When I was growing up, we always celebrated Mother’s Day by going out to brunch or having a cookout at our house. I loved buying my mom flowers and finding her the perfect gift to show my love and appreciation.
That all changed once my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As the disease progressed, I no longer enjoyed celebrating Mother’s Day. Instead, Mother’s Day became a symbol for all the things I didn’t have.
My mom could no longer go out to brunch and eventually, she couldn’t go anywhere at all. Even having a cookout at my parents’ house became too much for her.
I never knew what to buy my mom for Mother’s Day since there was so much she couldn’t do. There were so many of the typical Mother’s Day gifts that my mom could no longer use.
I vividly remember standing in the card aisle at the grocery store every year, crying and wanting to slap a stranger.
I envied all of the daughters who were painstakingly picking out the perfect Mother’s Day card like it even really mattered. I resented all of the lovely Mother’s Day posts and pictures I saw on social media. I hated anyone who wasn’t going through what I was going through.
It was hard. Really hard.
Truthfully, I think it was harder than it is now that my mom has passed.
Because now when I think of my mom, I don’t picture her in suffering. She is light and bright and smiling.
But back then, my mom was a shell of the person she used to be. It was hard to reconcile the woman I saw in front of me with the woman who raised me. It was painful to remember who she had been while looking at who she had become.
While I deeply felt that my mom was in there somewhere and I often connected with her, I wanted to backhand anyone who said, “At least she’s still alive.”
Yes, my mom was physically alive and I made every effort to cherish the time we had left together, but it just wasn’t the same. The last thing I needed at the time was a lesson in gratitude that made me feel guilty for not appreciating the fact that my mom’s disabled and diminishing body was still here on this earth.
If you get it, you get it. And if you don’t, then you really don’t.
And in spite of all of that, I somehow made it through to the other side—the side where Mother’s Day doesn’t hurt me nearly as much as it did when my mom was alive.
I protected my heart and my energy.
I stopped subjecting myself to the torture of browsing through Mother’s Day cards at the grocery store and started buying my mom flowers instead. Many times, I had them delivered to her house because I thought it was more special.
Although my mom had no clue what Mother’s Day was, I did, and it was always important to me to get her something—anything—to celebrate her. But I stayed clear of the big displays at the stores and bought her little things like books and toys instead—anything I thought might bring her five minutes of joy.
I stayed off of social media all weekend because the last thing I wanted to see was all of the women who were enjoying a nice Mother’s Day brunch or lunch with their moms. Their pink dresses and smiling faces served as a fresh reminder of what I had lost and what I would never have. It was too painful for me to look at so I just stayed away.
Rather than participating in the commercialized version of Mother’s Day, I did my best to honor its true meaning. I sat with my mom and held her hand and poured every ounce of love I had to give into her. Not at a brunch with bright pink floral centerpieces and strawberry-topped French toast—but in our own quiet little corner of the world where we still very much counted as mother and daughter.
It was never what I pictured, but it was equally as beautiful.
So, if you’re still in the thick of it this Mother’s Day, here’s my advice to you:
Buy the card, or don’t.
Find the perfect gift, or don’t.
Send her a beautiful bouquet of flowers, or don’t.
Scroll through social media sobbing and eating an entire sleeve of Oreos, or don’t.
Do whatever you have to do to protect your heart and your energy. Only you know what that is.
Just make sure that you find even the simplest way to show your mom how much you love her.
You still very much count as mother and daughter, or mother and son.
Your love is all the proof you need.
And in the end, that’s all that really matters.