Happy Mothers Day. Or not.

The single-word subject line took my breath away: Mom.

The email was from my brother. I’d been expecting it, but it still gut-punched me.

Mom. Many emails had arrived with that subject line over seven months, a few years back. From the time she had first received the cancer diagnosis, to the day she told us her decision about the direction of care she wanted, through to her death.

We siblings had rallied to care for her, her home, and her spirit. The local ones providing meals and check-ins. The ones more distance visiting when we could. She deeply appreciated all our efforts.

I was one of those who visited – about once a month was as often as my work schedule would allow. In between, I didn’t always get up-to-date news, so I really appreciated the emails from my sisters and brothers with updates. With the subject line: Mom.

But now, nearly three years after her death, to see that subject line again took away my breath for a heartbeat or two.

I miss her.

Not all the time. My father’s death decades ago taught me about the natural longing to call a parent when I had something to share that they would enjoy. Years of reaching for the phone before remembering he was no longer there tempered the same urge with Mom.

Even the pain of Mothers Day advertisements is tempered for me. Years of practice after Dad’s death taught me to change the station or plug my ears and sing when Fathers Day commercials came on, and to skip my eyes past print ads. Now, just apply that to Mothers Day. Easy-peasy. (Kinda.)

Yet, I know that you may have been hurting during the run-up to the holiday that has meant so much to you – and to your mom – over the years.

That you may be feeling gut-punched by this Mothers Day, because your mother is no longer alive. Especially if this is the first year for you without her.

To you, I send my care. Whether we’ve met or not.

I send you the warmth of your mother’s touch. (Or, if that was not your experience, the warmth she would have given you if she’d been able to be her best self as a parent. Because I believe that she wanted to; she just didn’t know how.)

I send you the echo of the kindest words she ever spoke to you. (Or would have spoken, if she could have silenced her own pain before it came out of her mouth toward you.) I send you the songs she sang you, the books she read to you. The best times you had together.

I do hope that you have a few or even a million fond memories. And I hope you make some time to sit with them this Mothers Day weekend. Remember what you’ve learned from her – either from who she was or the ways she wasn’t. Take note of who you’ve become because of her, or in spite of her.

Whether your experience as her child was joyful or painful – or somewhere in between, as it is for most of us – take care of yourself this weekend, and honor what you can.

Next year will be easier.


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