Mother’s Day is not the easiest days for those people without a mother. There are big signs in every shop shouting at you to buy things for your Mum, giving those of us without Mums daily reminders that we don’t have someone to buy these things for.
Even if you learn to deal with that and avoid certain shops or just brace yourself every time you visit the supermarket, it doesn’t prevent the harsh wake-up call every time an email pops up on your phone with latest ‘Mother’s Day offers. It’s become such a commercialised event that it really is everywhere.
The Mother’s Day after Mum was diagnosed the first time, she was just entering remission, so it was great! We got a fruit basket that looked like a bouquet delivered to her work the Friday before. The company we went through were absolutely fantastic, and we were so lucky to be able to get her something a little different as her taste buds had been knocked out by chemo.
Mother’s day 2014, Mum was about a month into diagnosis. We went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is a brilliant place to go. My brothers and I climbed over lots of the sculptures, and we played catch with Dad. Mum was a little slower and had started using a stick. She took a slower walk with my granddad and aunt (I imagine my uncle was with them briefly too but he always gets lost…). Playing catch without Mum was my first hint at what life without Mum might be like, but all in all it was a lovely, family, day.
Last year’s Mother’s Day, Mum had just got out of her longest and last hospital stint. She’s deteriorated rapidly a few weeks preceding it and had ended up in a coma where she had remained for a number of days. Everybody thought she would never wake up, but being as stubborn as she was, she did wake up and in the following weeks she slowly began to get back on her feet with the help of her trusty zimmer frame (which I dutifully yarn bombed on her arrival back home).
A few weeks ago, when Mother’s Day began to enter the shops, I spoke to a few people about how they dealt with the whole ‘motherless Mother’s Day’ thing. There were a number of suggestions including lighting a candle at home or church, visiting their Mum’s grave or the place her ashes were spread, spending time with children or grandparents, or simply having a moment at home remembering the good times they shared.
One suggestion was to have a place online where people could share memories with their Mum. For me, one of the harder parts of Mother’s Day, is seeing things Mum would have loved and having nobody to buy them for. So, combining those two ideas, I contacted Yorkshire Cancer Research, the charity who Mum requested donations be sent to at her funeral.They helped develop a drug called Tamoxifen, among other things, which Mum took during her remission which gave us some more time with her. With their help, I have set up a page, which can be found here. The idea is that people can come and donate the amount they would have spent on a card for their Mum, and share a memory about the times they shared together.
It’s not the same as having a Mum to buy things for, and it doesn’t take away the pain of grief, but hopefully, it will help to raise some money for Yorkshire Cancer Research, which could prevent future sons and daughters from experiencing as many motherless Mother’s Days.
2 thoughts on “Motherless Mother’s Day”
Your mum looked lovely and you look a lot like her.
I liked your piece about Mother’s Day and it led me to your blog, which resonates with me as my mum died of cancer when I was 18, just before I went up to college (in York!), after several messy years of dying. My mum was in her late 30s. I was angry at university: at other students who moaned about their parents; at people who carelessly said “Going home to mummy and daddy, then?” on the holidays; at everything, really. I was incandescent on Mother’s Day and at Christmas. I tended not to empathise with anything that wasn’t tragic in the extreme, and inwardly scoffed if someone was devastated at the death of a 70-something grandparent.
But the big problem was that none of my mother’s family or friends really talked about my mum again: no anecdotes about her were ever exchanged and she grew to be a stranger to me. I didn’t write my childhood memories of my mum down or ask anyone about her. 22 years later I don’t know who she was or how she felt about me.
If I could go back to your age, I would make for myself a compendium of all the good memories I personally have of my mum. I would then collect them from her siblings, my father, her parents, her friends; I would ask for memories of things she said about me. I would make them write something in a notebook. I really need this now, at 40, because I can only remember the rows and the bad times, and this has even translated into the occasional nightmare about her.
I needed these good memories in my confusing 30s when after years of being tough and suppressing it, I started to want a mother again, and when I approached the age that she was when she died (warning: it’s seriously weird). I wish I had keepsakes, anything with a nice message or an idea of love in it, or a peer of my mum’s to say “She would have loved XYZ”.
You’re doing a great thing, telling your story and getting people to share theirs. Bereavement like this changes your life but if you talk, talk, talk, and actively preserve all your memories as you are doing, it won’t define it.
Good luck and keep writing…
I’m so sorry this has taken me so long to get to. Thank you for this. That actually sounds like a really good idea and is perhaps something I need to look into…
I hope you’re able to find some peace in all the grief and messyness that that brings xxx