Mother’s Day Without Mothers

This past weekend marked another Mother’s Day. It marked the fourth one for me without a mother of my own. 

I thought about last Mother’s Day when my family and I sat around discussing biopsy results, BRCA tests and upcoming surgeries. There were still so many questions without answers.  

We took pictures in front of a blooming crab apple tree (not blooming yet this year!) and smiled as if it was just another Mother’s Day. I watched my kids drive off and envied them for being able to “drive away from cancer.”

I observed boats driving by on our little lake and thought about other families celebrating Mother’s Day without cancer.

My husband and I attended a concert my youngest son was singing in and I sat there pretending everything was alright. I sat there trying to act normal, just being a mother listening to her son sing.

This Mother’s Day I thought about how much I have missed my mother this past year. Her presence in my life has been missed even more since my cancer diagnosis.

My mother was the great communicator of the family. My mother always knew what to say.

Even now, she would know things to say to make me feel better. She would be calling to see how I am doing. She would feel my pain and understand my fears, even if she had not had breast cancer herself.

My mother would have understood about the ache I sometimes felt deep within and about the terror of facing life without breasts, or hair, or worse…

She would have understood what it felt like to be a woman living on the edge unable to stop thoughts about dying from simmering during the wee hours of the night. She would have understood why I cried sometimes without even knowing the reason for my tears. She would not have cared if I was irritable, blotchy-faced or just plain unpleasant to be around. She would not have thought such things were even odd.

She would have loved me and understood because that’s what mothers do.

I wish I could have a day or even an hour to spend with her now. I would tell her I am sorry for not listening to her more attentively about her fears when she had cancer.

I would ask her for advice on how to get through the dark moments that still come; the moments when I feel most vulnerable, overwhelmed or frightened.

I sometimes wonder if she watches over me from heaven and I know that if she does, her heart has ached for me this past year, even in heaven.

Jody, one of my blogging friends from Women With Cancer, recently commented, “My mother was already gone when I (Jody) was diagnosed and I am grateful to have spared her that.” I hadn’t thought of things that way before. It’s a much less selfish way to look at it. It’s a far more comforting way to acknowledge my mom’s absence from my life this past year. Thanks Jody.

My heart aches for families that lose mothers when the mothers are way too young to be lost. A young mother among my husband’s relatives was lost to breast cancer mere days ago. I think about things her children will miss. I wonder what their Mother’s Day was like.

I remember Sarah, The Carcinista,who I only knew via her “snarky” blog, so full of attitude and spunk; so full of life. Sadly, Sarah died last Tuesday from ovarian cancer after halting treatment, after saying enough, after deciding she didn’t want to be sick anymore more from treatments that weren’t working anyway, after deciding she just wanted to be a mom to her two boys for whatever time she had left.

Again, I can’t help but wonder what their Mother’s Day was like.

An incredibly moving post to read about Mother’s Day called, “When Mother’s Day Hurts,” comes from Marie, my friend from Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. Marie writes poignantly about a different take on Mother’s Day. I hope you’ll check it out if you haven’t yet. You won’t soon forget Marie’s words.

So mostly what I am is thankful for all the years I had a mother and for all the memories I still have.

And, of course, I’m thankful for getting to be a mother to three great kids as well!

I hope everyone had a pleasant Mother’s Day, whether you still have a mother or not.

How did you spend Mother’s Day (on Sunday or when you were growing up)?

What is a favorite memory you have of your mother or grandmother?





25 thoughts to “Mother’s Day Without Mothers”

  1. Touching blog, Nancy. I can relate to your waking in the night and “irrational” fears. Mother’s Day must be difficult for you on two fronts – the loss of your mom and considering the potential loss for your children. Leaving my children scares me beyond words.

    While my children aren’t very good at celebrating Mother’s Day (I’m lucky if they wished me a good day), I’m thankful for each and every one of them.

    1. Tina, Thanks for commenting and sharing one of your fears. Is your Mother’s Day celebrated on the same day or is it earlier?

    1. Julie, Thank you. I’m glad you stopped by and took time to leave a comment. I enjoyed the photo of your mom (and dad) on your blog. Congrats again on finishing that race!

  2. Nancy, thank you so much for “hearing” me and for reaching out. I do think we all carry around so much hidden grief and to have a safe place to express that and to have our feelings validated goes so far in validating and healing that grief.

    1. Marie, Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Yes, I heard you for sure, it was a very compassionate post. And I agree, most of us do carry around some hidden grief.

