When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Khalil Gibran
Mother’s Day without your mother is a special kind of torture. Everywhere you look, in the weeks before the holiday, you see signs – “Something Special for Your Mom”, “Show Your Mother that you Care”, “Mom, the Heart of the Family” or just “World’s Best Mom.” It hurts when you can’t participate in a celebration of something so meaningful because your mother simply isn’t with you anymore.
My mother died ten weeks ago. In some ways, it seems like a lifetime, in other ways I’m struck by how short a time that really is. I’ve thought a lot about her and why her death has been so hard. One of the things that I realized is that my mother had a life before me, 31 years to be exact, but I’ve only had a very brief time without her. I’ve never known a life without a mother and it is a huge adjustment, especially with one as special as mine.
My mother taught me almost everything I know. She taught me how to talk (she probably wished, at times, that she didn’t), to walk, to cook, to do my laundry, how to save and invest for my retirement, how to appreciate a nice purse and how to live a good life. She taught me the importance of family and how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything. I recently looked up quotes for Mother’s Day, and this one came up, “My mother taught me everything, except how to live without her.” Well, my mother taught me how to do that too. I once asked her what I was going to do when she wasn’t here anymore, and she said “You’ll live your life.” She didn’t say it in an off-handed way, she looked at me directly and said it in her firmest voice. My mother was a Daddy’s girl, and when my grandfather died, she was devastated, but pushed forward with her life. You see, she was an example, that as hard as it may be, life goes on.
Since my mother’s death, I’ve been reading a lot of books about people that have lost their parents and about grieving. It doesn’t depress me, it makes me feel less alone in the world to see how other people handle things. One book that I haven’t read yet, but is on my night table is “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman. Initially, after my mother died, I felt like I was one of the club of these women. A motherless daughter, a mourner, a griever. The more I thought about it, over time, the less I believe it. My mother is still present in my life, even if her physical presence is absent. As much as I still cry because I miss her, I laugh because I remember something that she said. As much as I miss all of our in-jokes, I think back on them and smile. As much as I miss her daily, and believe me, there are days like today, when I think I can’t bear it, I know how strong she was and that I have to find a way to try to be strong too.
My mother was described by people as a force of nature and of strength. She was called a happy warrior. She never shied away from a challenge and she never quit once she started something. She said, often unapologetically, what was on her mind – she felt at her age, she earned the right. She didn’t suffer fools well, but she was also never unkind. She tried to manage my expectations, but never squashed my dreams. She was always proud of whatever I achieved but never let me rest on my laurels. She was both my harshest critic and my biggest fan. I was her biggest fan too. I don’t have an idealized view of her – she was exactly the person that I’m describing. Ask anyone that ever knew her. She was, simply the best.
So on this Mother’s Day, my first without her, I’m not a Motherless Daughter. I’m really lucky to say that I’m every bit my mother’s daughter and I always will be.