When my mother turned 65, my sisters and I had pre-planned a quiet celebration for her at a local café called Samuel’s. We met on a dreary Sunday afternoon for chai lattes, specialty coffees and cheesecake, while rain misted the windows and sidewalks outside the old heritage building housing the restaurant. Upon leaving, we huddled together in the parking lot for a picture of this momentous occasion, quietly celebrated between three sisters, one sister-in-law and our beloved mother. Shortly thereafter, we left and went our separate ways- unaware of what was to transpire just mere hours later.
That evening, my mother received a phone call from the manor where her sister and mother both resided, living side-by-side in adjacent rooms. Her one and only remaining sibling, her sole (soul) sister, was physically very low. Would she please come? There were no guarantees of how much time was remaining. My mom gathered up her belongings and left the next morning for Fredericton, and for the remaining two weeks prior to her sister’s home-going to Heaven, my mother stayed by her side. Holding her hand. Rubbing lotion into her soft skin. Adjusting pillows and uttering soft words of comfort. Loving her sister the best way she knew how.
Little did my mama know that not even one year later- this time again just weeks prior to her 66th birthday, she would again make the trek to that same New Brunswick manor. This time in the hopes that she would arrive in time to bid a tearful goodbye to her mother who had sadly fallen ill over the winter months and rather quickly took a turn for the worse mid-March. Sorrowfully, Mom was not to be there for this quiet home-going. She arrived to a closed door shut on an empty room, no welcoming smile to greet her.
All was silent.
I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to have seen the door shut like that. To have realized that behind that closed door was no longer that comfort of the living. No tender smile or warm touch. To my mom, there was the realizing that this chapter of her life- life lived with the constancy of family and heritage: it was now over. Every one of her immediate family members- the ones she grew up with, lived with and loved- were now gone. And all that awaited her upon arriving at the residence she had visited for so many years was the shell of the one she had forever before known as MOTHER.
This Sunday will be her first ever Mother’s Day lived without her mom. I really can’t yet even imagine what this must be like.
There are so many people grieving the loss of a loved one in these difficult days leading up to Mother’s day. There are children wondering how they will navigate the days leading up to this hugely celebrated holiday with its focus on cards, crafts and trinkets all made for mothers. There are teenagers trying to process their feelings about what this all means and young adults trying to be there for their siblings in ways that a mother would, even though that is not entirely their burden to carry. There are grown women who still crave their mother’s words of wisdom on the other end of the phone line or who yearn for the physical presence of their mother at the kitchen table; and there are husbands who are faced with being both mother and father to their Littles and Bigs, in the wake of their chosen partner in life’s passing to the Great Beyond.
How do we as people do these hard things?
Jason Tippetts, husband to Kara Tippetts of the beautiful blog Mundane Faithfulness wrote transparently these raw and beautiful words about life and its ebb and flow for those left behind:
“These are the events that I dread. I remember asking Kara to help me plan this year of firsts. I assumed a long and hard conversation, I would take notes and then feel better about the plan. But instead Kara’s answer was, “You will be great. You will know what to do!” Not the answer I wanted but it was the answer I needed. I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay. I so appreciate that freedom she gave me.”
To all those who are hurting right now and who dread this upcoming Sunday of celebration for one reason or another, know that whatever you decide to do (so as to pass the day, celebrate the day, commemorate the day or skip the day entirely for this year) it is all okay.
There is no right or wrong way to work through the pain of these difficult years of firsts. You will know what to do when the day comes. Do it and feel no guilt for your decision.
I know that there is no way to compensate for the loss of a loved one- no one human being can ever take the place of another precious soul. But may we all be cognizant that there is much pain and heartache around us. Sometimes the most beautiful of holidays can evoke the deepest anguish.
To all those out there who are hurting this Mother’s Day, may you find peace and strength and comfort from Above.
Love and light and hope to your and yours.