The first Sunday in May is not just Mother’s Day for me — at least not anymore. I buy flowers on this day, but I pay less attention to their beauty than to their sturdiness and ability to stand strong when dug in the dirt. I might buy a Mother’s Day card, but I have to remember to also buy Scotch tape in order to attach them to my mom's and grandma’s tombstones.
I experience Mother’s Day like a bit of an outsider. When I get a barrage of emails touting that the perfect Mother’s Day gift is just a click away, I stare at the screen with tears in my eyes. Even if the perfect Mother’s Day present is a click away, it’s not like I can give it to my mom.
When I was 10 years old, I lost my mom to a couple of cardiac arrests. An eighth-floor ICU had already been borrowing her for the previous four months. Years later, when I was 21 and my grandma was 85, the woman who had raised me after my mom passed died on the same ICU floor.
While this is technically the 14th year I’ll celebrate Mother’s Day without a mom, it’s really only the third, because as long as my grandma was around I had someone to call “mami” and to whom I could hand a Mother’s Day card. Now I don’t, and I’m still figuring out how to get through the weekend each year.
For the last two years, I decided to write through my sadness — something I’ve also done this week. I’ve written essay after essay about how the thought of Mother’s Day is affecting me. When I put my grief on paper, it becomes something I can walk alongside instead of something that pulls me back. Writing also reminds me that for all the future moments with my mom I wish were guaranteed — my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of any future kids — I have memories of other important moments instead. For instance, there was one time when my mom got home really late from work and woke me up because she’d remembered to buy me the Spice Girls album. Or the time when I finished my internship at Seventeen magazine and was able to show my grandma my first magazine byline.
I hold on to those really sweet moments during Mother’s Day because if I were to just sit with the reality that my memories are finite, I’d lose myself. I’d lose myself under the avalanche of friends' Facebook posts that tag their moms and the Instagram posts with long captions that require clicking more to get the whole story. On those days, I find myself at the crossroads of jealousy and genuine appreciation that those friends don’t have to experience Mother’s Day without a mom.
I rotate posting the same pictures because they're the only ones I have. I relate to the lyrics in songs like Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here,” because while therapy can help me make peace with my losses, it can’t take away my wishful thinking altogether.
I wish they were here. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to spend Mother’s Day without my mom and grandma. But I do — so instead of trying to pretend that I don’t, I ask my friends to ask me questions about these women. I want to be included in the conversation about moms even if all I have of my own are their memories. Even though everything about Mother’s Day reminds me that they died, I choose to remember that they once lived.
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