  3. Beautiful post, Nancy. You expressed many of the thoughts I have. The things I miss about having a mother. I know she would have been there for me during the last two years as no one else has, but that’s just part of the loss I deal with. I do consider myself lucky to have had her for 35 years. Too many children don’t get that. And thanks for bringing up Jody’s point of view. I hadn’t thought of that before.

    1. Stacey, Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. As one on a similar path, I know you’ve been experiencing some of the same feelings during the two years since your diagnosis. Yes, we are lucky to have had all the years we did with our moms and Jody helped to give me a different perspective on that through her simple statement.

  4. Nancy, you really must have had a cherished childhood due to your blog posts regarding your mom. I’m so envious of that relationship. Even though you may not see it, her presence is around you all the time….

  5. Nancy,

    Thank you for your honesty. Those fears and inner demons still plague me. It’s totally normal for you to be feeling the way you are feeling.

    It must be so hard to be without your mom. I’m deeply sorry.

    I also thought about the moms who didn’t live to see this Mother’s Day through. It is so sad.

    I spent my Mother’s Day with my daughter, and just tried to take in the wonder that she and I are together. I continue to try to appreciate life and live it to the fullest. It’s cliche, but true.

    1. Beth, Thank you for your caring comments. I was thinking about those moms too… and the families that experienced their first MD without the mothers. I’m glad you are a mom now! Was this your first Mother’s Day? I forget how old your daughter is; she’s so adorable! Enjoy it all!

  6. Nancy,
    I understand the ache so well, even though my Mother died in l987. Mother’s Day, and especially May, which was the last month of her life, brings memories close to the surface. It was only this year that I realized my cancer, and now Steve’s, would have been so difficult for her to handle.

    There’s nothing that better describes a Mother’s love than, “She would feel my pain and understand my fears, even if she had not had breast cancer herself.” So beautiful.

    Another thought. Connecting with others who have lost their Mothers really helps on holidays. Now, instead of getting stuck in my own thought I will remember that your loss is still new. We begin to help each other in the way our Moms would so willingly do.

    Thank you for including me in this beautiful post,

    1. Jody, Thank you for taking time to leave your thoughts, I appreciate it especially with all you have going on right now. I’m sorry you lost you mom when you were both so young. And your dad too. I’m trying to stay focused on your insightful comment that really helped. Thanks again. And you are welcome!

  7. I spent this past Mother’s Day in Ireland with my friend. We took a train to a castle related to one of my ancestors and met up with Marie later in the day.

    My mother passed away in 2004 from lung cancer. She was a beautiful person, gentle and loving. Since two of my sons have moved away from home, I didn’t feel compelled to be home on Mother’s Day.

    A favorite memory of my mother is spending time with her canning cherries from our trees in the orchard out in back. We pitted them, our fingers dripping with blood-red juice, and then processed them. Also I learned how to sew from my mother. I don’t use these skills anymore, but I treasure the memories of my mom spending time with me, lovingly teaching me things that her mother taught her.

    Thanks for this lovely post reflecting on motherhood.


    1. Jan, Thank you for sharing a couple of your treasured memories of your mother. She must have been lovely and quite skillful! I am so glad you had a good trip to Ireland, visited some wonderful places and got to meet Marie!

  8. Nancy, I love this. You speak so much of what I feel in my heart. My grandmother died today, and I have found myself reflecting so much, of course. I know she and my mom have reunited today and that is providing some comfort.

    One of my favorite memories with my mom was the last time she visited me during college. My dad hunts deer in the fall near my old campus, and my mom decided to go up with him and stay in a hotel near me while she recovered from a chemo treatment. I ended up spending the night there with her: we went shopping, met up with some of my friends to grab some pizza, and enjoyed each other’s company all night like the best of friends would. I miss those days, but can’t help but feel so thankful tonight to simply have the memories. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to reflect 🙂 xoxo

    1. Sami, Thank you for commenting. I am so sorry about your grandmother. I lost mine many years ago and I still miss her. (My other grandmother I don’t remember very well). I’m sure it was excruciatingly painful for your grandmother, too, when your mom was so sick. Looking at this latest loss as a reunion for the two of them must be a bit comforting. Thanks for sharing one of your favorite memories of your mom. I’m glad you have lots of good memories, though not nearly enough.

  9. I love hearing all the wonderful memories you have of your Mother. My Mother was just like that. I too miss her very much. I can identify with Jody, after my Mother died my family went through some very bad incidents and health problems and I was so glad she didn’t have to go through all that pain, she’d had enough pain in her life.

    1. Betty, All the memories are pretty nice aren’t they? We are lucky to have so many good ones. And yes, Jody’s comment really helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on mothers.

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