My last good visit with my mom was Mother’s Day 2013.
My brother and I went to see our mother together in the nursing home in San Marcos where she had been living for the last five years of her life. She was lost in the late stages of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, rarely making eye contact and no longer able to speak.
On this rare visit though, she locked eyes with me and smiled. It felt as if she was looking into my heart and soul, saying:
“I know you are mine. I see you, and I love you.”
The next time I saw my mother, a few weeks later, she was unconscious on her deathbed. I regret that I let so much time pass between our final visits, but I know now that our last true encounter was such a gift.
I was pregnant with my second daughter and chasing after a toddler when my mom died. I didn’t really take time to grieve, and, to be honest, I thought I had already finished grieving during the decade I’d spent watching her decline into advanced dementia.
But I was wrong.
Grief follows no rules or timeline. It cannot be contained or ignored. Eventually, it rears its ugly head and makes you choose to either run or fight.
You can choose to run to other things to forget and dull your pain, or you can choose to fight for survival through the pain.
I think I did some of both. I think we all do a little running at first. We use our friendships or the pursuit of fame or fun to escape our pain for a little while.
And finally, if we’re lucky, we learn to “obey the sadness,” to borrow a phrase from Sarah Bessey. We learn to sit in our pain and actually feel it, so we can process those deep emotions and come out the other side stronger and wiser.
Maybe I’m still in that second part now, three years later, trying to navigate being a mom without my mom, day by day.
I know deep down it’s OK to let Mother’s Day be about myself and my relationship with my kids now. But every year, it feels as if a part of me is missing.
I celebrate my mother-in-law, my maternal grandmother and all of my wonderful extra mothers on Mother’s Day.
But my heart still aches for my real mother, the mother who knew and saw and loved me, even in the late stages of dementia. My heart still aches for the mom who taught and encouraged and inspired me.
When you lose someone you love, your worst fear is that they will be forgotten.
You sometimes feel like you alone are tasked with keeping your loved one’s memory alive. And you often feel like the rest of the world has moved on, while you’re just not ready.
If you’ve lost someone you love, the truth is that you will never really be ready to move on, and you don’t have to be. You simply need to find your own way to keep their memory with you as you move forward.
Whether this is your first Mother’s Day – or your third – since you’ve lost your mom or a child, you will eventually find a way to keep loving them and keep on living at the same time. You will find a way to honor their legacy while also living out your own.
If your heart is just a little broken this Mother’s Day, please know you are known and seen and loved, by others in the same boat. You are never alone.
Your loss is not forgotten, and neither are you this Mother’s Day.
Follow this journey on For the Love of Dixie.
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