anne_mikolay_120I talked to my mother today. It wasn’t much of a conversation, just one of those quick chats daughters have with their moms. I was buying curtains and couldn’t remember the difference between a valance and a swag. I thought Mom would get a a kick out of my dilemma, so I told her about it.

I hope she heard me. She’s been dead for sixteen years.

Lately, my mother has been on my mind, probably because Mother’s Day is approaching.

Such holidays are difficult for me, as they are for any child who has lost his or her mother.

The first year without my mom, I didn’t observe Mother’s Day, even though I, too, am a mother. Instead, I purchased the greeting card I would have given to my Mom and quietly placed it with flowers near her grave, a gesture that renewed my connection to her and made me feel not quite so motherless.

Mourning a loved one, I have learned, especially after a long illness like my mother’s, is somewhat surreal. Though my mother was aware she was dying – we openly talked about it – the fact remained that she was slipping into a different world, experiencing something I couldn’t fully comprehend. With each passing minute, Mom took another step toward death and acceptance of her role as a dying individual. And with each passing minute, I struggled with my role as daughter of the dying, overcome by a hurricane of emotions: anger, sympathy, helplessness, despair and guilt. Often, I felt guilty that a part of me wanted to run away from the pain – hers and mine.

After my mother passed, I replayed the tragedy in my mind and wondered if the situation could have been handled differently. Should I have held Mom’s hand longer, offered more comforting words? Had my mother sensed that behind my brave face was a little girl longing to throw herself into her mother’s arms and cry, “Mommy! Don’t leave me!”

My greatest regret is that I didn’t do just that.

Bravery deprived me of precious moments cradled in my mother’s arms, a joy I ache for even now.

In the sixteen years that followed, I accepted that ache and resisted the accompanying motherless feeling by comforting myself with remembrance of the wonderful person my mother was. She taught me about life. It was fitting, then, that I also learned about life’s end, with dignity and with love, from her. Sharing my mother’s life, and her death, was a great privilege, and I wouldn’t have missed it.

Grief is a long, sorrowful journey. Faith alone doesn’t alleviate the sorrow. And nobody is strong all the time. When I first lost my Mom, I felt orphaned, lost, certain I could not get along without her. But I didn’t always have time to cry; there was so much to do: babies to diaper, little ones to take to school, meals to cook, bills to pay. The everyday tasks of living propelled me forward and taught me the true meaning of  the phrase “life goes on.”

If you have recently lost your beloved mother, surely you are wondering how you will live without her. Be assured that time will pass, and the day will come when you’ll undertake an ordinary task and suddenly realize that you are living without her. Moment by moment, chore by chore. Another day is over; you got through it. Maybe you cried, maybe you didn’t. But the day went by. You can live without your mother. It may not be the way you want to live, or as rich a life as it was with your mother, but it’s life.

Your grief shifts ever so slightly. The insurmountable becomes manageable; suffering and loss emerge a fact of life. The adjustment is made. You don’t hurt as deeply, just differently. And you’re ready to put the experience in its place and march forward.

That in itself is a sorrow. That in itself is a triumph.

Sadly, the passage of time whitewashes the clarity of memory. Don’t be surprised when your mother’s face isn’t as vivid in your mind as it once was. Memory’s finer details become fuzzy and distant. Remembering the little things, like the way your mother giggled or sipped her tea, will become a struggle. Once again, you’ll cry.

Perhaps, though, that’s as it should be. The memories may fade somewhat so you don’t hold fast to the pain of loss by dwelling on them. Once you acknowledge that acceptance lies in letting go, you can fully appreciate the essence of your mother, that nameless wonder, be it her soul or her energy. Instinctively, you will know your mother is with you always, in the very heart of you. You are definitely not motherless.

If your mother is alive, rejoice this Mother’s Day! Talk freely to her. Tell her you love her. If your mother has passed, comfort yourself by doing the same. Renew your connection to your mother often.

Go ahead. Do it now. You’ll feel better.

This Mother’s Day, have a conversation with Mother.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...