Not Just Another Holiday

By the time this post publishes we will be past another holiday. But, not just any holiday; this past Sunday was Mother’s Day. 

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are hard for bereaved parents. So hard, in fact, that there are International Bereaved Mother’s and Father’s Days. Bereaved Mother’s Day is always commemorated (I can’t say celebrated) on the first Sunday in May, the week before Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day has been bittersweet for me for years. My own mother died of breast cancer in 1995. At 63 I’m older now than she was when she went to heaven. I’ve missed her for 28 years now. Even so, missing my daughter is harder. Dying at 62 is unfair; out-of-order death is unnatural. My grandmother lived another 10 years (to almost 96) after losing her only child. I’m embarrassed to admit that until Rachel died, I didn’t realize how hard it was on my grandmother to outlive her daughter. How much celebrating holidays hurt her heart. How she proudly stood up in church when the preacher inevitably asked who had grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But, did she hesitate, wondering if she should stand or not when he asked who had children?

I get it now. Honestly, I would like nothing more than to spend Mother’s Day sitting by myself in the swing on the riverbank. I could pray, cry, read a book, have coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, cry some more.

But, I’m not going to. As of this writing, our older daughter has asked us to come to their house on Saturday. Go out to dinner, spend the night, and go to church and brunch on Sunday. To celebrate.

This morning during a normal chat over breakfast, I started crying. “I hate Mother’s Day” I sobbed to my husband. He said we didn’t have to go, but I told him I wanted to. And, I really do. My daughter is a joy to be with. She is sweet and loving, with just enough sass and sarcasm to not be cloying. We enjoy each other’s company. Her husband is whip smart and the four of us have deep conversations and loud debates. The four grands, ranging in age from 7 to 16, are a delight. Their distinct personalities have made for clashing and melding over time that makes life interesting (and makes me appreciate my calm house when we get home).

But … and there’s always a but … there’s just something so wrong about celebrating Mother’s Day with just one of my daughters. Not because she lives out of state, or is traveling for business, or any other temporary reason. But, because I will never again be able to celebrate anything with her until I join her in Heaven.

I hate it that every holiday is tainted by her absence. Not her temporary absence, but her absolute, eternal absence from this world. I hate it that I cannot celebrate this day honoring mothers in complete joy, because one of the people who made me a mother is not here. That my older daughter not only has her own grief and hurt at missing her sister, but she has to bear the hurt of seeing her mother’s grief also.

So, I do certain things ahead of time to help me make it through this and other hard holidays. I observe Bereaved Mother’s Day. I read posts and comments from other grieving mothers in the closed Facebook group I’m a part of. We listen to each other, give advice when asked, hold each other up, and remind each other that our feelings are valid, normal, and okay. No matter how soon or how long it’s been since our child left this world.

I let myself cry and mourn all I need to. A lot of it in private because it distresses my husband to feel like he can’t comfort me. I sit in my swing and recall her face, her voice, her mannerisms, her annoying habits. I pray. A lot. Rehashing some of my initial anger and questioning of God. Admitting that He has been right here the whole time and has gotten me through 6 years so far. Thanking Him for my girls, my grands, my husband, and all the other wonderful people He has put on my path. Asking Him for strength to get through the holiday.

And, I will. I will have a lovely time with my daughter and her family this weekend. And, when I get home Sunday I will be tired and nostalgic and wistful.

Then I will wake up early Monday morning and check my post to be sure it’s published and that I didn’t miss a typo. And, I will have gotten through another holiday. I mean, it’s just a day, right?


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