Mother’s Day. A day of cards, gifts, brunches, and posting pictures in a Facebook “I Love You Mom” frame. A day when we say, “Thank you, Mom for all your sacrifices.” This day of celebration is an inescapable day of sorrow for many. There are those on this day who mourn the loss of never having children, if that was their desire; having estranged relationships with mothers and/or daughters, or having to bury children. There are also those who have had to speak the words, “my mother died.” Two days ago, one my closest friends buried her mother on Mother’s Day Weekend. Though she will have to walk her own journey of grief, I want her and others to know that though this is a tremendous loss, God will continue to provide small gifts of comfort.
This year marks the ninth Mother’s Day without my mother. I am grateful that she got to see everything a mother would want to see before leaving this earth. She witnessed the graduations, wedding, and the birth of grandchildren. Most of all, though she loved my husband, I think all mothers want to know their children will be able to take care of themselves. She knew that. I will always mourn the fact that she did not have more time with her granddaughters, but I am grateful she knew them.
I think the oddest thing that struck me after my mother died and when I was cleaning out her house was a notebook she kept on her nightstand. She primarily used it to record when she took her medication. She might have written down phone numbers. But, most of the notebook was filled with things about me or my daughters. She wrote where I was traveling; arbitrary things I shared about work; how much one of the girls weighed after a well-baby check-up; what was their temperature when they had a fever and so many other random things. Maybe she wrote them down so she could remember, but, I remember thinking that there would be no one else in the world who would be concerned with the mundane things of my life. That was sad to me. Even with that thought, I can name countless gifts of comfort I’ve had over the last 10 years.
We find small comfort in other women
My mother’s only sister, my godmother and my mother and grandmother in-law were all significant in my life before my mother died, and they each continue to be in their own way. But, there is one woman that provided me much comfort when my mother died, probably unbeknownst to her. Several months before my mother died I had just moved to Raleigh and got a new job with a 45-minute commute. During that time, I talked to my mother for about half of that time, and then I called Marsha. I am not sure how I started calling her, other than she was recently retired and had more free time. Marsha is old enough to be my mother. I am the age in between her two children. She doesn’t talk to me like a mother, but a friend. Having her available to talk during those first few months of my commute took the sting out of not being able to call my own mother. For that, I am grateful. Only in hindsight do I now understand why God orchestrated us to start talking daily when we did.
We find small comfort in the unexpected
My mother was a hoarder (minus the cluttered house). She always had more than enough of anything. I cannot recall a time when she had to run to the store because she suddenly realized we were out of toilet paper, sugar, eggs, laundry detergent, or the like. When we cleaned out her house, we joked that if a catastrophe occurred, she would have enough frozen and canned food to feed the cul-de-sac. Many of those things I shared with family and her friends. Every so often I find something to remind me of that characteristic of hers. Even though my oldest daughter was just starting kindergarten when her grandmother died, I don’t think I have ever needed to purchase number two pencils because my mother, oddly, had a zillion of them. Just the other day, we were reloading a stapler and I wondered why we had so many staples—enough to not run out at least until my 14-year-old finishes high school. It hit me. That is Jackie’s stash. It made me chuckle. The staples and pencils are just a couple of examples, but there are many more that have occurred randomly through the last 10 years.
I can find the unexpected small gift in my daughters. I dreaded my first birthday after my mother died. The absent first phone call at 6 a.m. pained me to think about. That morning, my little ladies (with the guidance of their dad who knew my anxiety), woke me up at 6 a.m. to wish me happy birthday. I don’t remember when they stopped doing this, but whenever it was, I no longer needed it. Even now I continue to be surprised by God’s small gifts of comfort. Earlier this year, I coordinated a major event at work. After the event, my 11-year-old daughter asked me how did things go? I told her. She said, “Good. I prayed for you.” Surprised (not sure why), I ask, “You did? What did you pray?” She said, “That is personal but, I prayed everything would fall into place and you would have peace.” Then she added in a matter-of-fact statement, “I always pray for you.”
Not only was that so sweet to me, it brought me back to my mother’s notebook. Of course, no one will really care about the mundane details of my life like my mother, but God didn’t leave me without someone who didn’t pay attention to the details even when I wasn’t particularly sharing them. I am sure every woman who has lost her mother wishes she could have had more time. Yet, no matter where each of us is in our motherless daughter journey, God gives us all small gifts of comfort. We just have to keep our eyes open.