Monday, April 25, 2011

Mother's Day Without a Mother

For anyone who's lost someone dear to them, if you had a nickel for every time someone said, "It's the Firsts that are hard." The first year, the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first Easter, etc. It's true. I had to count it out on my hands the other day; I am nearing 10 months since my mother passed. Holidays are tough because they all remind you of family and of the past. I think Mother's Day is going to be a tough one since I become sad everytime I see an ad or hear a commercial. I feel like sending flowers to myself that day.

When I think about the loss of my mom, I try to put words around my feelings. She died so quickly, yet we still had time to say goodbye. But it also feels like she was in an accident, leaving so many things undone and with the promise of fulfilling them. My mother came up to my house to visit and go to her doctors in Boston. It was then we were told those frightening words, "You have a month to two to live." In the room with my brothers and sister-in-law, and my mother, I burst into tears. No one else did, not even my mother. I think she wanted to be strong for me, us, but I also think she half expected it. We were also all in shock. What do you do when someone gives you such a small window to live.

The next six weeks I felt like I was living someone else's life. Or wished I were. I asked my mom if she wanted to go back home for a weekend and get more clothes. She had only come up with a week's worth of winter clothes: sweaters, corduroys, and fleece. It was now May, and in two months it would be July. She said it would be too sad for her to go home, and I know now what she meant. When we went to the house for her funeral, the wheelbarrow was half-filled with soil and a shovel, there were notes on the counter for who she needed to call, and calendars with activities that had already past. I know if she had gone home when she was sick and knew she would die soon, she wouldn't want to leave. I wouldn't. It was Spring and she was so looking forward to being outside all day in the garden. It makes me weep to think about it.

And now we're selling the house. Or if I am to think of it from my mother's perspective, we're selling the garden. The house was just a warm and dry place to go when you were done working in the yard. Her garden was, and is still, a beautiful succession of blooms from Spring through Fall. I like to grow things, but my mother knew how to design and tend a garden so that there was always something blooming. It's an art I haven't achieved. When I moved into my house almost 11 years ago, mom bought me a crabapple tree, a nice sized one, and helped me plant it. Rather I helped her plant it. It is now 20 ft. high and just about to flower. It will always remind me of my mom and the day we spent digging that hole twice as wide and half again as deep, filled with peat moss and fertilizer. A big hole. And I have her shovel now too. And I might just take the wheelbarrow if no one else wants it. Halfway filled with soil.


  1. This is such a beautiful tribute to and memory of your mom. I remember those first few years after my mother passed, and how much I hated the Hallmark company (for their endless commercials), NPR (for their relentless hawking of "flowers for your mom,") and the countless advertisements that showed no regard for those of us who were motherless. It takes a while...

  2. Sarah, I too remember the first year and the second has just passed but it still feels like yesterday. Every Mother's Day, my heart aches, mom and I would always spend it together (she lived almost two hours away and she would drive to my home) . . . Christmas is the hardest . . . she always created a very old fashion German Christmas, just like when I was a kid! Her home was beautiful! It's still hard to believe she is not here. Just this last Sat., I packed up the last of her belongings from her home, I too came across things that she hadn't finished but was planning too.

    What a wonderful tribute to your mom and so glad you have the crabapple tree you both planted, a wonderful memory that keeps growing.

    1. Hi Gini, I wanted to thank you for such a nice note. It made me tear up when I read it. I'm so sorry about your mom; we seem to be on the same schedule where that's concerned. Everything you mention seems like I've experienced it too. Sending you a big hug! ~Sarah