A Mother’s Day Without Mom

momopenWhoever said, “Time heals all wounds”  had yet to lose their mother. This January, when my mother died, I unexpectedly joined what I call “The Dead Mother’s Club”.  A club nobody wants to become a member of, but when you do, it is the members of that club — and sometimes only the members — who help you deal with the pain of your loss.

In the days and weeks after my mother died I received an overwhelming amount of lovely cards. The one that helped me the most was from my old college friend Brian who had stood in my shoes 20 years prior. The card was a sad looking whale with water shooting through his blow hole and it read “That blows.” Inside the card he had humorously written all the well meaning, profound things people say to you when they don’t know better, such as, “She is in a better place,”  “I know exactly how you feel,” “Rejoice in her life and focus on the living,” etc.

“That blows” summed it up for me. I am 44, my mother was 68 and going with the natural order of life and death, you expect your parent to pass on before you. It just happened earlier for me than I was expecting.

mom5All the profundity in the world sounds like a heap of crap when this part of us, the part that we have had since birth or soon thereafter, is now gone — forever. My feeling was, “Screw you, I just want to be sad.” Another friend of mine, who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, had someone tell her, “You are going to need to get over this.” Huh wha? Get over this?

It is a shit sandwich with crap dressing and it leaves this gaping hole inside of you that is impossible to explain. So odd, I found myself telling strangers, “My mom just died.” Like it was my birthday and I was telling a waitress hoping for a free ice cream sundae.

And therein lies the beauty of what a mother is and why we celebrate them on Mother’s Day. Whether we are close to our mothers or not, when they are gone, so is a part of us. A part that once it’s gone, we will never “get over.” A wound that will never heal, but just gets easier to tolerate.

I was very close to my mother. I loved and cherished her every day. So much so, as my brother and I sat and tried to coordinate/rewrite our eulogy (with those tiny pencils on the back of the pews) we sat overwhelmed with gratitude and joy over how much our mother had given us. Overwhelmed by emotion at her funeral, I saw my brother start to shake and break down right before we were supposed to speak. I knew if he lost it I was done for, so I hauled back and punched him as hard as I could in the leg. Not so subtle, but effective. He started to laugh and we could hear our mom say, “Darn you kids not in church! Knock it off!”

My mother was a master of figuring things out. She made beautiful cakes, loved irises, gardened, sewed, sang, crafted, cooked, was a speed skater, an awesome softball catcher, an award winning saleswoman, class mother, grandmother extraordinaire and smart as a whip all while always looking beautiful. And of course, she was my mother and I will never be the same without her.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother Mary Korus. I miss you.

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  1. Sounds like a great mom–how lucky you were to have her for 44 years! (From one “adult orphan” to another–you don’t get over it, but it does get less painful.)

  2. Sorry about your Mom, Holly. I lost my mother when I was 18 and it does leave a hole that can’t be filled. Cherish her memory always..Those of you who are celebrating with your Mom or your children today, have a beautiful day!!!

  3. Thinking of you today, Holly. I agree, Brian said it best: That blows. I don’t think we get over it…we just go on.

  4. It’s been two years since I lost my mom..and it still hurts thinking about her not being around…great story Holly – you touched on many true feelings one goes through – God Bless All Moms.

    BTW – Who ended up winning the Mother’s Day Special ( beauty/spa, etc )?

  5. Holly, such a beautiful tribute to your Mom. The feelings of loss and pain never go away but it does get easier. I just had my yearly Mother’s Day tradition of sobbing alone for a few minutes in the morning, thinking about my own Mother who passed way too soon. Feel free to adopt it :-). Happy Mother’s Day to you and your beautiful family.

  6. One of the saddest things about losing my mom is not being able to share things with her or ask her for advice. My wedding was a bittersweet day for me, five years ago. I was happy to be getting married but sad that my mom was not there to share in the happiness of the day.

