There are times in our lives, however, when we must redefine our understanding of previously held beliefs. For many, Mother's Day is such a time.
My mother died at a young age, suddenly and unexpectedly. The woman who gave me life and who would help me to discover both who I was and who I wasn't is gone from this world. I cannot offer her my gratitude this year by taking her out for brunch, showing off her grandchildren. This requires me to see myself as a daughter- and her as a mother- in a much different way than I did for 35 years.
Yet, the event that would really challenge the essential meaning of motherhood for me would be the death of my daughter. I experienced motherhood in an entirely different way; and since her death, have sought ways in which I can remain her mother. It is not the way I wanted to be her mom, yet, still it is mothering indeed. I've had to supplant the normal ways in which I would have filled that role, mainly through service to others.
For some reason, it's easier for others to understand that on Mother's Day I will think of my own dead mother and miss her, honoring that relationship and mourning all that I've lost. Yet, on Mother's Day I also miss my own child, the MISSing piece of our family, and I mourn all that I've lost, while remaining incredibly grateful for all that I have.
I've redefined motherhood to include the absence of their presence.
This Mother's Day, I will think of them both and recognize, in my heart, that I am still both a daughter to my mother and a mother to my daughter.
Death, simply, is not bigger than that.