Mother’s Day will always be a little dark for me. Even if I try to reside in the brightness of my fond memories, there is no way to escape also reflecting on what I’ve lost. I have buried two of the mothers in my immediate family—my mother and hers. No matter how sunny the day, no matter how filled with joy others are, a part of me must mourn.
I have been motherless for more than a decade now, and not every holiday is hard. Sometimes I feel more guilt or surprise at the absence of sadness than sadness itself. In some ways the loss grows easier to bear, but in other ways it grows larger. There are fewer memories at the forefront of my mind. There is a greater expanse of time between now and when she was alive. She remains the most important woman in my life, but I grow farther from her in time. I wear her wedding ring, but nothing smells like her anymore. I see flickers of her in my siblings, but her voice is gone. I cannot seek her opinion or find myself lost with her in a deep conversation. Her hugs are irreplaceable. I even miss her horrendous atonal singing. (She may have been tone-deaf, but that did not temper her enthusiasm. She knew that God hears even the most discordant voice singing His praise as beautiful.)
There are many who are motherless on Mother’s Day. Some never knew their mother, others enjoyed (tolerated, or endured) their mother into old age before they lost her, and others (like me) lost their mother somewhere in the middle—much earlier than expected. Whether the wound of death is fresh or time has transformed it into a sensitive scar, there are many who must face Mother’s Day without a mother.
The last time I went to the cemetery on Mother’s Day, I saw just how many of us there are. The grounds looked like a traffic jam—overrun with a grave parade of mourners. So many had come to pay their respects. The atmosphere was heavy with loss and love. One family, just a few plots over, broke from the customary solemnity and made it a party. Rather than bringing their tears and long faces, they brought lawn chairs, soda, pizza, and music—festivity. We all find different ways to remember, honor, and love. Loss is not the same shade on everyone.
I wish everybody could have a wholly happy Mother’s Day. It’s one thing to mourn when others are mourning, but being blue when others are celebrating is as uncomfortable as choosing the hottest day in July to wear your warmest winter boots. So this is for anyone who has mixed feelings on Mother’s Day—anyone for whom this day is complicated—regardless of what dilutes your joy with sadness. Even at your happiest your heart may harbor heaviness. Your feelings may not match everyone else’s. There are some whose brightest emotions come in darker shades. Not everyone looks forward to Mother’s Day.