As Mother’s Day approached this year, I felt a great sense of dread and loss. Forty-nine days ago my wife, the mother of my four young children, died after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer. I have been initiated into a club for whom this day causes more hurt than joy. It is not just the day itself, the actual 24 hours, but also the days leading up to it.
The celebrations of our “firsts” without Kara are hard, but it is not my place to ignore them because they are hard. Mother’s Day is hard for so many people, and I don’t fully claim to understand all who experience pain.
We enter this Mother’s Day as a family of five and not six. It’s as if we’re in a play where the lead actor is missing but the play goes on, as if the story still makes sense in their absence. We move towards this day missing the one we desire to serve and love. And it hurts.
Many kids make a Mother’s Day gift at school and bring it proudly home. For years I have been the one to help hide the already cracked clay picture frame or the painted ceramic dish that proudly says “Happy Mother’s Day. I love you, Mom.” This year has been different.
My preparation for this day began with giving our kids the freedom to make a craft or not, to make a gift for me or someone else who loves them, or even to skip that day of school. Each of my kids differed in their choice but they all made an active choice.
We will stick to our normal Mother’s Day traditions. We will have breakfast together and go to church. We will choose to not be offended or hurt when we see full families sitting in joy or when the pastor takes time to appreciate the moms in the room.
We will live in the reality of life instead of in our hidden expectations of how we want to be treated. I want my kids to enter into the celebration of this day, to remember the life their mom lived and the character traits she desired to foster in them: kindness, compassion and love. Our character develops when we are stretched, and this day will stretch us.
As this day arrives, we will celebrate the great mom my kids had. We will tell stories about her, we will do things together that she loved, we will turn up the music and make dinner together, we will plant flowers, laugh and read books before bed. Many of these activities will be done with tears in my eyes and streaming down my cheeks. But to stop celebrating this day, though it might be easier, would be running from the love that created our family.
This day will be a raw mix of joy and sadness. And at the end of the day, the kids will sleep knowing how proud their mom was of them. I will then pour a drink and let Kara know we did it. We got though another “first” and we missed her, but we did okay.