Originally, I had a concept for Mother’s Day of capturing snapshots of different thoughts, feelings, stories or quotes supplied by friends, family and acquaintances about all things “motherly” via social media. But my feedback was fairly limited. So I decided to alter my idea.
This is my second Mother’s Day without my mom.
Around Christmastime I noticed that the holidays were not so terribly heavy and unbearable. I was actually looking forward to celebrating in new ways. I was able to feel some joy and levity. But this one. This one has me a little bent. And I can’t really figure out why.
Puzzling out my current feelings with Mr. Reinvention the other day and admittedly most Mother’s Days when my mom was alive really sucked. The day was oozing with unmet expectations and disappointment. Even after I had a daughter of my own the holiday never quite felt mine. After my brother died the responsibility for me to create a nice day, tolerable to a person grieving the loss of a child became unattainable. It was a day of impossibilities and never quite getting it right and feeling slighted while wading through the thick swamp of grief. So why now am I so irritable? Why do I feel like fleeing to a place to be alone and quiet and usher the day in and out without fanfare? Is it because I will never have the opportunity to actually enjoy a Mother’s Day with my mom and my daughter? Is it because I feel like in many ways after my brother died I failed my mom as a daughter? I didn’t know then. I couldn’t know how to help her when she was drowning in her grief. I was busy wrestling with my own grief and my daughter’s grief and a colossal size suitcase of emotional baggage past to present my brother’s death threw wide open. A Pandora’s box, beyond my control. I was angry and embarrassed at the way my mother seemed to wilt and crumple and give up. I didn’t want to take care of her again after I just had begun to lay down and enforce boundaries with her. I was just breaking free from being tightly enmeshed with her for many years. I felt trapped and scared and mad as hell. Mad that my brother was taken from us and that he did this to us. Early on after my brother’s death that was my very limited but intense emotional range. I existed there. Accompanied by a constant knot in my gut and a prickly nervous energy.
When my mom died I felt pain. Soul sucking, knock the wind out of you pain and heaviness. Pain so intense and embedded I couldn’t see me without it. Like a siamese twin. I now wore the smile she wore. The one that doesn’t quite reach your eyes. The one that looks a little forced and plastic. That’s how I felt inside too. My grief was like a heavy burka. No light could get in. I had a glimpse into what she must have lived after losing my brother. I felt tremendous shame and guilt for not being more empathetic and understanding.
After treading for what felt an endless amount of seconds, minutes, hours and days I arrive here. My second Mother’s Day as a motherless mother. I am no longer submerged in what I consider to be an active grief stage. I have survived and now am on the other side. I don’t have a label for this stage. I think it’s just called life now. Life after loss.
I am left here reflecting on the past and analyzing the present. What have I come up with? Well for one, perhaps most importantly, odd as it may sound….. I am going to be completely honest when I say that I feel that the biggest lesson my mother ever taught me was in her death. Her death forced me to completely re-evaluate myself and the course of my life. Hence my reinvention. Her death taught me more about living than any other lesson she presented.
That is not to say that my mother was not a teacher. She taught me more than I could ever compose or even acknowledge. She is in the very fibers of my being. The who, what, why, where and when of Melissa. She showed me love and kindness and loyalty. My mother loved her kids fiercely. She always touted that we were her biggest and proudest accomplishments. She called me her “Sunshine”. My mother fought for the underdog. She stood up to injustice and prejudice. She taught me about being tenacious. My mom pushed me to be my best. To become better and more than her. She was a wonderful friend and lived to care for and nurture others. My mom was always unconditionally my biggest cheerleader. Always. I also learned a lot about what I didn’t want to become by being her daughter, confidante and caretaker in her journey.
Barbara Jean was a survivor in the realest sense of the word her entire life. Knowing where she came from and what she went through it amazes me that she was able to function somewhat successfully. She hit many bumps and hurdles. Some self imposed, some imposed by others. But still she persisted.
Home for her was any beach. But she especially adored Sanibel Island. Gifted at the art of shell collecting and knowing each shell’s name.
Besides her children, her greatest love was my daughter. Baby Reinvention and my mom shared a special connection and bond that is irreplaceable.
I miss her every single day. What I wouldn’t give for one more shitty Mother’s Day with her.
Here’s what else I’ve come up with. I have been incredibly lucky. Graced with so many women who have “mothered” me throughout my life, especially now. I realize, I have been nested and held up by the unwavering love, hands, hugs, words and actions of so many fantastic women. Many are friends who are my soul sisters. Perhaps we spend time together or just an occasional text or phone call. But I feel their love and support. I feel their nurturing. They are rooting for me just as my mom did. Perhaps it is her, loving me, through these extraordinary women who are a part of me too. And maybe, just maybe I am able to show the world the best of Barbara Jean in my actions, in my love, in my life.
That is one motherless mother’s take on Mother’s Day this year. A huge thank you to all of my “mothers” but especially Barbara Jean. Thank you for guiding me, loving me, forgiving me and carrying me-no matter what.
Hug your mamas.