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'You're Just Like Your Mother': Celebrating Mother's Day Without Mom

You're just like your mother. Yes, and I am so incredibly thankful for that fact. I honor and celebrate her by living the lessons she left with me, and by extending the same unconditional love to my family as she did to hers.
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I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. -- Abraham Lincoln

As Mother's Day approaches, I've been feeling a little melancholy. You see, I'm thinking about my beautiful mother; she'll be gone 25 years this year, and for some reason, it hit me kind of hard. Perhaps my rogue wave of grief stems from the very number itself. Twenty-five years is a long time. In my 45th year, I have spent more time on this earth without her in my life.

I've longed for her so many times in the past 25 years, needing her maternal wisdom as I navigated events that I never thought I would have to face. Moving away from my family, divorce, and burying my son.

I've missed her presence at the birthdays, graduations, and family gatherings. I have watched mothers and daughters shopping, and wished that I could have the opportunity to spend one day dress shopping with her, even if she was painfully honest about how that design made my (insert body part here) look big.

But as I reflect back on the years I tried to figure this out without her, I realize I did have her with me; in my quiet conversations with her, my writing, and in the way I myself mother and live life. Although she passed in 1991, she still sits gently within my heart and serves as a constant influence in my daily life.

Growing up, I often heard the phrase, "You're just like your mother."

I've heard it for as long as I can remember. Even at her funeral, relatives and friends alike remarked how much I reminded them of her. At 20 years old, I could not see it, nor understand what a compliment that actually was.

But the truth is, I was and still am. I look like my mother, with her crooked flat little nose. I sound like my mother and can almost hear her in the room when I guffaw in a certain way after hearing something that tickles my funny bone. I can feel her when I slam a cupboard in frustration, or get excited about good news. I am private like she was, and live a life that is introverted, even though some would think I am an open book. I am flawed, but accepting of those imperfections because she showed me that it was okay to be less than perfect. When I am baking, and the recipe works, I feel my mother in the kitchen with me, willing me to succeed in cutting squares that are actually square, and not something like a parallelogram out of a tenth grade geometry text. (why does everyone need squares to be square anyway?)

When my son Stephen died, I longed for her, needing a comfort that only a mother could give her child. And, that not being possible, I instead decided to conduct myself in a way that was "Madge-like." I took comfort in the fact that if she could not be with me, at least she was with Stephen. I tried to be dignified, loving, and sometimes even stoic. But most of all, I tried to be like her and remain positive and strong as I faced the most difficult days of my life. Truly, when I think about my choice to grieve with gratitude, she deserves a great measure of the credit. More than my nose, I believe I am most like my mother in how I deal with the valleys of life. And that makes me proud.

I wonder if she realized the immense responsibility that was hers when she took on this gig called motherhood. I wonder if she understood that through the way she lives, I would grow to see life through her eyes. From her, I learned how to express love, frustration, and anger. I learned how a marriage should work. I learned how much a mother should tolerate and where to draw the line. I learned how to love my own children, and be a protective Momma bear. I learned how to bake bread, make soup and gush over my children's accomplishments. I learned about tradition, and how to make occasions special. She taught me resilience, and how to stand tall when life was less than perfect. She showed me that not only was it okay for me to be happy, it was required. She was not perfect, and showed me that was okay too.

You're just like your mother.

Yes, and I am so incredibly thankful for that fact. I honor and celebrate her by living the lessons she left with me, and by extending the same unconditional love to my family as she did to hers.

So, as we approach this Mother's Day, I would ask you to do two important things.

Give thanks for your own mother, and all she did throughout the years to shape you into the human being you are today. Whether she is living or has passed on, take some time this weekend to wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

And finally, if you yourself are now a mother, think about the life you are reflecting in your own child's eyes. Are you teaching your child about happiness, love and gratitude? Are you, through your own life, showing your child that they are beautiful and worthy of all the joy that life has to offer?

Happy Mother's Day Madge. Heaven is lucky to have you.

This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at