Today is Mother’s Day.
My mother passed away thirteen years ago, in September of 1996. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about eighteen months before. After surgery and treatment, she went into remission for over a year. In that time that she was in remission, I became pregnant with our first child. Her first grandchild.
When our daughter Mira was born, my mother was there for me. Vibrant, joyful, and celebrating this miracle we shared together. When I returned home from the hospital, exhausted and anxious about my ability to care for this new and fragile life, my mom was already in our apartment, making us lunch, ready to hold the baby, stroke my hair, and let me know that love was all I needed to be a mother — and because I had infinite supplies of love, I would be a great mother.
Two weeks later, she became ill again. And when Mira was ten weeks old, my mother passed away. She and I never got to celebrate a Mother’s Day together as moms.
When my mother passed away, my father gave me her teenage diary: a worn, green leather-bound book, with fragile, gilt-edged pages. The contents are fairly mundane: reports of spelling test scores, movies seen, and complaints about siblings and boredom. On the inside cover, though, is the most amazing entry. It is not by my mother, though. It is a note from her mother. My grandmother. It is written at 12:01 a.m., just a minute past midnight, on my mother’s 13th birthday.
This is what it says:
Today is your thirteenth birthday and I felt I must enter your private sanctuary to tell you how really glad I am that you are my daughter.
Yes, I get angry with you for little things and correct you – but that’s part of making a “woman” out of you. I am confident that you will grow up to be the fine person that I know you must be, for you have every qualification for a young lady that parents might well be proud of.
You are kind, thoughtful, & sympathetic, eager to help people and lovable to all of us – and we love you for these qualities.
Honey, instead of a silly card that says “Happy Birthday” I’ll write it in my own way – I know dear, that your dad and brothers and sister feel as I do so I’ll say Good Luck, Honey. Stick together with your family always.
On the same day, my mother wrote these words in her diary:
Happy Birthday to me – my 13th birthday – that’s the writing in the front (of the diary) – and (when I saw it) me, like a little kid, starts to cry.
I share in my mother’s tears whenever I read my grandmother’s words. The love she conveys is so simple and yet so profound. A love that sees the past, present, and future of her child — proudly, fearlessly, and joyfully embracing it all.
The green diary my mother kept was not her last. She kept a daily diary until the day before she went into the hospital for the last time. In her very last entry, she speaks of her personal pain, not just her physical pain but her emotional pain as well, knowing that she was not longed for this world. Her last written words though, were about her two month old grandbaby, and how grateful she was for the opportunity to hold her before she died; and how her pain disappeared whenever she held this tiny miracle. These were my mother’s last written words:
That baby is like medicine to me.
My mother and my grandmother are both gone now. But I carry them wherever I go. I carry their love in my heart today and every day. I pass it on to my four children. And they will carry it on and pass it to their children.
Our mothers may pass from this world, but the love we share with them is undying. Eternal. It’s like good medicine that restores our hearts and souls.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.