  7. Oh Holsy, nobody says “crap sandwich” better than you. As a member of the Dead Moms Club for more than a decade, I can confirm that it does indeed blow. Some playwright or other from the 80s said you never really get over it, you just get used to it, like wearing glasses.

  8. So sorry for the loss of your mom. I was lucky enough to have my mother with me until three years ago when she passed away at 91. She enjoyed one last Mother’s Day with us in 2010 and died about two weeks later. I will always miss her and I know a part of her lives on in me, as I’m sure yours does in you. As long as we remember them, they are never really gone.

  9. I lost my mother in the first decade of my life. I still wonder how I might have turned out had she lived. A father or relatives are no substitute for the real deal.
    It does blow but you put one foot in front of the other and make the best of it day to day and hope to be around to see your children’s children.

  10. Thank you all for the kind words. This Mother’s Day was tough.

    I get tired of reading articles titled “How to Survive (fill in the blank)” as though “or death” is an option. I agree with Paz you just put one foot in front of the other and do your best.

    One of the most painful parts of losing my mother was watching my children’s hearts break. My 10 year old was so close to my mother and they had such a tight bond. Watching her heart break was so painful as she lost her other Grandmother, 3 year before. A wonderful friend told me this, “We can’t stop the world from breaking our children’s hearts. Your daughter has now experienced real pain and heartbreak so when that first romantic heartbreak comes along, it won’t be such a big deal. ”

    I am so grateful for the 44 years I had with my mother. So many of my friends never got to share their children with their mothers while I have had other friends that have passed leaving behind their young children behind.

    When you lose someone you love too soon it make it easier to remember that life is a gift and the amount of days we have is not promised to us.

  11. Holly, your last sentence is right on and the older I get, it becomes more and more apparent. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with many high school friends but what is very sad to see is the memorial page for my high school. There are so many losses, not just my class but classes ahead and me and behind me. Some died right out of school, some years later, some very recently. All in the prime of their lives. If this has taught me anything, it has taught me not to fret the small stuff, to live in the moment, and to not put too much away for a rainy day, as that day may never materialize.

  12. Holly, your posts are a gift to the Baristanet community, whether they make me laugh (as is usual) or cry (as is the case with this one). Love you…

  13. Ooops—I meant amount of days we have ARE not promised to us. I was crying like usual when I wrote that so cut me a break.

    And yes I agree about that rainy day. I have bought a record amount of plants and garden materials this year. All things my mom and I talked about getting or installing one day. That day never came for her but I am living our garden dreams out now for the both of us.

    Erika you make this world a more beautiful place to live in and it was because I have people like you in my life that my mother could leave this earth in peace.

  14. This was so moving. Holly, I am sorry for your loss I can only imagine how big this hurt is. Your Mom sounds a bit like my Mom – a mom who is forever young! My mom is 71 now and in great shape, but has health things from time to time that always terrify us. I know one day I’m going to have to deal with this loss and it rocks me to the core. I call her just about every day – I still consider her my best girl friend, my best confident and soul sister. I will tell you this – have you read “Proof of Heaven”? I recently read that book and it made the thought of death easier for me. Your Mom is gone, yes – but having a sense of where her inner spirit is and maintaining a relationship with her might help lessen this blow. I have feared my Mom’s death for as long as I can remember! Literally, the thought sends me to such a dark place I can’t really go there. So I feel for you so much. If you haven’t read that little book, pick it up – it might be a good read for you at this time. I don’t know you, but big hug! Hang in, you aren’t alone in this grief.

  15. Thanks for reminding us that every day is a gift. It’s easy to forget. Your mom was lovely, and so are you.

  16. Wow, Holly, you took the words of my mouth….really! When a friend recently lost their Mom, I told them we were a part of a club now, you don’t know until you know. Naturally, she didn’t want to be a part of the club, but at least we know who to share our shit sandwich with at the picnic.

  17. Holly, Your essay is right on the money. I’ve been a club member for almost 40 years…most of my life. Thank you for diving into one of the tenderest topics. And yes, your mother lived a full life with you and your family. She really rocked and so do you.

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