Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day Without a Mother

I started ignoring Mother's Day the year my mother died. She died on April 25, 1983. That was the year my whole life changed as I knew it. I was living and working in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I had been in Virginia Beach since 1970.

Then my son and I flew to Sioux Falls one October day in 1982. He, to go to his paternal grandparents in Luverne, MN for a special visit; me to travel to Mankato, MN with my twin sister to be with my mother who was having her gall bladder removed. Little did we know just how seriously ill our mother was that day. We all thought this was a routine simple surgery. The surgeon gathered my dad, sister and brothers together and told us our mother had gall bladder cancer that had metastasized to her liver. Her condition was terminal and she would likely be dead in 6 months. We all felt like death had just walked right into our lives uninvited and unwanted.

You go through your life thinking you are invincible. You take your health and that of your family members for granted. Sickness and death happens to someone else. You plan life like you have a million tomorrows. Then you get shot right through the heart. We were stunned. My mother was only 57 years old. We were too young to be dealing with the possibility of losing our mother. We shoved this news off to the side and told mother she was going to beat this. If I wasn't so involved in my feelings of despair, maybe I would have recognized the desperation in her own eyes.

Life without a mother is heartbreaking. I feel robbed. More importantly, she was robbed of a retirement life with my father that they talked about and planned with enthusiasm and expectation.  Her grandchildren were robbed of so many opportunities of the love only a grandmother can make special.  She was robbed of  two more grandchildren born into the family and 5 new great grandchildren.

My mother was the most kind hearted, generous, and giving woman. We were lucky to have grown up in such a loving and nurturing home. She reveled in being a grandmother and a day doesn't go by that my sister's son and daughter and my son don't talk about some memory created by my mother. Birthdays were special days where we would eat in the dining room, with a special meal prepared, served on the china and family silverware fit for holidays only. There was always a special treat when we came home from school. Meal times were filled with talk and laughter of our day. My mother did not work outside the home. Her job was to take care of her family and she dedicated her entire life to her husband and her children. A mother who became a friend and confident when I became an adult. I miss her no less today than I did when she died 28 years ago.

I have hated Mother's Day since that April day in 1983. I could not bring myself to go into a store this time of year and see all those Mother's Day cards. Mother's Day without a mother was not something to celebrate. It still isn't.

I try everyday to be the kind of mother my mother was to me. I try everyday to be the kind of grandma my mother was to her grandchildren. She left an imprint in our lives and in our hearts that shall live forever. So today, I rejoice in the fact that I was so lucky to have a mother who loved me and sacrificed for me and I am thankful for the years and moments we had together.

Still, it's not easy to spend Mother's Day without my mother.


  1. May I very gently suggested that we have military Moms in our state that have lost their sons--Yankton, Desmit--two in Parkston. There are two Moms missing young daughters just over the border in Minnesota. To honor your Mom--pick out a few cards and mail them with a note that you know what it is like to miss someone so will make you feel better about the card displays--Sharing doubles our joy and divides our grief.

  2. Boy Jennifer to read this is heartbreaking and got to say, have tears in my eyes. I still have a hard to imagining your mom passing @ 57. I didn't realize that she went in for what seemed like a routine surgery and got such devastating news. A woman walked up to me several weeks ago & asked me 'when is mother's day'? I wanted to reply, 'I don't know, I don't have a mother anymore'. I refrained since the woman likely would of felt bad. So although I had many more years with my mom, I do know what it feels like to miss her each and everyday. Mother's day is a sad reminder of the void they have left in our lives and in our hearts. You all were truly blessed to have such amazing parents. I only wish I had known her. Now I need to go find the Kleenex. xo Deb