Mother's Day When Your Mom Is Dead

I wondered to myself if the sentimentality of this costumed holiday had finally snagged me.
Be cautious enough not to allow stuff to get in the way of relationships.
Be cautious enough not to allow stuff to get in the way of relationships.

My mom seemed to regard Mother’s Day in the same fashion she always regarded Valentine’s Day ― a commercialized excuse for a frenzied shop fest of drugstore chocolates, gas station roses, cheap mugs and expensive cards. She wanted no part of it.

My mom held onto this wild idea that the real gritty sentiment at the core of love, love for the mothers of the world, those who do the work of mothering, and true love itself, should be threaded throughout the days of our weeks, months and years rather than artificially packaged into a day filled with price-fixed brunches and dashed dreams.

I can quietly hear her pleading with me not to buy her another candle. “Let’s go do something instead,” she would plead.

That is what makes it even stranger that I began to feel sick and overwhelmed in an aisle of greeting cards. While buying sunblock, allergy tablets, and a First Communion card in our local mega-drugstore chain this evening, I found myself lost amongst a sea of Mother’s Day cards. I wondered to myself if the sentimentality of this costumed holiday had finally snagged me. I was puzzled. I was troubled. In a sea of pink and ivory, sparkly cards, I stood there an orphan.

I was reminded of a time last year when I would sit on the beach and watch seemingly healthy grandmas alongside their brood, and I would quietly think that would never be us. It couldn’t be. My mom was no longer alive.

It would be a while after that time in the sand where I realized there is always a choice of what truths we choose to hold onto.

Rather than chase the could haves and should haves down wormholes of subjective impossibilities, I now meet these mirages with gratitude. We were fortunate to have had this time together no matter how brief.

The most beautiful part and the saddest part about not having a mom like mine are the very same thing and it is this: that I had something so truly phenomenal. I had someone so amazing it stings. It is something to rejoice in and show daily gratitude for. It is something I wish could have lasted longer.

Someone of us have moms we miss. Some of us have relationships with our moms that miss the mark. Others have connections with those who are brave enough to do a mother’s work. The problem lies in these manufactured days commemorating the way things should be.

If there was one gift my mom gave us on Mother’s Day, it was freedom from expectation. The freedom from giving gifts offers us the gift of loving those we care about freely. She instilled in us to be cautious enough not to allow stuff to get in the way of relationships. She taught us to love others not things. She warned us to be wise enough to discern between presence and presents.

My mom would remind us often, “Today is not a command performance.”

It took me many times of hearing this in response to dinner she hosted and events we were invited to for me to begin to understand.

Life is not a series of command performances. It shouldn’t be. For those courageous enough to discard convention, authenticity is waiting to surprise you. To not show up out of expectation and to show up because you want to is a honor to those we care about. Show up for those who really need you. Behold the power of just being present for those you love.

My mom had a way of loving others for their little idiosyncrasies ― those small details most others miss. To throw away the expectations of how things should be makes space to appreciate things for what they are. When we take less time to try to make things perfect, we allow ourselves more time to love the imperfections of those we love. Love their cracks. Love the etchings, the scratches and dents that make them unique to their soul.

Admire those who dare to mother in a messy world. Revere those who lead with love rather than fear. Be grateful for the moments we had that still allow love to still persevere.