MOTHER’S DAY WITHOUT A MOM

How do you celebrate a holiday when the person that holiday is built around celebrating is no longer with you? How do you embrace gratitude for all that you’ve been given on an occasion that can’t help but remind you of all that you’ve lost? How do you continue to move forward, heart open, even on days when moving forward feels impossible?

As another Mother’s Day without my Mom approaches (this year will mark number five), I can’t help but think about all the other motherless daughters (and sons) out there. And I want to hug them all. I want to tell them that they aren’t alone in facing the onslaught of greeting cards and commercials and cheerful bouquets of flowers that this holiday brings. I want to tell them that even though there’s an entire industry built around trumpeting “Mom’s special day,” there’s also a whole tribe of us for whom Mother’s Day is just a day that we have to endure, just a day that we have to get through.

My Mom was great at holidays. She loved them. She never let a Valentine’s Day or a St. Patrick’s Day or an Easter go by without sending me some ridiculously cheesy care package, crammed full of stickers and candy and seasonal-themed trinkets that I was far too old for. Every December 2nd without fail, she’d call and serenade me with a slightly off-key version of “Happy Birthday,” finishing by telling me that the day I was born was the happiest day of her life.

On those occasions, I used to roll my eyes. “OK, Mom,” I’d say, made uncomfortable by the mushiness of it all. Now, of course, I would give anything to be on the receiving end of one more “cheesy” care package, or one more birthday serenade.

The joy with which my Mom approached every holiday is exactly why the holidays are so hard now that she’s gone. But it’s also why every year when the calendar rolls to May, I try to regard Mother’s Day as a celebration, rather than with a sense of dread. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. But I also know that my Mom’s greatest wish was for me to be happy. And so – for her – I try.

It helps to surround myself with friends. I try to pick an activity that sounds fun, that I know my Mom would have loved. I go somewhere pretty, do something indulgent, and above all, I treat myself gently. Last year, I spent Mother’s Day on a boat, drinking tequila and sharing stories with some of my closest girlfriends. We never even left the harbor (none of us knew how to drive! And also, tequila), and yet, the day was absolutely perfect.

In a way, it feels like every day is Mother’s Day since I lost my Mom. I’m never not thinking about her, I’m never not appreciating all the wonderful gifts she gave me, and I’m never not wishing that she was still here. If you’re lucky enough to still have your Mom, please know that you don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day to call her, or to give her a hug, or to tell her that you love her. You can do that any day. And I hope that you do. Please. Do it for me. Because on Mother’s Day, and every day, I really wish that I still could.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.

-Sarah Kelly

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