Posted by: Rob | December 1, 2009

Remembering Leona

Leona was my late wife Shelley’s mother.  She died two years ago this morning, a scant 6 weeks or so after confirmation of a diagnosis of ALS.  If you’re unfamiliar with ALS, it’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  It’s also the same affliction that killed Morrie of tuesdays with Morrie.  Leona was sixty-nine years old.

Leona’s ALS went undiagnosed for a long time, probably three years was what we figured in retrospect.  She had taken a mis-step and broke an ankle, sometime in 2004, I think it was.  It was chalked up to clumsiness at the time, invoking a few giggles whenever it was discussed.

The more serious symptoms didn’t start to become apparent until a few months after Shelley died.  I tend to believe now that the stress associated with Shelley’s passing was instrumental in kicking off the disease and starting Leona’s rapid decline.  The primary initial symptom she exhibited was slurred and slowing speech, although at first this was attributed to the oxycodone she was taking for severe back pain.

She insisted that the slurred speech was evident even when she hadn’t taken any pain meds.  I thought that maybe she was suffering from mini-strokes and suggested she see her physician (which she had done, with little remedy).

By May or June of 2007, Leona had effectively lost her ability to speak at all.

She was sent out to Edmonton for surgery to clear carotid artery blockage on one side, a standard stroke treatment.  It did nothing to restore her speaking ability, however, and her condition generally worsened.

I last saw her, while she was still walking, when we travelled up to Hythe for Uncle Raymond’s (Leona’s brother) funeral in September of that year.  At that time, we fulfilled one of Shelley’s last wishes and placed some of her ashes at her Grandma’s farm.  It was a very emotional moment for us all, but especially for Leona.

The next and last time I saw Leona was in the Beaverlodge hospital on November 30.  The girls and I had departed after work on Friday to visit and sit with her as things did not look good.  We stayed several hours before heading out to her and Fraser’s farm.  We had only just arrived at the farm, a little after midnight, when we received word that she was gone.

I have many memories of Leona, having been part of the family for nearly thirty years, but I think I’m going to leave this here for tonight.


  1. she sounds like a pretty tough nugget. ALS is so cruel… sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law…

  2. Yes, condolences from out here as well. It’s a rotten game but we’re all in it.

  3. Leona was so gracious. I can’t even imagine how much pain she must have felt when she met me for the first time or that September at Uncle Raymond’s farm, and yet she was so kind to Dee and I.

    I didn’t have a chance to get to know her, but in those brief meetings, I could see she was a wonderful person.

  4. Rest in peace, Leona. you fought well. condolences, rob, and happier memories.

  5. So often, a Mother-in-Law is the punchline in a joke everyone tells. It is nice to see that isn’t always the case.

  6. May your fond memories keep her spirit alive for your family!

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