“Hi baby, it’s just Mom…” is the introduction to most of her voicemails in my inbox. Every time I hear her voice in those messages, I smile, as one of the most important people in the world was sheepishly downplaying their presence in those message introductions to me. It reminds me that this person who provided me life, taught me about life, and gave me a reason to live was always so humble in her approach to loving me. Ours was a special bond. I am the oldest of three, enjoying a few years alone with my parents, then a lifetime of growing within a family environment and as a person all the while staying Mom’s little boy.
Yes, I have saved voicemails for years and listen to them when I am strong enough. Yes, I keep out photos to remind me of her youth and beauty as well as memories of the past. And yes, we all speak of her often. From certain songs to a particular dish from childhood, reminders of her are sprinkled throughout my life. Why even now, gazing out my window at the clouds remind me of our time on a blanket turning what was in the sky into animals that lived in far away places. I share this with you because I now know many of you understand exactly what that is like. There was a time I was not so sure.
Losing Mom, the pinnacle of personal connection, began an immediate chapter of isolation. Overnight holidays felt like a sleepwalk and I tended to spend a portion of them alone and upset. I was convinced that no one could REALLY understand what I was experiencing. I believed that because no one was me and no one was Mom, no one could understand my experience. I could not have been more wrong.
Eventually I opened my mind and mouth to speak with friends and colleagues about the experience of losing their mother. Cathartically, I began sharing details of my own journey, and before long, the truth became evident. While the details were different, and perhaps there were plot twists to their stories, most people who lose a mother or mother figure have feelings that are more similar than not. Quite accidentally I discovered that I am a member of a club that no one wants to join, but that all are welcomed into with open arms and hearts.
Thinking back, I believe I did hit the mark in the early days of when we lost Mom. News of her passing spread quickly. And when it did, I was immediately inundated in the most wonderful of ways as friends from around the globe asked what they could do to help me and our family. But I was out of sorts. My body was still buzzing from the role of caregiver in the final days and hours. I did not know what day it was much less how someone could do something for me. So I made a simple request: call or visit your mom, or a person who fulfils that role in your life, and tell them you love them.
Dutifully, most did and the results were heartwarming and medicinal in ways I could not have imagined. Friends followed up with stories of how their mothers were taken completely off-guard by the call. One friend shared that when his mother answered the call and he told her he was calling just to say that he loved her, she asked if he was okay. He explained the situation and it opened up what turned out to be a beautiful dialogue between the two. He thanked me. She thanked me. And I thanked them both.
Dozens of similar stories found their way back to me. My personal tragedy paved the way for random acts of the heart. I must believe that my mom would be proud that she could bring people from all corners of the globe together in the name of love. And surprisingly, in those moments, for the first time I felt the warmth of healing. I learned that I could better handle the pain of loss with gestures of love.
This leads me to suggest a collective reflection on this past Mother’s Day. Did we hug a little longer (virtually or safely) those who fulfil those roles for us, understanding that one day that opportunity will no longer exist? Did we take a moment to think about those who have lost their mothers? Did we spend a moment of gratitude for the past, going back in time and remembering one of those childhood activities we enjoyed with our mothers? If not, it is not too late.
Based on my experience, today is the perfect day - a day when it is least expected. Seek out your mom, or a mother figure, and give them that extra hug. Take it a step further and perhaps check on a friend or family member who had an empty chair at the table on Mother’s Day. They put on a brave face for everyone else, but I guarantee they would appreciate one of those kind gestures as well. And if you are a member of ‘the club’, consider sharing your story with others. For if you do, it may inspire others to share and to heal. One such example for me took place almost a year ago when I shared the voicemail my mom left after I completed my first marathon with our very own Candice Smith, who beautifully incorporated my story into this heartfelt blog.
And regardless of whether or not you are blessed to still have your mother, do something for yourself. Think of one of those memories from childhood. Perhaps it was working in the garden, preparing a special meal, jumping rope, or story time before bed. And if nothing immediately comes to mind, take a moment to look out of your window - I know my mom would share a cloud with you.
You Can't Control What is Happening
Until I was faced with the news that my father was dying, I’d not given much thought to the...
Care Partners are Different Than Caregivers
As a child I was taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” ...
My Turn To Take Care
It’s humbling to need help, particularly when the help you need is with things that are so basic...