How-to: Mother's Day

As Mother’s Day approaches, I always tend to think of Megan a bit more.  Many everyday things become somehow intertwined with a memory or anecdote about her, simply because she was Shelby’s mother.  Even mowing the lawn brings thoughts about the fact that she had to close all of the windows in the house due to the smell of fresh cut grass making her cough.

Megan is never far from Shelby or I’s memory.  If I had a nickel for every time Shelby began a sentence with “Remember when mom...” I’d be a millionaire.  She hasn’t seemed to look any deeper into Megan’s death than humorous stories or zombie jokes though. I mean, she’s only 11.  Her mom has been gone for almost 4 years now, and her biggest concerns are getting to ride her bike and the newest novel in the book series she’s reading being released to stores.

It makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.

Is it going to be on Mother’s Day?  What about Megan’s birthday, or the anniversary of her death?  At some point in the future, Shelby is going to have a memory about her mother, and it’s not going to be a funny or sarcastic one.  It will be the memories of her lying in a hospital bed, unable to speak or even go to the bathroom on her own. It will be a recollection of her coughing up blood and being loaded into an ambulance.  It will be that first Christmas without her, opening presents and trying to be happy in front of a dad that was uncontrollably sobbing.

Make no mistake, I would never want to prevent that day from occuring.  I want Shelby to have those memories. It means she’s becoming more aware of her past, and she’s beginning the phase of acceptance in the adult sense of the term.  She knows it all occured, but her young mind hasn’t yet begun to think about the bigger meanings of it all.

I’m fine with that, for now, but I have a cautious awareness that she’s entering those formative years where, one day, she won’t be the same Shelby.  It won’t just be “pre-teening” or “growing up”. It could be regret, guilt, and true longing for Megan...emotions I’ve had since her death. Shelby and I will begin to share some of these, and it will be me that needs to adjust.

I haven’t heard her say “I miss mom” in 3 years.  Some of that may be due to Sarah’s presence, of course.  Shelby has just as wonderful a mother now as she did before, but she quite clearly knows the separation between the two, and doesn’t see Sarah AS Megan.  In any case, she sees Sarah, who lost her own mother at age 9, longing for and missing her mom all of the time, and it hasn’t seemed to trigger any deeper thoughts.  

Perhaps Shelby has already processed many of those thoughts.  We would be so lucky. She enjoys getting flowers and some kind of sweet confection in remembrance of Megan on July 24th, Megan’s birthday.  She loves telling stories about her. She, simply put, still has Megan as part of her life, and sees no need to mourn, miss, or grieve her death right now.  She wants to appreciate that Megan was her mom for 8 years, rather than focus on the fact that she hasn’t been able to be for the past four.

For now, I’ll keep watching.  Shelby has a way of rubbing off on me.  When she’s happy on Mother’s Day, I’m happy.  The majority of my own grief centers on Shelby losing her mother, rather than myself losing my wife.  As I’ve said many, many times in the past, I knew what I was getting into within 24 hours of meeting Megan.  I knew it would come down to a young death. Shelby didn’t have a choice.

She’s a smart kid though.  She hasn’t blocked out or suppressed the memories of her mother.  She isn’t internalizing the disturbing parts and refusing to express them.  She’s simply doing what we should all be doing on Mother’s Day...appreciating and honoring our mothers, and the mothers of our children.  She's happy to have had Megan, she's happy to have Sarah, and her grandmothers.  I need to be the same.  Rather than anticipating the sharing of cynicism and grief between Shelby and I about Megan, I need to rise to her level, and be happy about the fact that we CAN celebrate Megan's one time presence on this earth.


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