May 13, 2007, was the last Mother’s Day I celebrated. I have a hard time recalling what we did. The memory, nine years later, clouded by the passage of time. That fall my Mother passed away from cancer. Her battle was over; mine was just starting.I didn’t know it at the time, none of us ever do. The passing of a parent affects us all differently. Some of us get it all out and grieve for months and then can pick up and move on. Then there are others like myself where the grieving period never actually ends. We cannot move on.
Mother’s Day was always a big deal in our house growing up. My Mother was a single parent, and it was the one day out of the year where my brother and I could spoil her. It was also the only time she would allow herself to be spoiled by us. Our way of apologizing for being jerks the other 364 days of the year. Her last Mother’s Day, I was still in denial. I’m sure the signs were there that it would probably be her last, but I refused to acknowledge them.
I feel it every day in little ways. The pings of jealousy I felt when I saw other new moms surrounded by their moms in the hospital after giving birth to the first grandchild. The anger I threw at God for allowing my Mother to die. The guilt I feel when I can’t honestly be happy for my friends whose mothers have beaten cancer. She wasn’t there for all the big moments of my life, the births of my children, the wedding to my amazing husband and to see me become a published author. I beat myself up that those moments lacked a little bit of their shine because she wasn’t there. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
There are all the subtle reminders, the moments where you forget. I remember sitting on the floor, holding my newborn daughter, my tears falling on her face because I couldn’t get her to sleep and I had no idea what to do. My first instinct was to call my Mother. I wanted my Mother to tell me what I already knew. It was not the first time I would pick up the phone to call her and each time I would remember, she’s no longer here.
I grieve for my Mother every day. The grief waxes and wanes as does the anger and the guilt. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t think about her. I wonder what she would think about her grandchildren, my husband or my writing. I wonder if she’s proud of me or if she would approve of how I’m raising the kids. Most often I long to her say the words, “Good job,” as it pertains to everything about my life.
My first Mother’s Day felt like any other day. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was lacking. It took a few years before I could put my finger on it, but now I know, that something is my Mother. It was then that I stopped celebrating the day. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t sit there and turn on the smile as I do on every other holiday. I couldn’t go out to brunch and watch all the other women surrounded by their grandchildren knowing how desperately my Mother wanted grandchildren of her own. This is the one day; I should get a reprieve. But it’s not what my Mother would have wanted for me, and I know that.
Instead, we spend the month of May celebrating our relationship with each other. I spend one day with each child alone doing whatever it is that they want to do with me. It took some time for me to realize that Mother’s Day wasn’t just about honoring my Mother, it was about honoring the relationship a mother has with her child, and that is something I can celebrate.