Yesterday was the first Mother’s Day my children were motherless. They managed the day as best they could. I spoke with both of them and they spent time together to commiserate. All around them, students were absent from studying for finals because they were off with their families celebrating. I called my mother on the phone to wish her a happy day. I had sent her flowers to celebrate. I did so in a very low-key manner and I’m not quite sure why. Was I embarrassed that I still had a mother to celebrate at 51 when my children had none at 21? Was I just sad because of the day? The house is so quiet and lonely without Lisa. She loved being a mother.
Before having children, a task that was incredibly difficult for her body to carry to term, Lisa had a career in marketing. She was very good at her job. But she only wanted to be a mother. When we were finally blessed with twins, she blossomed as a woman. It was an easy decision for her to quit her job and stay at home with the kids. First of all, we figured that one of us would be turning over our salary to pay for daycare if she went back to work and for that financial burden it made sense to be with them all of the time, foregoing her career and salary. Second, it was really never much of a decision. She wanted to be at home with the kids. She loved being a mother. The financial justification was nothing more than icing.
And now the kids have grown into fine adults, on the cusp of graduating from college. Her job completed. However, I don’t think she would ever have been done being a nurturing mother to her children. Despite their being on the edge of the nest, ready to take flight, I know she would still be there making sure they got a good jump and flying alongside them to make sure they could handle everything the world would throw at them. They are now far more independent than they would have been if it had been me who had been inflicted with cancer and taken away from them far too young. I do my best, but I don’t have the nurturing gene that Lisa did. I know they must go off on their own now and I’ll be there to help them along the way. I love them and will never let them fall, but I’m not Lisa and I don’t have that overwhelmingly nurturing nature. I can only do the best I can. Again, I’m not Lisa, Super Mama.
I spent yesterday packing up the house as we plan to move back to Rhode Island. Leaving this house will be bittersweet because it will forever be known as the last dwelling Lisa made into a wonderful home. It is also the place she breathed her last. Moving back to Rhode Island is a move toward starting over, a position we have been put in without our consideration. But a position we have to embrace. We will survive this adventure. Rhode Island is home and we belong there in the northeast. Texas has been home for us for the better part of seven years and while Lisa made it our home, it was never really ours. We lived there and died there, but it was never really home. We always felt like strangers. Much of it has to do with the great cultural differences we experienced and our own definitions of “normal.” However, most of it had to do with the fact that we knew we had moved to Texas as a means of beating cancer and we knew that at some point the battle would turn against us and we would lose. We gained seven years because of that decision and I will be forever grateful to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. But now it is time to go home. I don’t know what the future holds, but I guess no one really does. I trust that I will continue to make good decisions overall and that the kids will find their niche in the world, wherever that takes them. Next up for them is graduate school and I don’t know where they will settle on that yet. There is still much research to be done. But wherever they end up, I will try to be there to catch them if they fall too far, to call them when they are down, and to make sure that next Mother’s Day is less painful than this one.
I know that we are not in a unique position. There are motherless children all over the world and mothers who have lost children. My involvement in the gun violence prevention movement has brought me face to face with wonderful people on both sides of this situation. They are incredibly strong in all outward appearances, however, I know they are suffering. So I don’t write this to solicit sympathy or comments. We must walk on toward this new future without Lisa. However, she is never farther away from me than a memory or a dream and for that, I am most grateful. I try to adhere to Dr. Seuss’s maxim that we should be grateful that it happened versus sad that it is over. It is not an easy position to hold at all times and I occasionally drop it or throw it away, but I know I was put on this earth to do more and I hope to carry Lisa’s spirit with me while I learn what that is. So, to all the mothers out there, all the mothers who have lost children, and all of the children who have lost their mother, please try to find peace this Mother’s Day.