In grief, some holidays stand out more than others. At Thanksgiving, the bereaved are very noticeable. Hostesses alert their guests, "This will be Jane's first Thanksgiving without her husband, Frank." At Christmastime, "Let's invite Sue over; this is her first Christmas without her mother." Around Mother's Day, however, the grieving motherless walk unnoticed among us. They quietly watch the rest of the world scurry around for their perfect Mother's Day gift as they hear some moan about Mother's Day duties and obligations.
Perhaps because of my work, I talk openly about the loss of my mother. Every once in a while, someone will ask, "When did your mother die?" "Thirty-five years ago," I respond. Some follow with a polite response of "I'm sorry." But the surprise is the person who says: "Thirty-five years ago? You still remember your mother?" I always have the same response, "Oh, both your parents must still be alive." They look at me like I'm psychic and ask how did I know? I know because anyone who has lost a parent knows you never forget them.
I recently finished up my newest work on death and dying, which looks at who and what we see before we die. I spend much of my days in at least three hospitals and a hospice, and you just don't hear these stories from patients who are ill but not dying. With very few exceptions, these visions only occur when someone is clearly close to death. As the dying lose sight of this world, some people appear to be looking into the world to come. Moreover, the visions people experience at the end of life are remarkably similar. The dying are most often visited by their mothers. It shouldn't be too surprising that the person who is actually present as we cross the threshold of life and take our first breath once again appears at the threshold as we take our last breath. Our mothers.
My simple reminder from one of the motherless to all who have mothers: While I know you want to find the right card, the perfect gift, do it the right way, get the flowers, don't forget that the real gift, whether perfect or imperfect, is the mother in your life.
David Kessler is the author of Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms (May 2010) as well as the co-author with Elisabeth Kübler Ross of On Grief and Grieving and Life Lessons. Visit his website for more help and resources.
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