The Most Bittersweet Day Of The Year

Mother’s Day. For many, a day of sleep-ins, breakfast in bed, new slippers and handmade cards. For some, it also serves as a reminder of one of the most significant losses we can experience. For me, it is both of these things.

My mother passed away on May 28th, 2008, the day after her 54th birthday and a couple of weeks after Mother’s Day. I don’t want to relive her illness and passing here, as almost 6 years on it is too raw a wound to re-examine.

I guess what I am doing is talking about why it’s such a hard day, when your own mum isn’t here to celebrate. I will go to the cemetery on Mother’s Day, like I do every year, and lay flowers down on the grave she shares with my maternal grandmother. I will sit there for a while. It’s a nice spot; there is a tree nearby that I’ve watched grow from a sapling these past six years, the grass is always green and it’s tidy and catches the morning sunlight. In my head, I have a little chat with Mum and with Nan too. Sitting there, no matter what day, always takes me straight back to 2008, but there is a special poignancy on Mother’s Day. The cemetery is awash with chrysanthemums and the crowds descend to remember their mothers. Trust me, there is nothing quite like the strange mix of grief, solidarity and loneliness in that crowd.

My Mum and her Mum.

My husband and the kids will still spoil me on Mother’s Day. He will make sure my daughters and step kids have something nice to give me from the school stall or will take them shopping for new bed socks or a coffee mug or chocolates. He will help them to make me breakfast and maybe we will go out for lunch. It will be a nice day- it always is. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort that my family goes to on my behalf. I do, I always do. I love the homemade cards, the little gifts, the treats. It’s just I feel like I’m enjoying the day through a haze of grief and longing. Surely you can’t enjoy something while feeling like that, right? But you can. It’s a strange paradox.

Last year, I wanted to skip the whole day. The sadness at the thought of celebrating motherhood with a baby in my arms that will never meet her maternal grandmother was overwhelming. It still is this year.

The thing is, though, I don’t want that sadness to overwhelm me. Not on that day. Because that day is also for me, as much as it was for my mum, and as much as I celebrated her on that day, she celebrated me, too. We would go out for lunch or I would go to her house for a meal. We’d have a few drinks; we’d laugh and shoot the breeze.

My mum was always the kind of person who celebrated life and family. She taught me a lot and most of it probably without meaning to. Some important stuff, too. She taught me to be independent and to think for myself, how to cook, how to clean, how to navigate through the minefield of employment and how to host a great party. She showed me how to grow plants and taught me that, in a pinch, almost anything in the kitchen can become a makeshift microphone for when you really need to sing along with feeling and flair.

She wasn’t conventional and she wasn’t perfect. But she was my mum and she is irreplaceable and I will keep celebrating Mother’s Day, no matter how hard, because I am the mother I am today largely because of the mother she was to me.

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