This post was originally published on May 6, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.
I did not intend to write a Mother's Day post. I meant to write about ferns, which I fell in love with all over again this week. However, when I walked the labyrinth this morning, I realized that ferns will have to wait.
Tomorrow will be my first Mother's Day without my mom, and I wanted to pretend it's just another day. Skip it. I made it through the week with my kindergartners. A substitute teacher read them a Mother's Day story, and my classroom volunteer took the lead in helping the children put together a Mother's Day gift. She bought all the supplies and planted flowers in terra cotta pots they decorated with Sharpies. She is an angel.
While walking the labyrinth this morning, it occurred to me that the best way to remember and honor my mom on Mother's Day is to be the person she raised me to be. The person virtually every mother tries to raise her child to be. Simply put: A good human being.
There is a big difference between being and doing. My mom and I were forever at odds when it came to doing - the more superficial layer that made us appear to be so different. Being is who we are at the core, and it is where we are much more alike than we are different. It is the manner in which we travel rather than what we do along the way.
As a mom, I know from personal experience what mothers want for their children and how forgiving they are. Our moms don't want us to suffer or have a difficult life. They want us to thrive.
I know my mom would want me to be happy, kind, and hopeful about the future. She'd want me to be gracious and to bring light to this world.
Spend more time with family.
Keep company with people who are good to me.
Work hard but also relax and have fun.
She would want me to do what I love
...and to continue growing and cultivating new interests and friendships.
She'd want me to have a smile for everyone I meet - and that is probably the biggest and easiest thing I can do to carry on her essence because it comes naturally to me.
My mom modeled all of these qualities to me for nearly 50 years, so I have had a good teacher.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama often describes his mother as extremely warmhearted, kind, and gentle and considers her his earliest teacher of compassion. He explains that when we are babies, our survival is completely dependent on our mothers, and therefore we learn warmheartedness and compassion from them. He advises parents to give children maximum love and affection so they may develop these qualities. Some mothers are kinder and gentler than others, and I was fortunate to have an extraordinarily nurturing mom who made you feel like the most important, wonderful person in the world. This didn't only apply to her own children but to everyone with whom she interacted. That is how many people describe her. Being raised by such a loving, nurturing mother not only helped me develop those qualities but also served as the basis of my belief in a benevolent and forgiving Universal Life Force.
After walking the labyrinth, I went to my dad's house, where my mom's tulips were in full bloom. Her gardens look so lovely this year, and I spent quite a while walking around the yard photographing them.
How wonderful that her flowers continue to come up in the spring even after she has departed from this earth. The flowers represent ways in which my mother made the world more beautiful - acts of kindness that carry on.
The dainty lilies of the valley caught my attention. No flower transports me back to childhood like lilies of the valley. They grew at the edge of our yard right next to the swing set when I was young and emitted such a sweet fragrance that must have combined with leisurely hours of play to produce a sweet, indelible memory. I used to imagine that if you shook them gently, lilies of the valley would tinkle like little fairy bells.
Upon spotting the lilies of the valley, I had a mental image of a few lily of the valley sprigs on the kitchen windowsill inside a miniature vase I got from a trip to Hawaii. I remembered how fragrant the mini bouquet smelled when I walked by and knew that if my mom were still alive, she'd clip a few lilies of the valley and put them in that little vase with the broken handle to brighten up the kitchen. So that's what I did!
Sometimes we parents are surprised when our children don't recall experiences that we believed would make a big enough impression to be remembered. But sometimes it's the smallest gestures that become planted deep inside us and grow into lifelong memories. Tiny but comforting gestures. As a mother, I find hope and comfort in that.
As much as I have wanted to just wish Mother's Day away, it happened anyway - a day early. And it seems my mom even made an appearance! As my dad and I drove past the local recreational field, a car was backing into the road from the parking lot just as we went by. It was my mom, in her car (the same one in which we were driving)! I exclaimed, "There's Mom!" It was so matter-of-fact, but when I was alone afterward, it hit me: Perhaps she has been trying to get through to my dad, but he needs some help to notice? Several friends have claimed they have seen her, but this was the first time I saw either her or her twin with an identical car! There's more to this story because of the context in which it took place, but I'll just leave it at that.
Last night I went through pictures of my mom to send to someone who is making a video about the hospice house in which she died, and I came across pictures of her and my grandmother together. They both died within 3 1/2 years. Each was the epitome of kindness. Until recently, I was able to lean on them for the nurturing that nobody else in this world can provide. But now they're gone, and I am the matriarch even though I don't feel ready to step into that role. I didn't see it coming so soon! It is a role I will need to grow into, and I hope everyone will be patient with me. I'll get better at it as time goes on.
Fortunately, my mother and grandmother provided me with nearly 50 years of role-modeling, and every time I act with kindness and compassion, I feel their spirits being channeled through me. And thus, their legacy lives on.
Although many tears have been shed today, I realize I'm not alone walking this twisting, turning path of grief. And that does bring some solace. My heart is with everyone else who is missing his or her mom on Mother's Day.
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