Today kittens, is one of those mixed emotions dates. For some folks, it will be getting up, picking up their mother, going out for brunch or a big meal, flowers, and more. And then there are folks who dread the arrival of the day. They have lost their mother within the past year or so, or on days like this the empty chair at the table is most noticeable, and there are some who never fully recover from the loss and are in a vicious circle of grief that is hard to break free of. And there are those who are estranged from family members, and today is also a difficult day for them.
Let’s look at a few aspects.
If we take a look at the numbers of homeless youth, 40+% identify as LGBTQ, and end up on the streets due to family rejection. This was driven home to me again recently when a friend’s niece came out and was beaten severely enough by her father that she was driven to OD, thankfully survived that, and is solely with her mother now. And it is not the first time I have heard of situations like that occurring, in fact, it has become commonplace, and that should frighten people. Mother’s Day is not exactly a day of fond memories for those young people.
Then there are my folks. We all have one thing in common, and that is the loss of our own mother, either recently, or within the past years, and it’s still a raw wound for many. Seven years have passed since my own mother’s passing, and I can completely understand where folks are at in their process. (May also help that I took a few courses in grief and grieving courtesy of the funeral home who handled Mom’s final arrangements) People discuss closure and other buzzwords of recent use. It is not reality. What will happen is you will eventually adapt to that person missing from special events, that empty chair at the table. You will never stop missing them, but the initial pain diminishes with time.
In previous years, I would withdraw from the world, visit the cemetery where Mom’s urn is, and sit there and remember when. Eventually, I would come to hear Mom’s voice in my mind, as I know exactly what she would say about that… “Child, why are you sitting there with a long face and on the verge of tears? I am not there, I have moved on, but I am still with you. Do not sit there for an entire day, get out there and live, or I’ll kick your ass for ya!” And I stopped going and sitting there until the mausoleum and the grounds closed.
This year is different for me. Seven years have passed, and if anyone has time to sit and listen, I will regale them for hours with the hilarious stories of our adventures over the years. Particularly when it came to Mom’s old 60s Volkswagen Beetle (aka the Black Forest Shitbox or Hitler’s Revenge when it would act up on occasion). Delivering phone books, 150 could be crammed in the car, and it was something to do while off work recovering from surgery. Or driving in the winter, everybody in the car holding an ice scraper to keep the windows clear because the standard heater had, as was typical at the time, rusted out and fell off after two years, and the gas heater would drain the tank in 30 minutes flat. Or the days of full serve gas stations, and the Beetle was not a common car, and Mom would pull in, tell them to fill it up, and check the oil too please. Inevitably, before she could explain where the engine was (in the rear on the original models), some kid would insist on opening the trunk lid, and would stand there, some for a few seconds, some for a few minutes, before looking around the hood and saying “where’s the engine lady?” and Mom trying desperately not to laugh directly at them.
I could entertain you with tales of the hilarity we got up to, because we did have adventures, the two of us. Adventures with Mom always began with “Whaddaya say we…” and ended with, “just for the hell of it?” And one side-eye glance with a twinkle in her eye meant she was about to say something classic and hilariously funny to the point you would laugh until tears were streaming. Particularly if she had thought of something risqué that would have me look at her in feigned shock while exclaiming “Mother!!” and she would look innocent and say, “What???” right before we both cracked up and started roaring with laughter.
And who knew how fast the tables would turn. Mom’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer meant that we switched roles without even thinking about it. And the way it erased her mind, it ended up fitting, she became my child, I became the mother, nurse, doctor, the person who got up and sat with her in the middle of the night when she was hungry and would make something for her to snack on (eating was always a win!). I took on that role willingly. People said, why do you go to the hospital every single day, they’ll call you once she dies. Cold-hearted much? As I explained many times over those seven months she had left, anytime I was sick, if I woke up feverish and worse in the middle of the night, who was sitting by the bed reading to keep watch? If I was in hospital recovering from surgery, who was the last face I saw before going into surgery, and the first person I saw every time I opened my eyes in my room? Who could I count on to drop everything and come running when needed? It was my turn to pay it back and that’s why I was at her side every minute she was awake.
You see, there are people who mean the world to me, and they are right in the raw stages of this still. I know they will disappear off the radar today and do whatever self-care is necessary to get through this. The one thing I do know for certain, eventually enough time will have passed and we can sit around over many cups of coffee on a future Mother’s Day, maybe even go out for brunch or a meal together and share all of our stories about our own mothers and all the great times we had. It’s not that time for them yet, but they know I am always at the ready with a shoulder and an ear, and a pot of coffee brewing.
For those of you whose mother is still with you, I would offer these thoughts to you.
Love her. Honour her. Celebrate her. Buy your mother flowers now, don’t wait to do it for her funeral. Make her favourite dinner, or take her out for a meal. Spoil her for at least the entirety of the day (if not more). Remember, this is the woman who sat up until the wee hours of the morning until she heard you come through the door safely. The woman who stuck up for your in school meetings when nobody would listen. The woman who went without so you could have what you needed or wanted. This was the woman who read you bedtime stories and held you when the monsters in your nightmares had scared you awake.
Simply, love your mother, you only get one in this lifetime.
And for those who find today hard to deal with, I hear you, I understand, and I’ve got your back.
And in keeping with my Mom’s humour, I leave you with this (don’t forget to laugh!):