As we get older and our parents pass away, Mother’s Day can be bittersweet, as Denise Thomas explains. Visit Denise’s blog, Call the Midlife.
I am blessed to be a mother. I have two delightful, kind, healthy children. But every year, around this time, I begin to dread Mother’s Day.
Only my family and closest friends understand this. I do not think I have ever admitted it to a casual acquaintance, much less a stranger in passing conversation. Mother’s Day is such a complicated, mixed bag of emotions for me that, by the time it is over each year, I am exhausted and drained. I have spent the previous day smiling, laughing, celebrating the lives of my children and my relationship with them. Normally I have spent time with my sister, who is the best mom I have ever known. I have also spent at least part of the day in tears, usually in private. It happens every year. The day after is like a sick day for me.
My mother died on Mother’s Day. She had been diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer only ten weeks before, and had spent the ensuing time struggling mightily. It was a brief illness that seemed to go on forever, and her end of life was not easily won. As a family, my four siblings and our father did our best to keep her comfortable, but by the time the first week in May rolled around, Mom was no longer verbal, and at times visibly suffering. Despite this, and our hopes that she would be released from her struggle as quickly as possible, my brother Ric said, “Mom is staying with us until Mother’s Day. She won’t go before then.”
At the time it was inconceivable to me. Mother’s Day was six days away. There was no possible way she could last that long. Mom had not eaten in days, she had taken very little liquid, and her pain medication dosage had skyrocketed. She could not talk to us anymore. Selfishly, I did not think I could endure the torture of watching her suffer that much longer, and I prayed that my brother was wrong.
He wasn’t. We kept going, putting one lead foot in front of the other, rarely leaving Mom’s bedside. Many times during the week we thought her final moments had come, but she hung in. On Saturday night, around midnight, we all marveled at how Ric had been right; Mom was determined to be with us on Mother’s Day. As the first moments of Sunday ticked past twelve o’clock, we all spoke to Mom, wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, telling her we loved her, and telling her what a beautiful mother she had always been to us. I went to get some sleep shortly afterward.
My sister woke me about an hour later. Mom was gone. She had made it to Mother’s Day, had shown us her grit and determination to express this one final act of commitment to us, and had gone.
Eight years later I became a mom myself. It was hard to do without my own mother around to guide me. Hard not to turn to her for advice, hard not to reach for her gentle hand when the days got tough, hard never to know if I was making her proud. The greatest sadness of my life is that she has never known my children. She will never get to hug my sweet, lovable son; she’ll never get to laugh at my daughter’s brilliant wit. And they will never witness her warm heart and kind, loving nature.
So every year, Mother’s Day is a wonderful celebration and a wrenching heartache for me. It is hard for everyone who has lost their mom, and I always try to remember that. This year I think I will visit some friends who are having some of the same emotions I am. Maybe bring them some daffodils to celebrate the season. If I reach out, and spread some of the kindness that my wonderful Mom taught me, part of her lives on.