Earlier this year, Gail Mayo’s mother presented a locket on a silver chain to her daughter Erika. The design of a tree on the outside symbolised life whilst inside the locket held a tiny sponge that had the scent of Gail’s favourite perfume on it: Obsession by Calvin Klein.
Once she put it on, Eliza never took off the locket, she wore it again this week as she walked across the stage of her high-school auditorium in Quebec, graduating high school with the scent of mother close to her, the woman who she most wanted to be in the room that day. In the days running up to her graduation at Massey-Vanier High School in Cowansville she said warmly “I feel like she’s with me.”
Gail Mayo sadly passed away two months ago at the age of 49, following a six-year-long battle against cancer. Her dying wish was to see her daughter, Erika, graduate from high school and receive her diploma, just as she had watched her eldest child Zackary graduate in 2015.
Gail had worked at a local school with special-needs students since 1998 and had regularly expressed to her children that a solid education would put them on a path to success. Although Gail had received many treatments and been through several surgeries, by 2014 the cancer had spread across her body and her doctors told her she would have only three to five years left to live. In 2017 the cancer had spread to her spine and was moving towards her brain, this resulted in the doctors giving her an estimated four to six months left to live. Gail’s main concern was whether she would be able to see both her children graduate high school, her daughter Erika said her mother wanted to watch her graduate “because she wanted to know that everything was going to be okay”, with this new diagnosis it was unlikely she would live long enough to achieve her final goal.
But then, the staff at Erika’s school decided they had to do something for Gail and her children “so they can have these good memories” said Kathy Harris, a member of staff at Erika’s school. They purchased balloons and streamers, local businesses donated flowers and cupcakes and the gown-rental company quickly shipped the gown and cap for free, whilst Ms. Harris’s daughter took photos for the event.
On March 27th, family and close friends watched Erika walk down the hallway of her family home into her living room toward her mother Gail, in a hospital bed, who wore a proud smile. The school’s principle Julie Edwards personalised the traditional graduation speech “students like Erika are a high school’s dream and a source of true pride. Erika is kind and respectful. She is determined and hard-working… Who do we credit with most of who Erika is today? Her first and most influential teacher, her mom.”
Gail then spoke during the ceremony “This is all I ever wanted. This was my last wish,” she said. Her daughter said “I looked at my mom and was so happy. It was so emotional knowing she wasn’t going to be there for the real day. She wanted to fight as long as she could. She wanted to watch it all.”
Only two weeks later Gail was moved to palliative care at the La Maison Au Diapason but before, whilst Gail was strong enough, she helped her daughter arrange everything for her to graduate with her classmates and enjoy her prom. Gail was happy to know Erika would be attending John Abbot College in the fall to become a health and physical education teacher.
During her last moments Erika hugged her mom and said “I’m going to make you proud.”