I pushed the button and realized for the first time that it was May. May 1st. May Day. The month that brings all the emotional encumbrances with it of Mother's Day and birthdays. My oldest son shares his birthday with her. My Mother. Shared. Past tense.
This one, the first without her here.
I knew that May was coming, of course. I'm wholly familiar with how calendars work and sense the impending end of the school year. I can almost feel the itch in the skin of my children to be over and done for now. One season has finally come to a close, though the cold still lingers in the wind. Spring wants so badly to take over and Winter might finally be releasing its grasp just a bit.
Beside me on the table, the seedlings I've nurtured for weeks now, waiting for the earth to be ready for them. Soon, it will be time.
It is May.
May means so much in this house. The end of the school year. The beginning of gardening and planting and harvesting. The long afternoons spent on the field. The constant glances at the sky just to check for what may come.
May also brings Mother's Day, and with it the luggage it bears.
I've written before about my personal struggle with this day. For so many years it was always about them, my mother, my grandmothers. Then my family grew and there was a mother in law to focus on as well.
It remained that way until the year that I was to be a mother and then I wasn't, and everything about that day changed. It wasn't just a celebration of the women who had brought me and those I love into this world anymore, it was a constant reminder of what I was to be and then wasn't. Of what I wanted and couldn't have.
The commercials, the cards, the trinkets and gifts, the roadside flower stands, it was all too much.
I did what was expected of me still and I celebrated all those who had come before me, keeping my own grief deep inside. I mourned alone, not really realizing that I was far less alone than I believed.
I felt so alone because our society isn't one that allows for grief and loss. We are told to be positive and be happy, we are urged to get on with it, told to leave the past behind. What our society doesn't seem to understand about this kind of grief is that it isn't just about mourning what we lost in the past, it is about mourning what we don't have right now, how much the future is different than we imagined it would be.
We aren't just mourning yesterday. We are mourning today and all of the days to come.
We didn't see ourselves here, without them, our children.
Society tells us we shouldn't focus on that all. That we should move on. That we should be positive and happy and so we try. We stuff it away deep down inside.
Losses like this aren't something we ever really recover from, I don't think. They become a part of who we are, they change us, they are something that we learn to live with, that we cope with. They never ever go away. The edges lose their sting, the pain eases a bit, but it remains there forever.
The feeling of being in that place isn't something I have forgotten. Though my life since then has been filled with the children I have with me today, there is always a piece of my heart that wonders how different things would be if she was here, the child I never knew.
This year, there is another loss to mourn. My mother.
Again, I've been told by many well-intentioned people to think positively, to live in the present, to leave the past behind, to get over it. I know that the people who say these things mean well, I do, I just wonder if they really believe that the loss of a parent, in my case my last surviving parent, is something we just get over.
As if we ever could do that entirely anyway.
Like the loss of my first child, and like the loss of my father before her, the loss of my mother is something that will forever be a part of who I am. I will go forward, I will adjust and adapt, I will carry on, I will cope. I don't think, though, that this is something we can ever heal from entirely for the simple fact that our parents, and our children, are a piece of who we are. Irretrievably, indefinitely, forever.
My relationship with my mother was a painfully complicated one, and it is something that I have been thinking about more and more lately. My own position right now as an expectant mother is causing me to reflect more on her place in my life, her absence in it going forward, the fact that she will never be a part of this child's life.
I wonder all the time if I did the right thing. Forced to choose between being the daughter she wanted me to be and the mother my children needed me to be, I chose the latter.
I couldn't be both, and I couldn't try to be both anymore without harming my children more than they had already been hurt.
I know in the rational and objective parts of my heart and mind that I did the right thing, that I did what I had to do, that I made the choice I was forced to make and that I was put in that place through no fault of my own. The rational and objective parts of me know this, but the emotional part of me that just misses her mom doesn't always remember it as well.
Even if your relationship with your parents is tumultuous and awful at times, you will feel their absence when they are gone. You will long even for the days of dysfunction because at least they were there. You will miss them in ways you never imagined. You will wish more so that they could have been the parent you needed, the parent you deserved...the parent you weren't given.
And then you will mourn the certainty that it will never happen.
Death guarantees that.
And none of this goes away just because a set number of days or months or years passes on a calendar. Grief isn't linear like time is. It ebbs and flows, it comes and it goes, and it shows up often when you least expect that it will, the times that it is the most unfair.
I know that May will be hard this year, the first without her. The firsts are always hard. The benefit of having already lost one parent is that I know this truth already, so I will allow myself the time I never had with my father to take these moments, to feel all the feelings.
This time I don't have to worry about her anymore. I can just mourn her, something I was never able to do with him.
Mother's Day will come, regardless of what I do. So will her birthday just a few weeks later, no matter how much I urge it not to.
|Purple was her favorite color, and we will be planting|
a purple rosebush this May in her memory.
To everyone out there, whether your children reside in this world with you, whether they've left us, or whether you hold hope for them in the future, my love.
To everyone out there, whether your mother resides in this world with you, whether she's there for you or whether she's not who you need her to be, whether she's left this life or just yours for now, my love.