I miss her. Every year I think it’s gotten better, and then that shake comes back—the one that rattles deep in my soul and shakes its way up to the base of my neck, catching my breath and spinning me into a quiet frenzy. Dizzy and alone I sit with nothing but the sick ache in my chest to keep me company, no sound or noise registering but the dull throb that pulses in the soft tissue around my heart.
It is these times that I miss her the most. Times when “Mother” is plastered in every shop window, every spam e-mail, every greeting card headline… Mother. Even her name is soft and comforting.
I remember after she died, I flew with Dad and Brother to Hawaii, her favorite place, to shake what ashes remained of her human form over the crystal blue tropical waters she loved so much. Sitting in the airport on a layover from one island to another, I caught sight of a family encamped in the row of chairs across from me. Father, Mother, and two daughters sat in their shorts and sandals, bags and magazines and colored iPods spread out over several chairs. The girls played with each other occasionally, but mostly the eldest sat with her headphones in her ears while the younger asked Dad for money to buy M&M’s, if she could go to the bathroom, how much longer the layover was, and if Mom had remembered to pack her favorite My Little Pony. Busy and dizzy with anticipation and boredom, she finally settled in the seat next to Mom and laid her head in her lap. She laughed and talked and haphazardly ran her hands up and down her mother’s legs as Mom absentmindedly stroked her hair while reading a magazine.
Something about the scene hit my heart, and suddenly the back of my throat became very tight. Stinging, stinging eyes, and tears I tried to hide by tilting my head back so they would only have to roll the short distance across my temples until they were out of sight, lost in the forest of my hair. It seemed so familiar. So easy. So average and normal that it hurt like a knife coming out. Probably the way a permanently injured athlete feels when they watch the game they can never play again, or what rushes through an amputee when they go to buy pants. Loss afresh.
I watched this little girl with her stringy hair and bunchy shorts strewn across her mother’s lap, and her mother’s calm, tired face as she ran her hands through her daughter’s hair, and the thought came: “Don’t take it for granted. You may not always have this—this ease, this thoughtless love, this perfect informality. Don’t take it for granted!”
But then even quicker I thought, "But isn’t that the benefit of a mother?" Isn’t that the built-in perk to the relationship? It is so deep and permanent and constant and unchanging—the most lasting, eternal bond we will ever know… Isn’t part of the greatness of the relationship that we GET to take it for granted? The way that the sky is blue or the sun rises in the morning-- it is and was forever. It’s something good you can always rely on, and a blessing don’t have to think about. There are other things to write thank-you notes for.
No, as I sat there I realized the real beauty of what I was seeing was the fact that this excited, bored, restless little girl could sit and laugh and talk with her mom, and never ever have to think twice about whether her mother loved her or thought she was special or wanted to spend time with her. She could just exist in her mother’s love, and not have to apologize for it.
Sunday is a special day. It’s a day when children across the globe honor and thank their mothers—their suns, their blue skies, their eternal love. That day, more than any other day we are encouraged not to take our mothers for granted, but instead to acknowledge their tireless efforts and many sacrifices for our good. I cannot tell you how I wished I had a reason to buy a card this week. How I would love to see my momma in church wearing the corsage my dad would have picked out for her, and sit across the table from her at brunch in the afternoon. How I wish I could whisper, "I love you, Momma," in her ear one last time. She was an incredible mother, and she deserves more honor than she received.
But more than anything else, more than all these things, I wish she were here to rest my head on her lap. To squeeze myself into the little nook in between the back of her knees and the back of the couch, and curl up on top of her as we watch American Idol or some other guilty pleasure TV show of hers. I wish she were there on her sofa when I come out into the kitchen to get my breakfast, reading her Bible and drinking her coffee in the morning sun. I wish she was here to tell all about my first day of work and how I feel like I screwed up that relationship, and how do you tell when a mango is ripe again? I wish she were here to say, “I love you,” as we get off the phone…
I wish she were here so I could take her for granted. And I don’t regret a single day I did.
Happy Mother’s Day, Momma. I love you.