I remember my first Mother’s Day as a mom. Chloe was three months old. We went to the symphony in the park. My memory has gaps – for a variety of reasons be it trauma, chronic stress, and grief. But I believe I remember those precious moments because of the wonderfully, delightful, and mesmerizing baby Chloe was. Sitting under the shade of the tree and listening to the music she nursed and we cuddled. I remember her big eyes and beautiful smile. The warmth of the sun keeping us cozy and comfortable. Somehow, I felt this was a profound and special moment and it is why I remember it so clearly.
The next few years, my memory of the day celebrating mom is muddled by the everyday stresses of life working, parenting, taking care of others…there were no significant memories. However, I remember the Mother’s Day just after Chloe had turned three years old. Chloe had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This was a Mother’s Day when I was scared and frightened. I remember how sickly she was and questioned how was I going to keep her safe and well She was diagnosed with cancer – even though the doctor’s said she has a treatable cancer, I was not sure how I would survive the pain of losing her. The deep fear that my child would die is a memory I could not erase. This was a day I remember thinking that being a mom is such a gift that is tenuous and fragile. I would choose to celebrate being a mom -not my children celebrating me. As the year passed, celebrating Mother’s Day had been a quiet celebration. My mom had passed away and the girls were struggling with their health issues. The day would come and go without much fan fair and I did not mind.
Mother’s Day has changed for me now. It has more significance because I think about the half of my heart that is missing causing a emptiness that is unexplainable. This will be the second Mother’s Day without Ryleigh. The feeling a loss and despair does not get better with time and nor should it. I am just learning how to be different. How to manage without that part of my heart.
Years before I had worried so much about losing Chloe to cancer, I would have never imagined life without Ryleigh. In fact, I believed that the rest of my life would be centered around caring for Ryleigh. I would be Ryleigh’s primary caregiver as her illness was so disabling that she would need her Mom to look after her and care for her. I had a deep, secret thought that Ryleigh would not have a long life. Her illness and all the medications and treatments that had ravaged her body would have reduced her life expectancy. So, I had thought she might leave me before I left her. However, I thought I still had time. Time to love her more than ever, time to share stories, debate issues, experience living….
Although she is not with me physically, her actions, writing, and my memories of her continue to inspire me to live a life of purpose and be mindful of my presence in this world. I continue to find her writing in odd places. Her writing and thoughts about enduring constant pain and how she managed. Her reflections on the world she lived. She thought she was a burden financially, emotionally, physically; that she was taking so much from myself and Chloe. How I wish I had let her know more often how she inspired me and helped me get through each day – she was not a burden she was a gift.
I have always felt that being a mother a selfish act. I chose to bring my amazing girls into my life. They did not choose it, I did. I wanted to experience the deep love and connection of being a mother. Loving Chloe and Ryleigh so deeply and unconditionally is my greatest blessing. I feel selfish every day because of the great feeling of love and joy I experience by memories of Ryleigh and my precious interactions with Chloe. My daughters have shown me the power of love. The strength to endure pain, illness, fear, and isolation. Through their challenges and triumphs they taught me to appreciate the mementos of life – not the typical achievements a parent wants from their child. Their wisdom at even the youngest of ages has taught me to be mindful, loving, and patient.
A life changing moment for me happened when Chloe was four years old. She was sick from chemotherapy and asked me one day to play with her. At this point, I was now a single, working parent and I had so much to do. The tasks that I thought were important: laundry, dishes, vacuuming, lesson planning, marking….I responded by saying I would play with her after I finished the dishes. She looked up at me with her bald head, steroid induced puffy cheeks, and her big, stunning brown eyes and wisely, yet so innocently said to me, “Mommy, dishes can wait. I might not be here tomorrow.” Children have such profound things to share with us. We need to listen more and honour their ideas.
Chloe continues to inspire and brings me joy. Her love and positive presence helps balance the hardness my heart feels sometimes. She has moved towards her making her own life and is experiencing the joys and celebrations of creating a home for herself and her loving partner, Shem. She has her fur babies to care for and has so much hope for the future. How can I not be proud and celebrate the wonder and strength she has shown? Chloe demonstrates every day how to love deeply, live fully, and be mindful and present. Her belief in healing, moving on, and celebrating the small moments inspires me to live a more daring life. I am grateful every day for my brown eyed girl, that she survived so much and continues creating a wonderful imprint on my heart. Chloe is a gift that keeps on giving…
This Mother’s Day, I will do my best to remember the truly precious moments my daughter’s have given me. But, I will also need to embrace and honour my own sadness, loss, and loneliness. My happiness goes to all the Moms who will receive phone calls, emails, flowers, candy, gifts, and hugs from their sons and daughter’s this Mother’s Day. My heart goes to those mother’s that will miss those connections with their child as they will only have thoughts and memories to cherish. You are not alone, and sadly there are many of us who understand. My love and compassion to all of those that will find this day challenging.