She used to sit with her legs crossed and propped up on the couch, often with a cup of tea in her hand. She was beautiful, always beautiful. I’ve heard the story over and over of how my Dad saw a picture of her and said to his friend; “I’m going to marry that girl.” Thirty days later, they both squeezed into a phone booth to call her parents letting them know the date they should fly to Seattle for a sweet, small wedding. Growing up, I remember thinking my mom might be perfect. However, as a teenager, that theory was greatly challenged and then I remember thinking neither of my parents knew anything.
When I became an adult, I realized that quite possibly I didn’t know as much as I thought I did (I think that’s called wisdom). I remember during a long visit home, I started to see my Mom as more than just…my Mom. I saw her strengths, her insecurities and vulnerabilities; I realized her humanity. Her softness, laugh, sense of humor, wisdom, and love were things I stopped taking for granted. I more than loved her, I really, really liked her.
“Stage 4 cancer” were the only words I heard during the phone call with my dad. A thick cloud took over my thoughts and I sat numb, unable to process emotion or reality. A few months passed and I ended up moved to Wisconsin to help take care of her. As her body became frail, her strength became more evident. A little over a month before she passed away, our whole family was at hospice with her. She didn’t want her grandkids to feel scared or sad and so, with all the strength she could muster, she sat up and sang “This is the Day.” We all ended up singing it with her and in that moment, she taught us what it means to to face fear and death valiantly. She was never more beautiful.
My Mom was an incredible woman. I want to celebrate her on Mother’s Day because of all she was, but I also want to be alone and cry an uncontrollable, hyperventilating cry. I miss her so bad it aches. I want the memories of her drinking coffee in the morning, and how she walked into a room, or how her fingers skillfully moved across her piano to fill me. I want to remember what it felt like to laugh with her or have her head on my lap as I plucked her eyebrows or how she answered the phone with a breathy and song-like, “hello.” I want to know the feeling of sitting next to her and how she would unconsciously take my fingers and push my cuticles down. I want to stay in those memories and a million more, until I can hear her voice and see her face. I want my mind to so fully bring her into view, she’s almost tangible.
And yet, the face of each of my babies from the moment they were born is etched in my mind. They’re my treasures, my love. Mother’s Day is a dichotomy, because as much as I ache, my heart also pounds with the joy of who I’m privileged to parent. Part of my identity is in motherhood and its beautiful. I find myself staring at their faces thinking about how incredible they are (I also find myself wanting to hide in a closet sometimes because of how terrible too… If you’re a parent, you know the stories I’m talking about). I put off things that should probably be done because they want to show me one more thing or want to read one more book or talk to me about their future plans. My hair might be in a quick ponytail because my time that morning was spent rocking a cuddly two-year-old or playing ninja with my energetic four-year-old or driving across town for my independent, amazing eighteen-year-old. The time I get to spend being their mom is the most valuable of all things in this world to me.
“Happy Mother’s Day” is said as a standard greeting to moms and hopefully that’s a true sentiment, but to the everyone out there that has lost a mom or a child, I see you. To those out there that have a strained relationship with their moms or children, I see you. To all the people that had an absent, abusive or neglectful mother, I see you. To the women out there that have felt the crushing blow of miscarriage, I’ve been there, I see you. To the women out there that have gone through seemingly never-ending rounds of fertility treatments, I see you. To everyone that has gone through the process of adoption and were denied, I see you. Mother’s Day can be a day filled with joy or pain or both of those things combined and rolled up into a day of mixed, bittersweet emotions.
On this Mother’s Day, let’s be surrogate mothers or grandmothers to those that don’t have one. Let’s be present for the children we do have. Let’s reach out to those that feel abandoned or alone. Let’s allow memories to flood us and cry deep soulful cries for those we miss or relationships that are broken. Let’s really listen to each other, love one another, forgive wrongs and belly-laugh often. Let’s bring a beautiful spirit to the table and be valiant women that hold our hands out to others. Let’s celebrate all there is to celebrate without abandon. Let’s be courageous and not be afraid to fail. Let’s sing in the face of fear and allow not only ourselves to soar but allow and encourage others to as well.