Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is fast approaching. This is a holiday I have cherished in the past, even though I think most of my actual Mother’s Days have been marred a bit by the pressure that often accompanies a big, sentimental holiday like that. Everyone wants to honor their wife or mother appropriately and worries she will be disappointed. Women often hope for a day of pampering or try not to let their hopes get too high and all of the stress leads to letdown, no matter how great the day is. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m sure some people have great Mother’s Days, but it’s a lot like Valentine’s Day. In fact, my husband and children usually get me lovely cards and presents. I definitely feel loved, but life is no respecter of special occasions. It doesn’t help that my birthday is usually right before or even on the same day as Mother’s Day. (And my wedding anniversary is two days after Valentine’s! We planned that well, didn’t we? 😉 )

Last year’s Mother’s Day was the worst one yet. My daughter Lucy died unexpectedly in her sleep that evening. She had dilated cardiomyopathy, but we had no idea she was that close to death.

Before that, the day had unfolded pretty typically. We spent the morning at home and planned to go to the Texas women’s history exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Of course, we got going late, planned to eat lunch at the museum, and found they were closed for lunch by the time we got there and only had snack-type foods. I can’t remember what kind of solution we came up with for lunch.

Everyone was cranky and Lucy threw up while Chris was feeding her and Max and I were in the exhibit. We were both worried about her, but I remember, to my eternal shame, that I was angry. I was angry that my Mother’s Day wasn’t turning out the way I wanted. I was angry that pediatric cardiomyopathy was marring yet another special occasion. The anger hid the fact that I was desperately afraid and sad about what was happening to my daughter. I thought I was having the gut feeling the transplant team said we would have when she was declining and needed to move up on the list. I felt sure that was what we would hear at her cardiologist appointment the following Tuesday.

I stormed out to the car with Max with Chris and Lucy following behind. Thank goodness, I calmed down and came to my senses during the ride home. I got her out of her car seat once we arrived and held her and talked to her lovingly. I checked her diaper and saw how tired she was, so I decided to put her down for a nap and see if she seemed any better after that. I thought she would be better for a rest and some food if we did decide she needed to see a doctor that night.

I will forever be grateful that I carried her upstairs, held her, rocked her, and loved her. I’m so glad I let go of my anger and thought about her. I planned to hold her till she fell asleep, but she squirmed and wriggled until I put her down in her crib. I left the room and never saw her alive again.

Although Mother’s Day falls on a different date every year, this year, and perhaps for the rest of my life, it will be the day my daughter died. There might always be two anniversaries of her death. I don’t know yet. I think we are all aware at every holiday that there are people missing those they love. So, before the Facebook chatter and the Mother’s Day commercials get underway, I would like to issue a gentle reminder that there are people celebrating without their mothers and grandmothers this year. There are people celebrating without one or more of their children. For some, it is their first year without this person. For me, it will also be the first anniversary of my daughter’s death.

I don’t want to ruin your day. I don’t want you to feel guilty for celebrating. Mothers deserve to be celebrated. Perhaps our perspective needs to be changed, though. If you want a certain gift, by all means, tell your husband and kids. If you want the day to yourself and to not be around your husband and kids, let them know. Believe me, I understand.

But this day isn’t just about brunches and spa packages. Your family loves you. They appreciate you. They want to make that day special for you. If normal or not-so-normal circumstances intrude, please give each other some grace. Please just be glad if your mother and all of your children are still here to celebrate with you.

If you know someone who is trying to just be glad their mother or their child was here instead of constantly wishing to have them back, please remember and reach out. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say. It just matters that you try. You can never go wrong with “Thinking about you today” or sharing a memory about the person who was lost. You don’t have to come up with some profound statement that makes everything better, because it doesn’t exist. We know that and we just appreciate that you tried. I know I will be thinking about my Lucy, about my friend Nicole whose mother died last weekend, and about my friends Jenna, Jennifer, and Kate, who all lost children since last Mother’s Day. I’m sure there are others that I am not recalling at this particular moment, but I am going to try to remember and reach out to everyone I can think of.

Motherhood encompasses a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences and pain and loss is a part of it for many. This Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate the entire spectrum of mothering experiences and remember that others pain does not preclude their joy or anyone elses. One of the many things I have learned this past year is that sadness and joy coexist and contribute greatly to the fullness of human experience and growth. I would do anything to have my daughter back, but I will forever be grateful to her for the lessons her life and death have taught me. Even in death, she has given to me endlessly. Just last night, she gave me the courage to try a solo in Chorus practice that I never would have imagined I would try even a month ago. I vowed to her that I would live for both of us and I am not going to let fear stop me from going after my dreams.

So, here’s to all mothers and children. May we all be celebrated, remembered, appreciated, and supported. May we share in each other’s experiences without guilt or fear or resentment or, at least, without letting those feelings get in the way too much. May we ask for what we want and appreciate what we have.

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1 Comment

  1. March 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you, Sara.


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