Last Mother's Day, I was 9 months pregnant. It was my very first Mother's Day without my Mom, who was also my very best friend. I spent the day with my husband, crying at different locations, though that was not the plan when I woke up that morning and cried in the shower. I'm going to "get it all out" and "enjoy the day, like she would want me to" I naively thought, as I then found myself crying over breakfast at Mimi's, Mom's favorite restaurant. I cried as he drove me east on the 91 freeway, to put flowers on her grave, I cried at her grave, and cried again, as we headed home for the 45 minute drive. Then, once we were home, you guessed it: I cried some more.
Somewhere in all of that, I knew I did not want future Mother's Days to be spent in any way like that one. It was truly horrible, and I felt like there was no way around it, only through it. While telling myself over and over again 'Mom would want to see me happy and celebrating her, not bawling my eyes out, all day' was most certainly true, it did nothing to affect the outcome. 'Next year will be different' I thought, and knew.
And different it was; indescribably different. While the pain of missing my Mom is still very real and poignant, there is this new little being that I am responsible for and connected to. While my baby girl has not "replaced" my Mom in any way, the special relationship that I had with my Mom is born anew.
I am feeling what she must have felt as I gave birth to her and heard her first cry; changed that first diaper and then 1000 more; rocked her to sleep; saw her first smile and heard her first giggle; marveled at her natural reflex to curl her tiny hand around my finger and then, when she did it by choice; watched her sleep and watched her crawl out of her nursery and down the hall; use her walker back and forth through the living room; take her first bite of pureed food and then eventually feed herself; pat me on the back and give me open-mouthed kisses because she does not yet know how to pucker; squeal with excitement at her dog and say her first word.
While the sadness and longing to spend just one day or even one hour with Mom is still there, so is the love that she gave me; enough love to last a lifetime. The love we shared is still real and tangible and if I try hard enough, I can still feel her arms around my waist and mine around hers, as we so often did in those last days for balance, until she couldn't walk anymore. I can feel the smallness of her hand in mine, hear her laugh and I can feel the warmth of her hug and her kiss. I can hear her saying "Oh Meggie..."
And while I cannot help but feel the regret that my baby girl will not "know" her Nana in the traditional sense and the excitement that a visit from her would bring, I am steadfast in my commitment to help my girl know what a truly amazing woman she was, and always will be. Our little baby A will not just know her Nana through the stories and the photographs, but through the love and patience and grace and of course humor and giggles that I shower her with. Because all of those qualities are given to her because they were given to me.
My husband is the keeper and curator of these stories about Autumn's Nana, along with me. That evening, he handed me three cards: One from him, one from Autumn, and a third. Tears started flowing as I realized that it was a card to my Mom, from Autumn.
My Mom had a way about her in which she was never stressed out or worried, and acted as if she always knew that everything would be alright in the end. Knowing what I do now, I realize that things were far from easy for her. But, she never let on, and was always 100% present with my brother and I.
With her around, it was always sweetness and light, in the most genuine sense. She was never faking it, but was truly grateful and happy with what she had, though at times that may have not seemed like a lot to others. But to her, it was everything.
It's still hard for me to adjust to being the mom on Mother's Day. The Friday before, my girl gave me some things she made me at daycare and I treasure them like the finest jewelry, just as Mom must have done. I remember that Mom was so proud of a hand-print my brother made for her when he was in kindergarten. She would often tell the story of how the teacher told him he was in the wrong line because he was a boy, and lined up with all of the girls. "I want to give my Mom a pink hand, because that is her favorite color" he said. By realizing how much I already treasure what Autumn made me, I now know that although my family went through difficult financial times and were technically "in poverty" Mom felt rich because she truly did have everything that she wanted or needed in her family.
Not only was she devoted to my Dad, but she knew that he was devoted to her. This was where her sense of pride and worth came from, not from the brand of her pocketbook or the car that she didn't drive. I remember her telling me "We may not be wealthy but look at all the people who are and yet they aren't happy."
When you loose someone you love so dearly, you have guilt. Still today, 19 months later, things pop in my head that I feel guilty about. Although I counter them with reason and facts, they remain. I have periodically wished that Mom had more. Not just material things, but trips and vacations. But after this first Mother's Day as a Mom, I finally can let go of at least that part of my guilt. "Oh Meggie, that's not what is important in life. We may not have had a lot, but we traveled and lived in wonderful cities. I have everything I need and more. Because I have your father and you and your brother, I am truly rich" she would tell me. I hope she's not just saying that to make me feel better, I thought. But now, I know that she was telling the truth.
This Mother's Day left me with a renewed commitment to honor Mom by being the most devoted wife and mother that I can possibly be. Because nothing in my life is quite as important as my family and giving them all of the love that Mom gave ours.