Tough Love: Reflecting on the Sadness of Mother’s Day after Mother’s Gone

Mother C
Mother in her youth.

I’ve always liked Mother’s Day. Next to Christmas, it’s my favorite widely celebrated day.

When I was a child, in elementary school we kids made Mother’s Day cards and sometimes simple little gifts, like plasters of our hand for our moms. When I grew older and began purchasing cards, I’d spend significant time at the card display in the store trying to choose just the right card, the perfect card, for my mom. Mom always expressed glee and appreciation for the cards, flowers, and gifts I gave her each year.

Fast forward a few decades and my middle-aged mom, daughter of a Southern Baptist minister, joined a religious group that refuses to acknowledge what they call pagan holidays, including Mother’s Day. Regardless, I continued to purchase cards and gifts for my mother. Sometimes I offered to take her out to a Mother’s Day lunch or brunch, but she refused, saying “You know that we don’t observe Mother’s Day.”

My polite response to her was always, “But, mother, I DO observe it. And I only have one mother.”

My unspoken but resolute thought was, and as long as I have a mother, I will continue to observe Mother’s Day. I was determined that no (what I perceive to be cult-like) religion was going to interfere with my relationship with my mom.

The irony is that although mother frequently reminded me of her allegiance to her adopted faith, she never refused to accept the cards or flowers I sent. Perhaps purposely showing me her reluctance, she didn’t gush over the gifts the way she had done in the early years, but nevertheless, she accepted them — offering no fuss, no gush, just a simple “Thank you, Lo.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. Perhaps at some point we had reached an unexpressed compromise.

I continued sending my mother Mother’s Day cards until 2014, the year she died.

I won’t expound here on the resentment I feel for a purported religious group that instead of strengthening family ties dictates silly doctrines to rip them apart. My close friends and family members know exactly how I feel about that, so I won’t harp on it here.

Now, it’s Mother’s Day again, and my heart aches for my mom. In spite of our disagreements on so many things – and our resolute similarities, like stubbornness – we loved each other. And I miss her. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

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