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It's that time of year again—time to scramble to buy a card, send some flowers, secure a brunch reservation. In the midst of Mother's Day stress, author David Kessler offers you this simple reminder: Focus on what really matters—the mother in your life.
After the results of this years' census are in, we may well surpass a U.S. population of 300 million; what is not often counted is the hundreds of thousands whose mothers have died. When you add that group with mothers who have lost a child or had a miscarriage, surprisingly, the number of people for whom Mother's Day is a sad day could be upward of 100 million; possibly one-third of the population. Imagine—while most are scrambling to find that right gift or get those flowers sent, some of our co-workers, neighbors and friends have no tasks, no calls, no gifts to send. They are quiet islands of unspoken grief.

This year, on the second Sunday in May, like the year before it and the year before that one, we will celebrate Mother's Day. There are some that plan ahead for that special gift for Mom; others will use the saving grace of the Internet to send an e-card or gift certificate. Telephones across the nation will ring, delivering "Happy Mother's Day!" greetings. But not all have a call to make.

A friend shared with me how it's a stiller and slower day for her, as the world seems to be hooked up to an energy force that no longer flows through her. As people share what they're doing, not doing, wishing they had done and are feeling guilty that they didn't, she says nothing. For her, Mother's Day is a day that comes around every year that cries out for a filler. What will she do on that day to keep herself busy? She told me that, once in a while, she does speak up if she hears someone complaining about their mother just a little too much or about just feeling generally put upon because of the day. Quietly, she interjects, "I would give anything for a mother to have an argument with right now." She then retreats, hoping they got the simple message that, for her, a demanding, disapproving, picky mother wouldn't be her first choice, but how she would give the world to have a choice and to have a mother still.

Get this simple reminder from one of the motherless to all who have mothers
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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