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Janko Krotecjanko's obituary

May 24, 1946 - September 6, 2009

My Mama (Part 3)

It is most unusual for me to leave the difficult items to be last. My heart contains every possible emotion when it comes to my mama. Absolute devotion, amazement, incredulity, eternal love and undying affection, to just mention a few. This woman, Ana, gave me the precious gift of life but paid dearly in the process.

The house where I was born

The house where I was born

I was delivered by my grandmother, a village midwife. During my birth my mama suffered a nervous breakdown. Just imagine the circumstances: giving life to three children before me within a span of five and a half war years, post war famine, her husband in jail for disagreeing with the new masters, the communists: drought and famine, then all of a sudden having four babies. I would have “checked out” too.

As a result I was placed into the care of my mama’s oldest sister who by virtue of a disappeared husband (somewhere in Canada) was more of a farm keeper than a suitable surrogate mother. Fortunately, my mama came back home within six months.

During my twelve years at home I always felt just a little more “special” — perhaps we all did. Whenever possible I would get an egg, boiled and hiding with the beets and turnips intended for our pigs. I felt I was in good company — pigs were very important members of our household — the only uncomfortable issue was that they were were not raised to be pets.

My mother and I created an unbreakable bond that would last forever. She always provided enough food and clothes that were almost all patched hand-me-downs. Nothing was ever discarded and everything of value was always recycled. My sister’s pants with a zipper on the right side were probably the most embarrassing. Shoes were okay if they were big enough: “You’ll grow into them,” my mother would say. I did get one pair of new shoes and pants. They were made especially for my catholic confirmation ceremony and eventual departure from home at age twelve. I saw my mother cry and cry for me during my departure — I would be missed as an extra pair of hands. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I think she also knew how thorny my future would become.

Mama spent many an evening with me studying under a candle or kerosene lamp. She always made sure that I had clean clothing and fingernails for school and church. Shoes were optional from March to October and then rubber boots as facsimile would do.

Memories of meal times abound. We’d all sit down, say a prayer, and only then would my mama realize that she did not have a spoon or a fork for herself, and in later years not even a plate — they were always in short supply. My tyrannical father could not understand and would often start a tirade: how come she did not have more food on the table, a spoon or some other implement for herself. He did not appreciate the fact that he and all the children had their basic necessities. Her only defence was silence and a small sob with a tear here and there. Oh, how many disruptions at our meal time came out of ignorance, lack of respect, or plain misunderstanding. My father had an equally unjust ally in his mother. My mama never had a chance from the very beginning …

My family in the sixties

My family in the sixties

When I was seduced into the seminary, lured by the promise of a higher education and better living conditions, my mama was very happy. Yet, at the same time, she was not convinced. She knew better. In the summer of 1967 after completing five years in the seminary and mandatory service in the army, I was accepted back home with open arms by both of my parents (partly out of self-interest since a worker was returning). They needed a place to live and I was the great hope. The reigns of our entire farm were handed over to me. Everyone “obeyed” my orders and directions regarding the crops and restoration of an old stone house. This was not to last very long. On the morning of my departure to Canada, November 13th 1968, I again felt the sorrow and desperation coming from my parents. “Janko, how will we manage without you,” my mama cried. A more stoic expression remained on the face of my army and cavalry trained father.

Whenever I could, I would send a few dollars to mama to be used at her discretion. We wrote to each other on a regular basis. In one of the darker hours of my troubled past I needed to extract from my mama an expressly written confirmation: I wanted to know that she loved me. And this wonderful human obliged! “Of course I love you, you have the most burdensome life,” she wrote.

One day came a dreaded phone call. My mama was at home in bed and nothing could be done for her anymore — she had a brain aneurysm. With the insistence and encouragement of my Beloved Donna, I found myself on the very next flight back home to my very ill, always loved mama. The next ten days were probably the saddest, yet most profound and love filled days I had ever spent continuously with my mother. Finally, a time when I was able to take care of my mama. She could not initiate conversation and was only able to reply. Again, needing reassurance, perhaps only half an hour before taking her last breath, I had to confirm my place in the entire universe by asking if she recognized me. She replied, “Oh yes — you are Janko.”

My mama died in my arms, all sixty pounds of her. I laid her down onto the bed, closed her beautiful eyes forever, and walked out into the orchard. Not even an ant stopped to pay homage! The circle of life continued uninterrupted. How insignificant we are. My life source had just departed, but only her body. Her spirit, her soul, lives in me forever … she is a part of me and I am immeasurably richer for being her son.

This brought conclusion to our physical connection. Now the unity continues in spirit, through her presence in my soul. My life continues … full of memories, enriched by her generosity, strengthened by her endurance. My mama lives forever …

Until next time …

With love and affection,


Hope is a waking dream.” Aristotle

    1 comment to My Mama (Part 3)

    • A friend forever

      Thank you for sharing with us all the story of your mother. We can all learn from those who have come before us and your honest insights give us an example of the power of authenticity. Those last moments with your mama must have truly been a blessing. The image of you holding her in your arms as she died brought me to tears … of joy and completion. I want to commend your courage in confronting the difficulties of the past and making the decision to be there for your mama in her final moments — the act of a remarkable son and man.

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