Mother’s Day without my mother

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The weeks leading up to Mother’s Day are tough for me now.

Everywhere there are posters, signs and ads reminding us to get something real nice for mom on Mother’s Day.

That hurts when your mother has died.

This is my second Mother’s Day without a mother. The sting is not as bad as last year, but it can come back with a vengeance. It’s tough to look at greeting cards that say “Mom” without getting teary.

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Eventually this happens to everyone. Mothers don’t live forever. But while you know intellectually your mother will die someday, believing that emotionally is something very different.

Today I can’t visit her. I can’t bring her flowers, her favorite Lilly of the Valley soap.

But I, like thousands of other adult, motherless children, can honor her by remembering.

My mother, Bonnie Clark, was strong, tough, passionate. When we disobeyed, she was crystal clear about how she felt, what the consequences would be.

When I was 17, I had the car and came in at 1 a.m. instead of the midnight curfew. I figured she’d be in bed and wouldn’t know the difference. When I came through the door she was up, waiting. She asked for my driver’s license. She promptly chucked it in the wood stove. Instantly, my license became ash. I was grounded. Later, I had to explain to the Secretary of State’s office why I needed to replace my license. From then on, I did a better job obeying curfews.

Just as she was tough, she was loving.

When it was our birthday, she practically declared a holiday to everyone who could hear. She let us know she was proud of us. At age 16, I was crying, upset after the breakup with my first boyfriend. She sat on the bed with me, singing my praises, telling me there will be more loves and the heartache will pass.

She was always so right.

Throughout my life, she was a friend, the one I called first with a problem or a joy. Like a lot of mothers and daughters, we tangled easily, but were tight.

That relationship, as I knew it, ended when she died at age 72, two years after being told she had lung cancer. The flowers she planted still grow in my father’s yard. The sound of her chatter is missing.

When she was alive and well, she talked about her dying. She’d say, “I’ll never be gone. When you open your window and feel the wind blow, that’ll be me. I’ll be in your heart.”

I didn’t want to hear it then.

I’m glad I heard it now.

She was right again. She is close in my heart, and the hearts of my seven siblings.

For all of us motherless adults, we, the orphaned daughters and sons, thank you, mom, for a life dedicated to teaching us how to parent, how to love.

For those who have a mother, hug her for us.

Bonnie Washuk is a staff writer at the Sun Journal, one of eight children of John and Bonnie Clark, the mother of three, stepmother of three and grandmother of two. 

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