I have the ironic honor of always writing on Mother’s Day, being the Sunday writer here at Widow’s Voice. Ironic because it always forces me to evaluate my feelings about a holiday I have mostly chosen not to celebrate since my own mother died when I was young. I hate this day, or at least, I mostly always have. But this post isn't about that. This is a story of surprises, and how life evolves after the losses in our lives in some of the most unexpected ways.
I decided today, that I would go back and re-read a few of my posts from previous years, to see if there was something to glean there. I came across this one, from 2014, called The Accidental Mother, where I share about a waiter wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day accidentally. The excerpt below stopped me in my tracks...
“...But today in particular, the thoughts that pained me most were not about him not being here… and not because I'm going to run out of time to have kids (we are planning to adopt anyway). Not for any of those reasons. The pain came from the realization that since he died, I have become the kind of woman that I want to be as a mom. Before his death, I honestly still had a lot of growing up to do myself. I had a lot of pain still from losing both of my own parents, and a lot of fears around parenting because of that. I really wasn't even close to being on board with the reality of having kids. I mean hell, I was just barely overcoming my fears about getting married when he died.
So today, for whatever reason, that's what is really hurting. Not running out of time. Not even the fact that he's not here to share it with me (although that is a whole other side of the pain I DO still feel). The one thing that really kills me is knowing what an incredible mom I would be now. Knowing that I would pass to my daughter strength, self respect, independence and - as my fiancé once wrote of me, "a creative streak a mile wide"... but also compassion, and kindness, and an open heart to lean on others and let them lean on you.
She would know that it is okay to be vulnerable, that she is most beautiful when she is doing so, and that needn't put up with anyone who cannot value her at her most vulnerable. She would know she can never be too emotional, too bold, too afraid, or too sensitive. I would let her know I believe she can do anything she sets herself to in this life, and that her most important job is always to be authentic to herself. To walk away from anyone or anything that does not honor her, but to also always strive to see things from all sides. And of course, that no matter what happens, I will always have her back and always love her. (I'm not even sure why, but I've just always had a feeling he and I would have daughters)...”
I couldn’t even get through reading this without tearing up… the woman who wrote these words had no idea what was coming. She had no idea that just two years later, she would be living halfway across the country with a new man in her life, and that this amazing little girl would have fallen into her life through him, and that she would in fact have become an accidental mother.
The woman who wrote this believed that she would likely never get the chance to share all of these lessons, and so instead she wrote them out just so save them. And now here I am, having spent the past 6 months or so actually trying to do all of these things with this 9 year old little girl, while I flail around endlessly doubting and wondering if I’m doing a good enough job. No, she isn’t MY daughter… but how does that really matter? I love her as my own, and what’s more… I protect her not as my own, but as a precious gift given to me to protect in the absence of her mother.
One of the best lessons I learned from losing my own mother so young, is that we can be mothers in MANY different ways. I mention this because I know it's a very painful topic for so many widows who didn't have children. What I have learned, from being the little girl without a mom, is that women without kids who reach out to motherless children will without a doubt create one of the most lasting and meaningful bonds with those children. No, we are not blood, but that doesn't matter when it comes to love, does it? If we desire to mother, there is always a child out there who is in need of it... and I think that we find each other somehow. Teachers, neighbors, moms of friends, aunts, women friends who were older, all of them influenced my life heavily as mothers. They all raised me up. They each played a crucial part. I suppose that's why this role with Shelby feels so natural to me... in my eyes, I know, she will have many mothers, and it can be just as beautiful of a journey as having just one mom.
I have never liked Mother’s Day, I confess. It always makes me feel resentful to have forced holidays like this that make it only more obvious that my own mother is dead. But this year, is very different. This year, although we aren’t really celebrating me as mom, we are celebrating everyone who mothers, and that now does include me. It actually has taken me by surprise.
I guess you never really know what your life is going to have in store for you. Two years from now, all of our lives could look VERY different… and even if it’s hard to imagine it from wherever you are in your own grief now, it could even look very beautiful again. We could be mothering our own kids, or mothering the kids of others who aren't present. We could be mothering kids in mentoring programs or our next door neighbor's kids. It may not be what we planned, but it's beautiful nonetheless, to open our hearts to whomever needs mothering and put our ideal version aside.
I know in my heart, this is how our loves ones continue on in our lives. I know, without a doubt, that my mother has put certain people in my life for years now, and that really, she’s been guiding me all along - even if I can't see her. I know that Drew is doing this too, and so is my dad. It’s taken me a long time to believe this, and understand it, and not fight it, but it’s there. They’re always there, connecting us to new love and new life and new meaning, guiding us along this seemingly treacherous path of life.