Last week was Mother’s Day and I forgot—or, believe it or not, I tried to forget, until I read some touching posts on Facebook. My Mom died 8 years ago, yet every Mother’s Day I still have that urge to do something for her. I feel she is alive and have to remind myself she is not. She even talks to me sometimes in my dreams. Maybe we all have similar experiences, not only with our Moms but with anyone dearly loved. I usually mistake that Mother’s Day urge as a habitual reminder built into time to buy a card, call or visit. Then I realize what’s happening and I tell myself to forget it. Until this year.
I now think that urge to remember is just that, a reminder of how important it is to remember and a realization that I can remember. It is not forbidden and not too painful. I can partly thank two women I know for this realization. Elaine Mansfield and Robin Botie wrote deeply and beautifully about what could be learned from loss. Life, love and loss are woven inextricably together. To live well you must love. To love well, you must be willing to be torn apart by loss. “Love and death are a package deal,” said Elaine.
My Mom often reminded me to be aware of other people’s feelings, not just my own. She was able to take people in, to see who a person was and embrace them. When I first brought Linda, who is now my wife, to meet my parents, my Mom accepted her right away. There was no mother-girlfriend conflict. The same with my brother, Gene, and sister-in-law, Mimi. My Mom even helped bring Gene and Mimi together. Before they even really knew one another, they were on a flight together home for the holidays. They both attended the same university. My brother had noticed Mimi when exiting the airplane. She was knitting a scarf and he commented on the length of it (long enough for a giant) and my Mom witnessed the brief exchange. As my parents and brother were about to leave the airport, my Mom noticed that Mimi was standing alone; her ride never arrived. So my Mom went around trying to find Mimi a ride home. Mimi was greatly impressed by my Mom’s actions.
My Mom modeled what it is to love. She did this in the way she took care of me. She did this with my Dad in the way they cared for each other. My parents showed me what relationship was about. They showed me what life can give you. Whatever or whoever I love carries their influence. Luckily, I still have my Dad. My Mom lives in my ability to love.
It’s weird that I must learn and re-learn these basic realities of life over and over again. It’s important to appreciate and thank all those people who have shaped and loved me. It’s important to notice how, when I feel pain, I wish that it will be the last pain I will ever face but fear that it’s just the beginning. I feel joy and don’t want it ever to end. I love and don’t want it ever to end. And maybe it doesn’t.
What would any of us be without those who love us and our ability to love? Teaching children about love, appreciating others, and the importance of grieving, are basic necessities for a good life and a good education.