Mother’s Day

001.jpgThis will be my first Mother’s Day without my mother.  It is the first time in my adult life that I don’t have to buy a card or a gift or plan an activity to do with my mother.

Last weekend was the unveiling of my mother’s tombstone.  It was an intimate gathering to officially mark her grave and say a few prayers. It was a beautiful day, which was both good and bad.  Good because we could all enjoy the glory of nature, but bad because my mother would have appreciated such a gorgeous day, making her absence all the more glaring.

My mother was a passionate genealogist.  She spent a lot of time in cemeteries, searching for clues from tombstones to help figure out the puzzle of a family history.  She loved the challenge and excitement of searching a family’s lineage.  She also derived great pleasure from introducing distant relatives to each other.  I could not muster much enthusiasm for her pursuits, being far too self involved with the daily grind of my own life.

“I talked to a man who’s grandfather was my father’s third cousin once removed,” she’d happily proclaim.

“Great Mom,” my siblings and I would say.  We were glad she had a hobby she loved, even though we didn’t share her interest.

It was one of the ways that my mother created a legacy for herself.  She lovingly compiled books about our family history, which we will keep and hope that a child or grandchild will inherit her passion and keep her work going.

It feels ironic that my Mom is now resting in one of the places where she actually spent a lot of time.  It is a pretty setting, which she would have liked.  The tombstones lay flat on the ground, with a metal plaque laying on top with the information about each person.  I asked my dad why some cemeteries have tombstones like that.  He didn’t know, but said that my mother preferred the upright grave markers.  She thought they had more character.  Of course she did.

Now at least I have a place to officially go “see” my mother. I think I’ll go there on Mother’s Day with my family and my father. Will it be a source of comfort?  A time for reflection? I hope so. I will join the ranks who dutifully go to the final resting place of their loved ones.  My mother used to say that she wanted a bench and a tree near her grave.  She was always thinking of other’s comfort and the serenity that the beauty of nature can bring.  A bench is not in place yet…I joked, “I’ll just sit on a nearby family’s  bench when I come see Mom.”

Other people have told me that Mother’s Day without their mothers is an especially difficult day. I am not anticipating it to be awful.  I think fondly back on recent Mother’s Days we spent together.  There was the time I was in the midst of being diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband figured he would get rid of the baseball tickets he had for Mother’s Day, thinking he would do something with our family instead.  “Not so fast,” I told him.  My mother and I, neither of us baseball fans, enjoyed a beautiful day at the ballpark – just the two of us.  She was always up for a new experience.  We enjoyed good seats, great weather, ballpark food and beer, the people-watching, the stadium vibe, and being together. Thinking back it makes me laugh how my mother chided me when I ordered a second beer.

“Susan, you’re driving,” she said.  “Yeah, in like three hours,” I replied.

Or last year when we served dinner to families at the NIH Children’s Inn.  She wasn’t feeling great from her illness, but she never missed an opportunity to help other people.

I will cherish memories of how my mother cherished me.  Like the time she shaved my head as I was losing my hair from chemotherapy.  She said it was one of the hardest things she had ever done.  But she did it and I was grateful.

I am grateful that she gave me life.  And she gave me my best friend – my little sister.  That she taught me a lot about how to live a full, meaningful life.  And gave me a few nuggets of wisdom about raising children. One that sticks in my mind is, “Have a routine, but be flexible.”  This has served me well, as raising my family has been anything but predictable.

I have never been a huge fan of Mother’s Day.  I think it’s a contrived, Hallmark holiday.  Every day is Mother’s Day. For that matter, I think every day should be “Be Kind to One Another Day.” My mother felt the same way. Of course we  acknowledged the day but it wasn’t a big production.

So it will be a different Mother’s Day this year. Instead of buying a card for my Mom, I’ll go visit her grave.


9 thoughts on “Mother’s Day

  1. Beautiful blog (as always) Susan. I’ve been visiting my mother’s grave every year on Mothers’ Day and find it very comforting. I’m always a little stressed (read moody) leading up to Mothers’ Day since her passing and I’m fine after I visit her. I know our “conversation” is one way, but last year I really felt her presence and after a while it was like she was saying to me, “Okay, this was good, now go be with your mother-in-law, she’s always there for you too.” The whole day came together.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more. I have immediately begun to read your past posts and will be forwarding to my kids. We had a pantry too and their friends still like to talk about it! Thanks for sharing your blog. I look forward to the next installment!

  3. Susan. Once again I am shedding tears as I read about your wonderful mom I am especially in awe of your incredible relationship. How lucky you are !

  4. Hello Susan.
    I am
    Once again so touched by your thoughts. I am a motherless daughter now for 36 years. Hard to believe. I remember how painful it was to buy Mother’s Day cards for family and friends whom
    I loved and yet not one for my mother. But having children reminded me how special it is to enjoy each and everyday with our loved ones because each day creates memories. Your mom and you certainly did that. The love and the closeness endures forever and ever.
    I use to say to the new moms in my baby class , to have a routine but be flexible. I enjoyed reading that. And the other thing i believe is that the days are sometimes long , but the years are short.
    Enjoy the beauty of your family and know your mom has created exactly what she had hoped for: sisters and children that are loving and kind !!!
    Love ,
    Joy Paul

  5. Susan, once again I am struck by how beautifully you articulate the sweet-sour helix of our lives. I wish you an easy time on Mother’s Day, tho’ I suspect you have worked through many of the more difficult feelings in putting this post together. Thanks for making me think — and feel! — deeply.

  6. Beautifully written; your mother was such a special person. My mother has been gone for over twenty years, but we keep her memories alive with “Grandma Evie” stories we relate to her great-grandchildren….a great tradition.

  7. Susan – We don’t spend enough time together. But, at least I have your words to keep me laughing and crying. Thanks for sharing. Cris

  8. Your essay communicates what is so difficult to put into words for those of us who’ve lost a beloved mother. Your mother was a lovely person in every way. I only met her a few times, but her grace and kindness was impressive. (You don’t know me–I am a friend of Judith’s–Eyal was my son’s first friend). My mother passed away–also from cancer–19 months ago. Your posts are so comforting and meaningful to me–thank you for sharing your experience, and know that your words help many daughters who were lucky enough to have had wonderful mothers.

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