My mother died this past December. I say “died” because “passed away” is too gentle. Too sweet. She was snatched out of life; she was ripped from us; she was stolen. There was nothing passive about it.
Since then, I’ve had my first Christmas without her. My first New Year’s without her. Her 57th birthday. Without her. And I’ve managed to survive each one.
But May . . . May may just be what does me in.
I open my email each morning and every subject line is “Tell Mom You Love Her,” “Perfect Gifts for Mother’s Day,” “Don’t Forget about Your Mom.” The in-store signs are equally dangerous. And the greeting card aisle? I’d rather be back in the hospital with her than trying to walk down it right now. I can’t even peruse the latest issue of Real Simple because mom is everywhere.
Everywhere, except here.
Needless to say, this Mother’s Day is going to be different for me. And so I’ve decided to do exactly what my mother would want: to stop grieving, stop aching, stop breaking, and to celebrate the many forms of mother.
Like my sweet sister, who strives to find mom-like things to say. Who let’s me call her when I’m hysterical and patiently calms me down. Who talks to me on my drive home so I don’t get lonely. Who buys me plane tickets to visit her and my own bottle of Design perfume. Who draws “Corkscrew.” Who tells me to write more poetry.
Like Grandmom, my mom’s mom, who asks how I’m doing and really means it. Who calls and emails and Facebooks–whatever it takes to touch base. Who offers love like only the mother of my mother could know how to do.
Like my best friend Amy, who knows everything I need before I ever say it. And would do anything for me without ever thinking twice. And makes me believe I’m the best person in the whole world.
Like my dad’s wife Rana, who made a point to send extra flowers to the funeral because she knew there could never be too many flowers. And offered to buy us even more Christmas presents. And hung my mom’s paintings in her home.
Like David’s mom, who welcomes me into her family unquestioningly. Who offers empathy without ever becoming overbearing. Who, even though David and I are 27 years old, sent an Easter card with money. Just like my mom would.
Like my friends from childhood and adolescence and college, Robyn, Tiffany, Leiko, Taylor, Brittany, who held my hand before the funeral, sent me the best care package I’ve ever received, kept me company on New Years Day, and made sure I knew they will always be there when I need them.
Like my Charleston friends, Madeline, Sarah, Joni, Kimberly, Stephanie, Amy who were waiting with hugs when I came back. Who are always ready to listen when I’m ready to talk. Who surprise me with capes and scarves and mustard blouses and good advice. Who buy me brunch with more biscuits than is humanly possible to eat.
Like my supervisors at work, Heather and Amy, who could not have been more human when I missed so much time. Who sent text messages full of hope and strength every day I was away. Who provide such a sense of comfort just by being the incredible women they are.
Like my aunts, Sandra, Sarah, Susan, who made the worst week of my life a little better by being extensions of mom. Who held me when I needed it, made sure I had something to eat and somewhere to sleep, and did all the things that mothers always do.
Like my extended family, Melanie, Gayle, Phyllis, Candace, Celeste, who remind me how lucky I am to be a McCollough-Shelnutt. And always know what to say to lift my spirits.
These women are proof that there are many forms of mother. And my mother would be the first to say so.
So to all the email blasts and commercials and radio spots and banner ads reminding me not to forget about mom, let me be clear: there will never be a Mother’s Day for the rest of my life that I forget about my mom.
But this year, this May, this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate these women.
And say thanks.
Thank you for being a new form of mother in my life. Thank you for filling a gap in my heart. Thank you for weaving the seamless network of love and support and kindness that has kept me afloat for five tough months.
You are precious to me. Happy Mother’s Day.