Even with its warmer weather, budding trees and blooming flowers, I always kind of dread May. When I start to see the ads for jewelry stores on TV, urging me to "spoil your mom on Mother's Day!"—even though I know it's a cheesy holiday—I still find myself getting teary. Because when other people are taking their mothers out for lunch, to the spa or a show, or worrying about what to give them, I'm not doing any of those things.
I thought I did pretty well this year. We went out for a nice (admittedly, slightly hungover) brunch on Sunday, just me and my girls and my wonderful husband. I smiled at the kids' cute homemade gifts and gave them lots of kisses.
But it just takes the smallest thing to trigger a reaction or a memory. The other day, I'm driving home with the windows down, sun streaming in through the sunroof, and I'm thinking how lucky I am to have everything I have: the job, the husband, the house, the kids....
And it's not a new thought, but it suddenly hits me: my kids will never know their Nana. My youngest never even got to meet her. My mother will never push my two-year-old on a swing or help my five-year-old learn to read. She'll never come over for dinner and bring the kids little gifts (my mom was a champion gift-giver—she had the rare ability to find and give you the one thing you didn't know you wanted or needed until you saw it). She'll never again play dress up or tea party, or any of the millions of make-believe games she once so patiently played with me.
And when that realization hits you (once again), it's like being dunked in ice water. You have to take a moment to breathe deeply, to force your thoughts away from the dark path it wants to follow and focus instead on the present. You have to remind yourself, again, of what you do have—which is a lot. Easy to say, hard to do.
I've always thought (even though I know life doesn't work this way) that my sweet, cuddly two-year-old was the tradeoff for my loss. When my mother died, that baby was growing inside me. Circle of life, and all that.
It's funny, though: when you lose a parent, you never entirely get past it. There's always a little hole you can't mend, a tear in your universe you can't repair, an empty spot where that person used to be.
But the only way to live is to live the life you have, not a Hallmark version of the life you wish you had. So I'll just have to cuddle my two-year-old close and enjoy her. For both of us.