I'm grateful that Hope Edelman wrote her beautiful life-affirming book, Motherless Daughters. For more than two decades, she and her groundbreaking work have comforted countless women. It's just that when my mother died and I was ceremoniously handed the book, the best I could do was crack open the spine, read a couple of sentences and fling it across the room.
My mother was 54 when she died. Cell by cell, leukemia ravaged her body. Chemotherapy and a punishing bone marrow transplant nearly destroyed her. And just one year post-transplant when it finally seemed that it was all behind her and at last she made it out of the woods, my mother contracted a fatal infection.
And she was gone.
I was 30. I did not want to be a motherless daughter. I was not ready for any kind of initiation into this club. Is one ever ready to lose a mother? When I think of those who lost a mother during childhood, I was lucky to have her that long. Conversely, I've seen people with moms who make it to the high 90s and they're just as bereft.
But I could not bear to accept this loss, which seemed too surreal, too scary. Crazy as it sounds, reading Motherless Daughters would only confirm what I could not accept. So the book remained unopened. But curiously, I always kept it within reach on my bookshelf.
While I'll never get over the loss, I have learned to live with it. Instead of focusing on my lack, I try to embrace those pieces that bonded us: my mother's extreme lust for learning, books, movies, travel and experiences. I try to focus on our joyful moments -- our long walks together, our deep unspoken connection. It's easier now.
But this time of year, many years after her passing, when I see one of those "Celebrate the Mom in your Life" ads, I still feel that same icky jolt that I first did when my mother's death was too new, too raw. Those ads are a harsh reminder that I'm pressed against the candy store window -- seeing others with their mothers while longing for mine. I wonder why. How? How could my mother, so full of life and vitality, with so much left to accomplish and give, have perished?
As this Mother's Day looms, how can us motherless daughters feel included? I turned to Hope Edelman. She explains that there are ways to manage the day and even find some comfort. The best-selling author offered her sage wisdom on how to celebrate our mothers and ourselves. Click to this Parade.com story for Edelman's guidance.