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Motherless on Mother’s Day

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I lingered in bed as long as possible yesterday, then stumbled downstairs to a wonderful frittata and bacon breakfast, sweetly prepared by 1 adoring husband and 2 lovely children.  He handed me coffee as I sat down, and my daughter placed a hand-made crown of hearts on my head.  The sun was shinning brightly outside and our home was cozy and warm.  I looked around at my beautiful family and suddenly burst into tears.  They all turned to stare at me, “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

It took me a moment to even realize it myself, “I… miss my mom.”  I quickly walked into the bathroom, sat on the edge of the tub, and just started sobbing.   It has been 10 years since my mom lost her battle with cancer, and it still hits me like this every year, being motherless on Mother’s Day.  My mom and I didn’t have the easiest relationship, especially  during her final years, but I’ve built a life for my family emulating her core beliefs and everything she taught me.  She was a maker of all things, an excellent seamstress, a master gardener, and lovingly prepared all of our food from fresh, organic ingredients.  I even moved back to the mountain where I grew up to raise my own children, in this idyllic setting she chose for my siblings and me.

We decided to start our family several years after she passed away.  Becoming a mother without a mother hit me hard, and in quite unpredictable ways.  Luckily my sister was close by to help me figure things out, but I’ve always felt like I’m holding a severed cord, cut off from the collective wisdom and energy of my mother and grandmothers.  My road to motherhood has been an enduring journey through miscarriages, fertility treatments, difficult and high-risk pregnancies, and even the loss of my first daughter, hours before she was born.   My second daughter was born premature, and couldn’t nurse or sleep.  These were hard times and all I wanted was my mom.  I needed her to show me, to help me, and share her stories.  Somehow I found my own way, though I still mourn the loss of connection to my history, and her relationship to my children.

I wiped my eyes and pulled myself together, and returned to my family and breakfast.  My one desire for the day was to ride my bike.  One of the benefits of being a motherless mother on Mother’s Day, is that you are beholden to no one.  I do have a mother-in-law and a step-mom, who are both wonderful, but because we don’t live anywhere near my husband’s family, the day is completely mine!

I had invited a few other moms to ride with me, but they all had other plans.  It was just as well, because I was still a bit of an emotional wreck.  What I needed was to be alone.  It was an amazingly beautiful day, the sky was crisp and the brightest blue possible.  I took one of my favorite routes, which has some particularly difficult hills.  As I got deeper into the forest, I thought to myself how much my mom would have loved this ride, “If she was well and still alive, she would have come with me today.”  Then I felt the warm, tingly sensation in the middle of my back that has become so familiar over the past decade.  I melted into sobs again, because I knew she was with me.  Just after she passed away, I collapsed into the bed of the quiet room that had been mine that summer.  It had been absolutely exhausting helping her die, I had been at her side for months, and I had given her everything in me.  As I laid facedown on my parent’s anniversary quilt, crying into a pillow, I felt a warm hand at the small of my back.  My mom had come to say goodbye to me.  My body felt her tell me she would always be with me, and I would know she was close when I felt her hand on that spot, just as she rubbed when I was a child.  Somehow I stayed upright on my bike and kept peddling, as the tears streamed down my face.  Having her with me released my anxious sadness, and the rest of the ride felt like it did when we used to bike together when I was a kid.

I rode to the bird sanitary at Boggs Lake and walked out to the end of the dock.  The silence was filled with the calls of so many species of birds.  The red-winged blackbirds, perched atop tulles, sang to their mates then danced in the air.  A formation of Canadian geese magestically took flight, swooping and calling over the vernal lake.  Everything was still, yet alive and vibrant.  I finally felt peace.

The first Mother’s Day after I lost my mom was the hardest, then they gradually got easier to manage.  Having my own children fills part of the void, and allows for some actually joy.  I adore the hand-made gifts brought home from preschool, and can’t get enough squeezes from the kids throughout the day.  I suppose some years will be easier than other, though the feeling of being part of a broken chain will always just be.


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