It’s almost Mother’s Day once again. My mom has been dead for fifty-seven weeks. This is a fact. As for the feelings, I am still inexplicably devoid of them, at least externally. I know they are there, simmering beneath the surface, but I continue to find it difficult to access them. My grief is like a pocket watch ticking constantly somewhere near my left hip. It counts the minutes, the hours, and the days since my mom passed away, and all it has caused is stomach discomfort, nausea, and increased headache pain. I sense the passing of each day and wonder what is wrong with me. I should be crying every day, creating deep pools of tears. I should be deep in a bottomless pit of mourning, searching desperately for a shovel. I should be thinking of her, dreaming of her, wishing for her.
Last year at this time I was numb. Perhaps this was due to all of the sobbing I did leading up to her death. Perhaps it was because I believe, and continue to believe, that she has been reunited with my dear father. Perhaps it was because I had convinced myself that it was her time. While all of these things are true, they cannot explain my total denial of her passing.
So I walked around after her death calmly doing everything I was supposed to do. I went to work. I fed and medicated our cat. Mostly, though, I funneled my emotions into creating. I wrote and rewrote a eulogy for her. I spent hours and hours going through photos. And then there were the collages. I created three collages for her wake and funeral. Big, beautiful photographic displays that depicted what an amazing life she had.
I still have those collages and look at them often. One collage is completely in black and white. It shows a young girl, then a woman, then a bride. It depicts a young couple and their infant son embarking on a voyage from Germany to America for a new life, a better life. It shows my parents and brother on the chicken farm where they first worked, my brother getting older and taller in each photo, and finally, the arrival of a little girl they named Heidi.
I created a collage of family photos. My brother getting his medical degree. Me receiving my master’s. Memories of relatives visiting from Germany, my aunt and uncle from Florida, her grandkids. Years and years of memories.
Then there is the most important collection of photos I made: a collage devoted solely to my mom and dad. Photos of the two of them on vacation, celebrating their 40th, then 50th, then 60th anniversaries. My parents doing what they did my whole life: being together.
My mother’s life in pictures. Maybe this is how I continue to deal with my unfelt grief: by retaking the journey of her life in photos, looking at her in every stage of her life, wondering what it was like to go through all she did. I worked on these collages as if they would be featured in a museum. I arranged, rearranged, tweaked, retweaked. Bill told me to let them go. They are fine, he said. Yet still I obsessed. It was all I had left to give her.
Perhaps the numbness was the only thing my psyche could do to not fall to pieces. I know that I was immensely blessed. My mother was 91 and I had her until I was 54 years old. Yet this thought still does not make things any easier, especially as Mother’s Day gets closer.
When my mother was sick and we knew she didn’t have much time left, I decided to break a Diercksen family rule: I told her I loved her. I told her in the hospital when she was coherent. She simply nodded. Then I told her every day after she was transferred her to the nursing home to live out her final days. I don’t know if her ears picked up the sound, but I know she heard me. At the soul level, I am certain the message got through.
As Mother’s Day approaches once more, I offer you this thought: love your mom. No matter how she treated you, no matter what form her love arrived in, just love her. You simply do not know how many more Mother’s Days you have left to share with her. Let me be clear: You do not have to like, or condone, or even forgive any behavior that excludes your mom from mommy sainthood. But how will you feel next year if she is not around on Mother’s Day? How much regret will fill your heart? How much sorrow will fill your heart for the lost time with her? I don’t want that for you. Missing her will be enough pain. Regret for the missed opportunity to spend time with her will only gnaw on the edges of your soul.
As for me, I will love my mom forever. I will miss her forever. I know she is with my dad now; two souls walking through eternity as they journeyed through life. I can only hope that they both know how deeply they are loved and missed. And I hope my mom can feel all the emotions that I am still not ready to release. I know they are there, waiting to honor her memory. But if your mom is still here, please honor her now. Love her now. Because next year, or next month, or even tomorrow may be too late. Just love her now. On Mother’s Day and every day.