Mother's Day 2006 was the last time I gave my mother a gift ... for any reason.
I will never forget the bittersweet smile she gave me as she carefully peeled the tape open, trying not to rip the wrapping paper. She sighed as she stared at the latest Andrea Bocelli Album in her hands. She loved his voice, his gentle power that moved her soul. We both knew she would probably never listen to it; but, at that point, I still had not accepted the truth. Andrea Bocelli was a delusional hope of a daughter begging her mother to keep fighting, to wait for a miracle. I was a young mother of an 18-month-old boy and six months pregnant with my second son, and I was terrified.
She passed away two weeks later. Andrea Bocelli was never opened.
All of my memories revolve around that time stamp: the "before" memories and the "after" memories. Some of the new memories, the "after" ones, have been terribly difficult, painful even, to create with my children, husband and other family members.
She will never be in special moments and occasions or the pictures that will survive us all. I know this, yet, I still look for her on park benches where she'd be reading a book as I play with my children. I know this, yet, I still search for her face in our pictures and even dial her phone number to tell her some exciting news or to ask for her advice. I know this, yet, some days I forget.
I forget because it doesn't make sense to me. Life without her is hard and sometimes unbearable. We don't get manuals when we become mothers ourselves. We have mothers to help us through those first few weeks of sleepless nights. We have mothers to call when our kids declare their hatred for us for the first time and break our hearts. We have mothers to walk us through letting go as our babies drive to college 2,000 miles away. We are supposed to have mothers to show us the way.
But, I dont.
I am motherless. This truth affects nearly every part of my life in ways only those who are motherless could ever understand.
Unfortunately, it has forever altered Mother's Day. What was once a beautiful time of honor and celebration has become, quite frankly, a horrible and dreaded day for the past ten years.
I know I'm not alone. Whether you are motherless because of your mother's passing or you have an estranged relationship with your mom, you know the conflicting feelings all to well that come as Mother's Day approaches each year. You and I know the holiday will never be the same.
I have struggled to find joy in Mother's Day, even though I have my own four beautiful children who love me and who are truly excited to celebrate me on this day.
I have prayed for the emotional strength each year to simply "get through it" as I am showered with homemade cards, treats and sticky hugs and kisses galore. But my strength has never been a match for the grief that floods my heart as I remember my own mother and as my defenses crumble to the floor.
I do not delight in the talk my compassionate and loving husband has to have with my little ones every Mother's Day: "Kids, Mommy knows you love her and she loves you so much! She is so grateful for all of your gifts and cards. But, we need to be extra sensitive and loving because Mommy is also sad today. She doesn't have a mom to celebrate today, and it really hurts her heart."
I dont want this to be their dominant memory of Mother's Day. I want to be stronger than the pain.
I know I need to overcome this, so my prayers this year have been different. I am not praying for emotional strength. I have been praying to find a way to have joy in my heart and hope in my soul for my husband, my children and especially ... for myself. I feel strongly I have found the way.
I have been inspired by Heaven and my mother to forget my own sorrows and to turn my focus to the women I still have in my life - women who have loved, mentored and mothered me.
This year and for every year after I will honor my own mother by celebrating the living "mothers" I have been blessed with throughout my life. Each year I will choose a woman who has been a mother to me in various ways, no matter her age. I will send her flowers and mail a good, old-fashioned letter. The pages will be filled with my love for her, who she is to me and my gratitude for having her in my life. I will choose a "mother" I can call when my heart is broken, who walks by my side through the hard stuff and who, with wisdom, gently shows me the way.