I wish more than anything I could wear a red rose this Mother’s Day. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have been wearing white roses for many, many Mother’s Days, as you have been gone since 1990.
The reality of your death isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t as raw and painful as those first years. But something about this year is making me long for you even more than I have in years past.
You taught me so many things, Mom. You taught practical things, spiritual things, philosophical things. You showed me the paths to being joyful, being grateful, being patient and being a better person through your own example. Why didn’t you teach me how to fill the gaping hole left when you were no longer physically with me?
I know the answer: Nothing can really fill that hole. The relationship between a mother and child can be complicated, but it is a relationship and bond that cannot be easily broken. I feel your love around me often, even though you are gone, and I am grateful for that.
But sometimes I need more. Sometimes I need your wise counsel. Sometimes I need a push in the right direction, but the crossroad choices seem too confusing. Sometimes I need you to hold my hand. I long to hear your voice.
It’s not that you always had all the answers, and it is certainly not that I always listened. But you always did – listen. And I have never had anyone else in my life who would listen like you did. While I was often afraid of disappointing you, I was never afraid of losing you or losing your love for me. So, I could just talk and talk and talk while I thought and thought and thought – discarding and refining ideas and choices until the way seemed clear. Sometimes you would smile and sometimes you would just shake your head, but always you would support my choice.
It’s 2021, Mom. You would have celebrated your 97th birthday today. I have now lived without your physical presence for 31 years. I try to be to my children what you were to me, but the world feels so complicated sometimes.
Today, your birthday, will be followed quickly by Mother’s Day. There are some great things happening this year: a grandchild’s baptism, a visit with family and soon, some extra time with my grandsons. I will be joyful and grateful and happy, just as you would want me to be.
I know you will forgive the self-pity and weepy sadness that I succumbed to with the need to write you this letter. I also know your patience for such “nonsense” was always short. Scarlett O’Hara’s famous, “After all, tomorrow is another day” was often your call to action.
I can wear my white rose with the assurance that your love is still with me. Maybe this year the background for that white rose should be a red dress.
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.