Mother’s Day is looming. For many, it’s a day of sleep-ins, breakfast in bed, new slippers and handmade cards. For some, it also serves as a reminder of one of the most significant losses we can experience. For me, it is both of these things.
My mother passed away on May 28th, 2008, the day after her 54th birthday and a couple of weeks after Mother’s Day. I don’t want to relive her illness and passing here, as almost seven years on it is too raw a wound to probe too deeply.
I do want to talk about why it’s such a hard day when your own Mum isn’t here to celebrate.
I will go to the cemetery on Mother’s Day, like I do every year, and lay flowers down on the grave she shares with my maternal grandmother, who died several years before her. I will sit there for a while. It’s a nice spot; there is a tree nearby that I’ve watched grow from a sapling these past seven years. The grass is always green and it’s kept short and tidy and the spot catches the morning sunlight.
In my head, I have a little chat with Mum and with Nan too. Sitting there, no matter what day, always takes me straight back to 2008, but there is a special poignancy on Mother’s Day. The cemetery is awash with chrysanthemums more than any other flower and the crowds descend to remember their mothers. Trust me, there is nothing quite like the strange mix of grief, solidarity and loneliness in that crowd.
My husband and the kids will still spoil me on Mother’s Day. He will make sure my daughters and step kids have something nice to give me from the school stall or will have taken them shopping for new bed socks or a coffee mug or chocolates. He will help them to make me breakfast and maybe we will go out for lunch after the cemetery.
It will be a nice day- it always is. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort that my family goes to on my behalf. I do, I always do. I love the homemade cards, the little gifts, the treats. It’s just I feel like I’m enjoying the day through a haze of grief and longing. Surely you can’t enjoy something while feeling like that, right? But you can. It’s a strange paradox.
Most years, I want to skip the whole day. Two years ago, I would have given almost anything to close my eyes and wake up the day after Mother’s Day. The deep sadness I felt at the thought of celebrating Mother’s Day with an infant in my arms that would never meet her maternal grandmother was overwhelming. That infant is a boisterous 2 year old now, with her grandmother’s name and good humour. And it’s still overwhelming.
The thing is, though, I don’t want that sadness to overwhelm me. Not on that day. Because that day is also for me, as much as it was for my mum, and as much as I celebrated her on that day, she celebrated me, too. We would go out for lunch or I would go to her house for a meal. We’d have a few drinks; we’d laugh and shoot the breeze. My mum was always the kind of person who celebrated life and family. She taught me a lot and most of it probably without meaning to. Some important stuff, too. She taught me to be independent and to think for myself, how to cook, how to navigate through the minefield of employment and how to host a great party. She showed me how to grow plants and taught me that, in a pinch, almost anything in the kitchen can become a makeshift microphone for when you really need to sing along with feeling and flair. She wasn’t conventional and she wasn’t perfect. But she was my mum and she is irreplaceable and I will keep celebrating Mother’s Day, no matter how hard it is, because I am the mother I am today largely because of the mother she was to me.
This post was originally published on May 5th, 2014 but has been updated.