Mother’s Day matters

mothers_day_card1My kids won’t be around for Mother’s Day this year.  But when they’re here,  they always make a fuss over me.  And I love it.

I don’t care that it’s a day manufactured by florists and Hallmark.    To me it’s the most important holiday of the year.

My celebration doesn’t require flowers or a card (it does require chocolate.)  What I really care about is the sentiment.   I take it seriously.  Mothers’s Day matters.

It started mattering the year I had the most memorable Mother’s Day of my life.

I wasn’t even a mother yet.

I was a freshman at Cornell.   One day that spring my father called my dorm out of the blue to arrange a Mother’s Day surprise for my mom.   She had just gone into the hospital for a back problem– and he wanted me to fly home and surprise her, just for the day.

I wouldn’t have to come up with a gift or remember to send a card.   Plus I loved surprises.  We hatched a plan.

My boyfriend drove me from upstate New York to the city—6 hours in his old red and white VW bus.  Early in the morning of Mother’s Day, I flew from La Guardia to Miami—- excited and eager to be my mother’s special delivery surprise gift.

For such a special occasion, to please my parents, I abandoned my jeans and wore a cute outfit.   I felt very sophisicated traveling without a suitcase—officially part of the jet set.

When I arrived,  I took a taxi directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital; without stopping to consider the oddity of where I was going.   We lived just a few blocks from Mount Sinai Hospital, the private hospital of choice for pretty much anything if you lived on Miami Beach.   By contrast, Jackson Memorial was downtown Miami, inner city, a large, no-frills teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Miami Medical School.  At the time, I never knew anyone who had ever been there.

I was so enamored by my jet set lifestyle that the hospital selection never sent up a warning light in my brain.   I jumped out of my cab and exuberantly bounced upstairs, ready to spring into my mother’s hospital room in my cute little outfit.   I expected to find my glamorous mother in traction, greeting me with a big smile, a fancy silk robe, and her ever-present pearl necklace.

My entrance—in fact, the whole episode— was like a scene stuck into the wrong movie.

My mother was surprised; she even cried.  So that part worked.   And she did notice my cute outfit, and my father was there, and it was Mother’s Day.

But there was nothing festive about the atmosphere in that room.  It was medicinal.   And my mother matched the setting.   There was no pearl necklace, no glamour, no traction.  She didn’t look like a 41-year old healthy woman having a little back trouble, who would soon be back to normal.  She looked weak, and suddenly, frail.

I had no idea—and no one told me– that this is how a person looks who is dying of cancer.

No one told me.  And I spent those few precious hours on Mother’s Day telling my mom the latest on my boyfriend.  Then I took a cab back to the airport and flew back to La Guardia, to Ithaca, and my life.

Two months after I surprised my mother on Mother’s Day, she surprised me.

Suddenly our beautiful, vibrant mother was gone.

She would never be there for another Mother’s Day—or any other day.  Or for any moment that mattered for the rest of my life.

Which is why, and when, Mother’s Day began to matter.

I’ve lived WITHOUT her for so many more years than I ever had WITH her; yet my mother still matters.    And being a mother myself matters more than anything else I’ve ever done.

No matter how you feel about your own mother, whether she is here or not, in most of our lives there is a mother that matters.  With or without the florists and Hallmark.

So celebrate a mother you know.  Celebrate the mother you have.  Celebrate the mother you are.

It may not always be “Happy”, but Mother’s Day matters.

Also posted on the Huffington Post, Silicon Valley Moms blog and 50-Something Moms blog

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  1. says

    Oh gosh. Reading this post got me all choked up. Yes, Mother’s Day definitely matters. It’s so easy to take your mother for granted, until she’s gone.

  2. says

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I agree, Darryle. Our mothers are so powerful in our lives, and throughout our lives, whether they are physically here or not. And once becoming a mother myself, I knew that this was going to be the most important job of my life. I’ve loved every minute and every stage. Still do. Being a mom has been the greatest blessing. Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

  3. Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky says

    I relate. Although my mothers (birth and adoptive) are still, fortunately, living, I lost my grandfather, who raised me as a son, when I was twenty-seven. He, too, was a cancer casualty. His progressed much more quickly than I had ever imagined it could–five months from discovery to mortality–and I did not get the opportunity to say good-bye, I love you, I appreciate all that you have given me. Dad was a “strict constructionist” who found it easier to praise me behind my back and criticize me face-to-face, but he was always there for me at the crucial moments. The lack of closure in our relationship has taken the longest time for me to resolve. (As you can see, it isn’t completely resolved even three decades later.)

    Thanks, yet again, for sharing experiences that resonate far and wide.

  4. Leah says

    Happy Mother’s Day Aunt Darryle!

    What a great blog today! I was touched by this entry. Even though I am not able to celebrate mother’s day with my mom, I will be thinking about her. I know I am so lucky to have a wonderful mother, and friend. I don’t know what I would do without her.


  5. says

    What a beautiful post. I can totally relate. I no longer have a mom here on earth, but I have a sweet grandma and I AM a mother. Thanks so much for the wonderful post, Darryle!

  6. Karen says

    No words can tell you how much this post meant to me…..almost two years without Mom……..Thank you for your wonderful posts and how they help so many in our daily lives.

  7. Gail L. says

    I am either laughing or crying from your posts……….as you already know, this was a crying one. I remember your mom like it was yesterday and it brought back many fond memories of my past. I love being a mom and it is the one and only job that means the world to me. I am also a grandmother now and love it as much or more……..I know that you will not be with your children this year, but you will always feel their love as your mother felt yours. A very Happy Mother’s Day to you too!!!!!!!

  8. says

    I so appreciate that each of you took the time to let me know this touched you in some way. And hoping that–however you celebrate, you will all enjoy Mother’s Day.
    My kids won’t be here but V has already promised the next best thing for Mother’s Day—lots of chocolate.

  9. M.E. Loree says

    Beautiful Darryle.Thank you. i don’t think you ever get over the loss of your mother. To this day ( my mother died in 2002) I often think,” I wish i had asked my mother this or that.” I do “talk” to her in that I ask, O.K.” how would you handle this”. i know my mother’s “voice” and her grace and strength have often directed me, Sadly, i don’t think i got the nuts and bolts of her until after she had died.But, maybe that’s the way it is. My girls adore me and visa, versa .I love that they take this for granted.On mother’s day, it is “good” to be taken for granted in that they know I’m there and always will be.Like you, this the proudest thing I have ever done with my life.This is my legacy.

  10. says

    Maybe everyone thinks their mother had some wisdom we don’t. I sure believed that, and like you, wished I had her grace and strength to direct me.
    Even more I wish she could have seen her grandchildren–they are not only my legacy, but hers.

  11. says

    Whoa. Hi there. Just “met” you over on SVMoms Blog and I had to come see for myself. I’m a cancer survivor too (inflammatory breast cancer, 2-ish years, if you count from the very day I was diagnosed) and just wanted to say hi.

    But this post blew me away.

    Nice work – I’ll be back!

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