“I’ll try not to complain
About the things I have lost
Cause when you have something great
That just means there’s a greater loss.”
As I sit writing under the twinkly lights of my basement, I am covered in my grandpa’s high school varsity letter jacket. My mom used to wear this old sweater around our house all the time growing up. My grandpa insisted I have it after my mom passed away and I’ve been so thankful for the familiarity of the mustard yellow sweater and lightly tattered navy “A” on the front. I know all the stains and remember each hole. I play with the necklace around my neck that once belonged to my mom as I consider the day.
If Mother’s Day can be described as simply recalling all the ways we love and appreciate our mothers, in a way, every day since August 18 has been like Mother’s Day. Daily, I’ve thought so fondly of my mom. I’ve recalled memories and adventures. I’ve collected stories about her as if it were the air I needed to breathe in. I’ve watched videos, paused and replayed her laugh like a soundtrack I can’t get enough of. I’ve tried to recreate many of her favorite recipes just to get a taste of what life used to be like. I’ve sat in her closet just breathing in her familiar smell. I’ve worn something of hers every single day. I have pictures of her tucked all over my room so there’s always a chance to catch a glimpse of her familiar smile. She’s everywhere.
But in every sense, she’s also nowhere. She wouldn’t answer the phone if I called the familiar cell phone number I committed to memory long ago. She doesn’t call as she leaves the gym to check-in as she so often would. She’s never home to greet me when I walk in the house. She doesn’t offer advice (solicited or otherwise). She doesn’t curl up in bed with me to watch our favorite sappy movies anymore. She’s nowhere to be found. Even the cat wanders into rooms she dared not enter before my mom passed away merely trying to find mom.
Amidst my incurable longing, I am so grateful that for the rest of my life, inseparable from my existence, Mary Brown is always my momma.
Many call those of us without living momma’s “Motherless Daughters.” Oh, it makes me cringe. It makes my skin crawl. It makes the hairs stand up on my neck. All those sayings. I feel them all. I am definitely not motherless. Just by biological definition, a mother is necessary for me to have existence in this humdinger of a world. I have pictures, lessons, advice and stories from a very real momma. My mom was beautiful and spunky. She was larger than life. She had a major role in shaping and contributing to my well-being and personality. I am not totally without her.
I feel her as I tell a story with a crowd gathered around. I imagine her circling up with the group as my hands do acrobatics in the air just as hers did. I remember her absolute bellow of a beautiful laugh when I erupt in laughter, almost in defiance of my grief. While I know I am also distinct from her, in many ways I believe any compassion in me, any desire to leave the world even just a little better than I found it, well, it’s my momma’s doing.
I see her in my brother when I look deeply in his eyes and in the curves of his lips, just like hers. I see her heart on display when his compassion is unmistakable. His heart is so reflective of her deep care for others. That big heart of his? It’s my momma’s doing.
I see her strength and tenacity in my dad. Traits he characteristically already had have become fortified seemingly by super-human strength. The way he honors and respects her, all the while trailblazing this new life, it’s my momma’s doing.
The way our friends and family are so bravely and tightly bound together is absolutely my momma’s doing. Her unique way of connecting people at the heart has tethered a group so entangled and strong that I know we’ll bear each other up until the end of time.
While she’s “doing” a lot she’s still not here like I so wish she were. Instead of Mother’s Day, today I’m instituting Daughter’s Day (feel free to adapt as you need). As a daughter on Mother’s Days of yesterday, I would tell my mom of the sincere privilege it is to truly be hers. In the past this has looked like gifts of Sudoku books, construction paper cards, homemade Philly cheese steak sandwiches (my brother’s and my specialty dish growing up), mixed CD’s, homemade coupons to go on a run together — some of the many varied ways I show affection. In celebrating Daughter’s Day, we daughters consider all the ways love has flowed to us as the recipient. If your Momma is watching you from above, how do you know her love is real? Can you quantify it? What does it look like?
Here’s what this Daughter of A Real Mother believes:
Love does not expire and people do not disappear into non-existence.
My mom’s love for me and those of us she left behind is enduring. Love outlives us all. I feel it in all the relationships I have with so many of my mom’s close friends. I read of love in a frayed notebook of old letters my mom wrote to me as I grew up. I see love in photographs, in the way she looked at me. She taught me to smile big, hug often, laugh loud, sing into the steering wheel, respect myself and love deeply.
Even though she isn’t here, I can still be proud to be hers. I admire her. Often we laugh about turning into our parents as we age. My brother and I have joked that we approach grocery shopping just as my mom did. We seldom have much to get at the grocery store, yet our instinct is to walk up and down each aisle at the grocery store just like my mom used to. Even in small ways, her habits, traits and heart live on.
I remember Mother’s Day last year so distinctly.
We didn’t know it but we took our last family picture that day and I remember thinking how abundantly blessed I was by each member of my family. Today is the Mother’s Day I never wanted or anticipated but I am committed to celebrate Mother’s Day (or Daughter’s or Son’s) with a full heart.
Since my mom left us, I’ve never seen love and support and endurance more tangible and palpable than it surely is now.
If you ask me, I’d say it’s my momma’s doing. What a gift she’s given me.
(Thanks, Mom. Happy Daughter’s Day to me.)
PS: I’m learning that holidays and special occasions may bring many of us more sadness than celebration. If you’ve lost a mother, or if the children who made you a mother are no longer on this earth, know that this community is holding you close.