Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Missing Half of Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day used to be one of my favorite days. My mother went into labor on that holiday, but she still took the time to wolf down a big meal and a rum baba (against doctor’s orders) at Grandma’s house before rushing off to the hospital. I was born in the wee hours, but Mom and I cheated a bit and said that I was a Mother’s Day baby.

Even though Mom had already experienced nearly nine months of me, Mother’s Day marked the first time that I was actually out there in the world with her. From then on, each time our holiday rolled around, it had that additional meaning. We never had big, lavish celebrations. We simply spent the day together. We enjoyed going shopping or to the beach when I was home in Florida. And when Mom visited us in Paris, macarons and champagne always seemed to be on the menu.

While I struggled for years as an unpublished author, Mom cheered me on. She wouldn’t hear of ever giving up, of ever considering failure.

Distance separated us physically, but never emotionally.

And then came the spring of 2009. My mother’s Paris adventure would end exactly where it had started a few years earlier: in one of the city’s most well-known tea salons. She suffered a seizure and what ensued was a three-week fight lost to a glioblastoma, a deadly brain tumor. My husband and I accompanied her during that battle: daily visits to her at the hospital, long conversations, cheering her through rehabilitation that seemed promising in our delirious minds.

My mother convinced herself and us that she would recover. She never complained or lost faith.

Mom even said: “I’m happy that I’m here… with you.”

When things got unbearably difficult, not only was my mother strong, but she thought that I was too. She believed that, together, we could win this battle.

In spite of our strength and love, Mom slipped away.

The realization of my loss came a few days after this grueling fight reached its end. The place: a Florida supermarket. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and the cashier, as she handed me my receipt, innocently said: Have a Happy Mother’s Day!

It was as if right then, the pain finally broke through the numbness that had been occupying my brain. It was over. Mother’s Day is meant to be celebrated together. But I was alone. That other half was gone.

I missed Mom for all that she was as a person as well as all that she brought to my life. Mom stood up for what she believed in. A registered nurse, she struggled to bring union representation to the hospital where she worked. She showered kindness on those around her. Peeling fruit for elderly patients and rocking babies born to drug-abusing mothers were not in her job description. But those are some of the things that she did because of the natural empathy and compassion that ruled her heart.

Of the most touching memories I have of my mother, are the times when she saved baby birds fallen from the nest or helped an extra-slow turtle cross the road.

And I selfishly missed Mom for the attention that she offered me, her only child.

When Mother’s Day came around the next year, I felt like an outsider… and that loneliness continued even after the birth of my daughter. P. was too young to understand Mother’s Day, to somehow transform the sadness into happiness. And in any case, she wasn’t a replacement for my mother.

A few more Mother’s Days passed. And now the sixth one without Mom approaches. P. is almost four years old: just about ready to celebrate a Mother’s Day with me, to understand how special that mother-daughter bond can be.

But do I have the courage to look at this Mother’s Day differently? To remember the relationship that I had with my mother and keep it alive, and to celebrate the one I have with my daughter?

I remember a conversation I had with someone recently. I was lamenting about how much I missed discussing problems with my mom and asking her for advice. And this very insightful person told me: “The answers are already there, in your heart and mind. Your mother gave them to you slowly but surely as you were growing up. You know your mother. You know what she would say. You know what she would do. She will live on through you.”

I cried for a long while… And concluded that this person was right.

I think back to what I discovered about my mother and myself during those days at the hospital: our strength.

I realize that my mother hadn’t lost her battle. Through her courage, she had been victorious. Now, it would be my turn.

Even though I don’t feel very strong at this time of year, I think of the confidence my mother had in me as I sat at her bedside. I can’t disappoint her.

So this year, as Mother’s Day approaches, I try to remain calm. I will make the day a good one. I promise myself that this time, I will shake off those bad feelings. I know that is what my mother would want.

I'm sure Mom would tell me to celebrate this Mother’s Day by doing one of her favorite things: Enjoying an omelet and wine at a Paris cafĂ© and watching the world go by. And finishing off the experience with a rum baba.


18 comments:

  1. What a very moving tribute, and what a wonderful bond you two had.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read, Margaret. The loss was life changing and extremely painful, but I tell myself that I was lucky to have had such a mother.

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  2. Beautiful memories and a lovely way to remember your mum. Loss and grief are signficant experiences in life and we often ignore them in public. What a special connection you both had. May your brithday and the memory of your Mother, bring you joy and peace.

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words of support, Tamara. You are so right about how we usually deal with loss. Talking about it rather than ignoring it actually helps... and it keeps the memories alive.

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  3. How touching, Adria. It sounds like you shared something truly special with your mom and will continue to honor your mother with the way you raise your own daughter.

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    1. Thank you, April. The mother-daughter bond is quite special. Often, I'll say something to my daughter and then say to myself "I sound just like my mother!" And most times, I'm happy that I do sound like Mom...

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  4. I was born the day before Mother's Day, just in time to make my mom a mother. I, too, have a hard time around my birthday / Mother's Day now that she's gone. I hope we both find some satisfying ways to celebrate this year!

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    1. Joy, thanks so much for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts. It's true that being a Mother's Day baby can be wonderful, but then so difficult after Mom is no longer around. I hope that you had a peaceful day filled with your favorite memories of your mother...

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  5. I think your traditions with your mom are so special and it's really cool that you'll be able to start those with P, especially in Paris! Nothing can replace the old traditions with your mom but hopefully some new ones will help. By the way, that picture of your mom is gorgeous! She looks just like you :)

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Vicki. Having P. really helps because it carries on that connection I had/have with my mom. I'm grateful for that. And I like hearing that I look like my mom. :)

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  6. Reading this brought a tear to my eye. I'm lucky to still have my mother and father in their late 70s and early 80s. It's good that you have such good memories!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Laurie. Indeed you are very lucky! I'm glad my mom and I had such a close relationship as those good memories do keep the person alive in our hearts...

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  7. What an incredible relationship you had with your mom and I am sorry for your loss. I hope you will link up a couple blog posts with my #SmallVictoriesSundaylinky. I would love to share your heartfelt writing with my readers. http://momssmallvictories.com/small-victories-sunday-linkup-21/

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    1. Hi Tanya, Thank you for your kind words and for visiting my blog... and yes, I would love to link this and other posts up to your Sunday linkup. I will put it on my agenda for next week!

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  8. Oh my goodness! This has tears in my eyes. How beautiful, from beginning to end. Wonderful tribute to your mom!

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    1. Thank you, Jennine. It was emotional to write... but I'm glad I did it. By writing about my mother, I feel that I can keep her close and she won't become a far off memory.

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  9. This is a truly beautiful post and tribute to your Mom. I appreciate your heart and willingness to share so much. Thanks so much for linking up with #smallvictoriessundaylinky! You have been pinned to the group board. :)

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    1. It was difficult to write, but I'm glad that I did share this personal and emotional story. Thank you for reading, Katy...

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