Two friends lost their mothers recently. I picked up sympathy cards and knew what I wanted to write inside.
You will never get over this.
Before I lost my mom, I would have been more upbeat. Something like: Give it some time. You’ll cry less and smile more at the memories.
That’s all true, but the bigger truth is that there’s a hole in your heart that can never be filled.
This is my third Mother’s Day since my mom’s death. And it hurts just as much.
I used to love this day. Although I always made a point to let my mom know I loved her, giving her extra attention on the second Sunday of May was imperative. Not because Hallmark told me so, but because I was thrilled I had a mom worth celebrating.
I didn’t have the June Cleaver kind of mom who would greet me at the door at the end of the school day, an apron tied around her waist and the smell of freshly baked cobbler wafting through the house. She wasn’t a leader for my Brownie or Girl Scout troops, she didn’t drive me to swim team practice at 6 a.m. (my dad handled all the sports activities), and she wasn’t particularly helpful with homework assignments. If she volunteered for a charity, I never saw it.
But there were so many areas where she did shine. She taught me about having self-confidence, telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. She was the one who discovered my writing talent, based on notes I would leave her in my grade-school scrawl after we had a disagreement.
“I am so mad at you I could scream! I can no longer be your daughter. We must go our different paths!” She liked that I expressed myself in the written word, and encouraged me to follow a profession that would reward it.
We were just 20 years apart, and she was a looker. In my high school years, the boys would hang around just to be near her. She was an insufferable flirt with a very cheerful nature, so people just naturally liked her company.
A compliment from her always made me feel cherished and inspired me to do more. When I let her down, she always noted that tomorrow is another day, and I could get right back on track.
Now the ads for perfume, chocolate, jewelry and flowers assault me wherever I go. Every restaurant in town, it seems, invites you to give your mom a break from kitchen duties and make a reservation for a lovely five-course meal.
“Don’t forget the special woman in your life on Mother’s Day!” As if I could.
If my mom was here, I would be guilty as the rest in giving our economy a little boost. According to the National Retail Federation, we’ll spend an average of $162.94 on our moms (the meals account for a portion of that), with total spending predicted at $19.9 billion.
And though it seems suspect, Mother’s Day really wasn’t an idea generated by a greeting-card company.
Mothers have long been celebrated in different cultures and countries, such as “Mothering Sunday” in the United Kingdom or the annual spring festival celebrated by the ancient Romans called “Hilaria,” dedicated to the mother goddess Cybele.
The observance we’ve come to associate with cards and candy was inspired by a woman named Anna Jarvis, affectionately known in her West Virginia community as “Mother Jarvis.” She was an activist long before women did those sorts of things, organizing women’s brigades throughout the Civil War, asking workers to do everything they could without regard for which side their men had chosen.
According to the National Women’s History Project, she took the initiative to heal bitter rifts between her Confederate and Union neighbors — not an easy task in those deadly times.
Her 12-year-old daughter heard her teach a Sunday school lesson in 1878 on mothers in the Bible. “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day,” she said. “There are many days for men, but none for mothers.”
When Jarvis died, her daughter embarked on an ambitious letter-writing campaign, pleading with President William Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt. Her efforts paid off when Congress passed a Mother’s Day resolution in 1914.
So, yes, that means we’ve officially been celebrating our mothers for 100 years. Mother Jarvis got her wish, even though her daughter came to regret its eventual commercialization. Before she died in 1948, she even protested at a Mother Day’s celebration in New York, and was arrested for disturbing the peace. My guess is that her mother would have been proud.
I feel a little lost without my mom. I can still hear words of encouragement she would give me when I embarked on a project. When my house gets a little messy, there she is, in my ear: A place for everything, and everything in its place. If my closet gets too jammed-packed, she is there again: If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it.
But mostly what I want is a hug. I want her here for one of our wine chats, for a shoulder to cry on, for advice on which way to turn when I can’t decide where to go.
If your mother is still in your life, don’t take it for granted. Because when she’s gone, you won’t find that missing piece of your heart. Love her, and love her well.