The Gifts I'm Thankful for on Mother’s Day From My Son Who Passed Away


I wasn’t expecting to find myself in the card aisle at our local grocery store. I was just trying to kill a little time and ended up there by mistake. It’s not an area of the store I tend to frequent.

Bethany Conkel and her son
Bethany and her son.

As I walked through, Mother’s Day cards seemed to jump off the rack. I briefly glanced at a card with characters from Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” on it. A cute love note to mom was written in a clever ditty. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of card my son would have given me this year. Would it have been handmade with brightly colored scribbles or store-bought with his favorite cartoon character printed on the card? Would he have given me a flower planted clumsily in a pot, or would he have helped to make breakfast in bed for me?

It’s been three and a half years years since my son was born and passed all on the same day. Although it has been several years, I still wonder sometimes what he would have been like and what my life would look like with him in it. What would my Mother’s Day turn out to be like with a 3-and-a-half -year-old little boy running around?

As I walked out of the aisle, I felt sad I will never get a card from my son. I will never get to cherish a special Mother’s Day gift from him. As I continued to work my way through the store, I realized something. Although I will never get a physical gift from my son, he has still given me a gift. Many gifts, in fact.

The first gift my son gave me was the gift of motherhood. My sweet boy was my firstborn and made me a mother. Although the time I had to mother him in my arms was short, I still get to mother his memory daily. I will be forever thankful to him for making me a mother.

My son also gave me the gift of empathy. Before saying hello and goodbye to my son, I never understood the loss of a baby. I had met a few bereaved mothers and honestly never understood why the pain lingered, even years later. Now I know. Now I understand. Now I’m able to connect with bereaved mothers, support them and empathize with their feelings.

My son gave me the gift of knowledge. Before receiving a terminal diagnosis for my son, I never knew families even faced such things. I had never heard of anencephaly, trisomy 18 or 13, limb-body wall complex or Potter syndrome. I didn’t know things like perinatal hospice, bereavement doulas or neonatal organ donation even existed. Although learning about these things has been difficult, receiving the gift of knowledge about this world has changed my outlook on life and allowed me to help others in new ways.

My son gave me the gift of friendship. I can’t even count the number of people I have met, connections I have made and friendships I have forged because of my son. Some friendships are so deep that I feel like I gained extended family members. I have met some truly incredible people, and my life has been enriched in so many ways because of them. Had it not been for my son, I may never have met these amazing individuals.

My son has taught me life is both fragile and precious, and it should be embraced — a lesson I very much view as a gift.

Although my son isn’t here to give me a special hand-crafted bobble to place on my desk or a beautifully colored picture to hang on my refrigerator, he continues to bless my heart and give to me in so many ways. His life has helped shape who I currently am as a person and continues to influence who I will become. This Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for the many gifts my son has given me.

If you are a bereaved mother, I hope this Mother’s Day will be gentle for you. I encourage you to look for some special gifts that your little one has given you. I hope you’re able to find something amazing.

A version of this post was originally appeared on All That Love Can DoFollow this journey on Purposeful Gift.

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