Celebrating Mother’s Day As A Motherless-Daughter

As Mother’s Day approaches I’m feeling melancholy. It’s a time when I really miss my mom. This year is the 20th anniversary of her death. Nearly half my life has gone by without her in it and this year is especially hard for some reason. Maybe it’s because my birthday and Mother’s Day are so close this year? Or maybe I’m just being emo and need to snap out of it. Whatever it is, the bombardment of ‘all things mom’ for the past month has been a challenge.

Photo of My Mother circa 1962 - (c)


Last year I shared this picture of my Mommy with you and told you a little about her. What I didn’t mention was how it felt to be a Motherless daughter during a time where “all things mom” bombard your senses. Her name was Eileen and she was a gap child who didn’t fit in with her depression-era parents or the baby boomers born just a few years after. Truly, she was cut from different fabric and lived life her way.

I was 21 when my mom died in November 1991. She had a stroke and never recovered. It was a grueling and very emotional few weeks as we dealt with what my grandparents thought should be done versus what my brother and I felt our mom would want.

She didn’t have an advanced directive. Even though Nancy Cruzan’s struggle was a public topic, it wasn’t as routine as it is now to have some type of advanced directive or living will. I remember, though, even all these years later talking to my mom about this one night. I was probably 16 years old and she told me that if she ever ended up on a coma that she wanted to be allowed to die.

It was a very hard conversations, but I knew why she was telling me. As a diabetic, she knew there was a very real possibility that something could go wrong and she’d end up in some type of irreversible state. In addition, she was seeing an oncologist. It wasn’t until after her death that I knew she was seeing an oncologist. I knew she saw a few doctors but back then it wasn’t as common to share your health care situation with your kids. Why would she be seeing an oncologist? Unless she had cancer and never mentioned it. No one knew. Possibly the only people who knew were my grandfather and uncle (my mom’s brother), neither of whom ever said a word.

At 21 I became a motherless-daughter and joined a secret sisterhood of women. I knew there would be situations where not having a mom would be emotionally challenging. While friends would share the fun and exciting things they were doing with their mom, I’d put on a smile and try to share in the joy. All the while stifling the growing sadness within. There would be lifecycle events where I’d much rather just hide in bed under the covers instead of pulling myself together and joining in on life.

Over the past nearly 20-years I’ve come to know other motherless-daughters who, like me, often had difficulty when Mother’s Day rolled around. Still there were family gatherings for the grandmothers and aunts, cousins and nieces who were moms. Celebrations that were full of laughter, only I was hiding behind a smile. Fortunately, when I moved away I could come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid Mother’s Day. Even when my mother-in-law moved nearby, she was understanding enough to know that if I didn’t go out to brunch on Mother’s day that it wasn’t a personal affront to her.

When I became a mom and Mother’s Day became part of my life, it was quite a challenge. Of course I was happy to be a mom, but it made me miss my Mommy even more. It’s a delicate balance emotionally. And one I know many of my friends deal with too. I’ve taken Mother’s Day as a time to share with BabyGirl who her grandmother was so she can understand the legacy of women she comes from.

If you’re a motherless-daughter, I get it. If your mom is still living, I get that too. What this celebration comes down to is honoring the women in our lives – whether they be our own mom, our aunties, our BFF’s mom, family friend, or other significant woman who has loved and mothered us in some way.

This year I’ll celebrate Mother’s Day in true fashion – I’ll be taking BabyGirl to violin rehearsal. Because, really, isn’t being a mom all about being a chauffeur? How will you spend your day?