According to tradition, I will spend this Mother’s Day torn between life and death.
In one hand I will feel the tangible grasp of my daughter’s soft hand; in one-half of my mind I will be smiling; and in one-half of my heart I will feel the warmth of my family’s love and appreciation. In my other hand, I will feel a pull towards the world of remembrance; one-half of my mind will be consumed with the past; and the other half of my heart will be filled with ache, longing and appreciation for the mothers I have lost.
When I envision my Mother’s Day brunch, I see my mother and grandmothers are all there. They’re sitting in chairs that others believe are empty, chatting in voices too quiet for anyone else to hear.
My grandmother Eleanor is there, although I have to imagine what she would look like because she died before I was born. Her kindness and grace, however, have been made vivid through my mother’s memories and her values are the roots upon which my family has grown.
My grandmother Flo has come and she is as self-assured and confident as ever. I wish I had learned more from her guts and gumption when I had the chance, sadly she died before I understood why these things might be useful.
And then there is Mom, who never wanted to make a fuss about Mother’s day to begin with. I never bothered to wonder why, even though she deserved so many thanks. Perhaps a quiet dinner at the Olive Garden with family truly was exactly what she wanted. Or perhaps she, in the grand tradition of motherless mothers, felt the same ambivalence towards the day that I do now.
This is not the first Mother’s Day I will spend in the in-between and I assure you I’m not alone. I’m beginning to realize gratitude mixed with heartache is the Mother’s Day formula for mothers grieving for a loved one. What I’m still wondering is if these people, like me, feel trailed by a group of affectionate but deceased loved ones. These women all remain with me wherever I go. They are a chorus, blending their harmonies into the soundtrack of my life. They are confidants, advisors, and role models only I can see. You might think this sounds crazy, but grief makes us all a little crazy.
A mother is irreplaceable, and so is the relationship between mother and child. Mother’s Day can be painful because it honors an inimitable relationship and keeps those who’ve lost a mother or a child partially focused on someone who lives only in the past. As it turns out, death doesn’t necessitate the need to let go, rather the need to learn how to love both those who are physical here and those who are not.
If you’re struggling with Mother’s Day grief, you’re not alone. Take all the time you need to honor and remember the motherly women who you love and miss. Then bring yourself into the present, look around, and celebrate all the nurturing, wise, funny, and awesome women who remain by your side.
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