In Her Time of Dying: Mother’s Day

I’ve vaguely thought about the annual holiday that’s coming up in May, the first one that I will have in my life without the person whom the holiday is in honor of:


Despite my complicated relationship with my mom, she was still my mom and I do have a few good memories of things I did for her on Mother’s Day: surprised her by showing up at an Olive Garden in Bloomington, Illinois (when I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee), picked her lilacs from our neighbor’s yard when I was young, announced that I was pregnant with Nellie. I haven’t been sure how I feel about this first Mother’s Day without her, as I was not very actively involved in her life for the last three years.

I got an e-mail from a group I work with sometimes on my blog for a Mother’s Day photo caption contest and my heart stopped in my chest. I began reading contest’s description; send a special picture of you and your mother with a sentimental caption, and enter for a chance to win a gift basket. I stared at a beautiful black-and-white photo of a young bride on her wedding day, smiling happily at her beaming mother.

An overwhelming sense of loss, of sadness, of mourning a relationship we never had and all the feelings of disappointment over my life with her came rushing at me at once. I contemplated, for a second, submitting a photo into the contest and was at a loss of what photo to include. Even if I were to send in a picture, what could I possibly say?
“This is me kissing my mom on the cheek on my wedding day – the photographer made me do it.”
“Here we are at my baby shower. I invited her because I felt like I had to, she embarrassed me during it, and she looks zonked out of her mind on pain pills.”
“This one’s my mom at my bedside after the birth of my daughter – I was extraordinarily uncomfortable in this picture.”

As I tried to imagine what the hell I would submit and say, the knot of sadness in my stomach wound itself tighter. As Mother’s Day approaches – my first one without the woman who gave birth to me around – I am feeling those conflicted emotions all over again. Do I miss her? Am I glad she’s gone? What – and who, exactly – am I mourning?
I think it’s the relationship that we never had, and will never have. The glowing daughter, the beaming mother. The desperate phone calls begging her for advice on what to do while my newborn is screaming and I’m standing, helpless and unsure of what to do. The hugs, the tears, the laughter, the secrets whispered.  It’s something I’ve always wanted – envied others for having – and the holiday that celebrates the women who gave birth to us is just another reminder that I don’t have a mom and never will. I suppose all I can do is go forward and take these feelings as motivation to make sure my daughter never has to struggle and wonder what photo and caption to submit should the chance arise for her to enter such a contest, and be to her what I never had myself.