading up to a storybook proposal on the frozen lake at the end of the dock in Muskoka. My favorite place is sitting on the end of a dock. Nothing compares.

We were married in the Bahamas on Paradise Island at a friends estate. That year was beautiful and we welcomed our first born via emergency c-section, Adam in July of 1999. Adam was our everything. First child and spoiled as such. Every month Adam and I would go to my parents 45 mins away and stay with them for a week. Life was good.

years of grief

In 2002, I found out I was pregnant again and two weeks later my Dad died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack at the young age of 63. My mother sold their home and moved into an apartment just a few blocks away from me. Two months later she was diagnosed with Stage IV Squamous Cell Lung Cancer.

After six weeks of therapy, there was the SARS outbreak and because I was four months pregnant I was banned from going to the hospital. Family friends took my Mum to her treatments. A month later we decided it was best my Mum move in with me. Every night I spent in bed with her until we talked ourselves to sleep, always ending with “no regrets” and “I’ll see you in the morning”.

The mornings were our time to visit the ’boutique’, which really was her apartment and we gradually moved her things into my home, but always under the pretense that we bought it shopping at her ’boutique’ because…

it was our mission to get through this chapter of her life with ease, with love and most of all with laughter.

Trips to Winners, with extra grocery bags for her vomit if we laughed too hard and the welcoming smiles from curious shoppers. Those special moments shared that only a mother and daughter share. One day, an elderly gentleman behind us in the “12 items and under line” verbally accosted us because we had 14 items. Clearly, my Mother is at death’s door and I am damn near ten months pregnant “You SHUSH NOW!” I said while I wobbled up to him shaking my finger at him.

“life is not that bad,”

I said and walked away, taking my Mother’s arm and we laughed and laughed. My Mother was well enough to be my birth buddy in the OR for my repeat c-section. They pulled Krista out and my mom proceeded to lunge over the surgical shield to grab her. “Oh, Mrs. Ritchie, you can’t do that!” I laughed so hard my oxygen mask popped off. My Mother adored Krista for five whole months.

We hired a cleaning lady to scrub our floors, but in the end, we made friends with the cleaning lady and she became a babysitter for Krista as well. She was so much more to my Mum and me than a cleaning lady. She helped my Mum and I share special moments together. My Mum died in my arms in May of 2003, one week shy of the year anniversary of my Dad’s death. Her last dying breath was spent with “I love you”.

The four years following my parent’s deaths were spent grieving. I was Daddy’s girl and Mommy’s little helper and now I was an adult orphan. I struggled with my identity during this time as a “SAHM” dealing with loss. My marriage suffered. In June of 2009, we separated. In 2011, our divorce was finalized. I gained full custody without child support. An agreement we made that I will forever wish I hadn’t.

Unemployable after a devastating health scare, and in financial ruin I declared bankruptcy and applied for Ontario Disability and called the local shelter. Because the Family Shelter was full they could offer a spot for my daughter and me, but my 14-year-old son would only have a spot in the men’s shelter. I packed the car, both kids, and the dog and drove to my brothers here in Ottawa.

The kids and I lived in the basement of my brother’s house for one year while I found housing. I found my footing and we have thrived here in Kanata while my ex lived just a short distance away in Cornwall. He had the kids for one night every two weeks.

oh, those glorious moments.

So quiet. Quiet in the house and quiet in my head. I missed the kids and that was just what I needed. I welcomed them home with open arms and an ear for their weekend stories.

July 20, 2015, the Ottawa Police called to say they were coming by. They came with the news that my ex-husband had passed away two nights before. I collapsed. “What do I do now?” The officer asked if I wanted him to inform the kids and I said, “No, I will”. The kids have told me since then that they wished the officer told them and not me. I never asked them why. Their father left them without a will and without life insurance. His home was seized the day after we visited to collect what we could. So much left behind. So much.

The immediate aftermath of shattering news like this is enough for one person, but watching your own children crumble in pain and loss is physically and emotionally debilitating.

Hyper alert and ‘on call’ I was able to be present for them 100% this last year. I was wide awake for 12 months. I would be there for them at any second at any hour. I am proud of how far they have come in the last 12 months. I am proud how far I have come in the last 12 months.

from sadness to anger. from anger to acceptance.

Ob La Di Ob La Da – Life Goes On


be gentle with yourself



Published in life lessons
  1. Joy 2 years ago

    What a beautiful way to share a true warrior story!

  2. TK Dennis 2 years ago

    What a great post! I’m very proud of you for putting all that out there Danielle!

  3. Carmel 1 year ago

    You are great. Thanks for sharing.

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