I was dreading it. As April came to a close I didn’t want to turn the calendar thinking if life could just idle the engine of time would stall out. The greeting card displays all over town told me that wasn’t likely. The melting snow on the Grand Mesa confirmed it. Mother’s Day was going to happen.
The Friday beforehand it was finally time to acknowledge it so I stopped at the store to buy some flowers for my Mom. I chose a small arrangement in a green mason jar. Something bigger wasn’t going to work. Her condo has so many plants in it now. She doesn’t have a green thumb but has tended carefully to the arrangements people sent after my brother died.
At the self check-out I started to get weepy. The thought of her first Mother’s Day without her son was the source of my heartache. I knew that no matter what I did to make the day special I couldn’t fill the gaping hole in her heart. The wind would still blow through it.
After paying for the flowers I turned to leave and a penny was sitting on the ledge where I’d set them. I hadn’t noticed it before but it sat there as if to say, you can do this with her. You can be strong.
I stopped at her condo with the flowers and invited her for dinner Sunday with a side-hug. We were standing next to her recliner when I had a flashback of standing in that same spot with my arm around her in January. I was bracing her to me while the paramedics told us there was nothing they could do.
Since then side hugs seem to be the new thing for us. For years we were the same height but age has shortened her stature. Now I’m just that much taller that when I wrap my arm around her sideways I can nudge her shoulders up an inch. I find myself standing a little straighter like a post thinking it’s my job to keep the fence we form upright.
I said I was going to make lasagna. I could have said I was rolling out macaroni and cheese and she would have said, “That sounds nice.” This is also a new habit—telling her what I plan to fix for dinner. It’s a conversation-filler and a silly one at that. My Mom has memory issues. She won’t remember what I’m serving. I just don’t know what else to say.
She helped me out by asking me a question about something else and we were able to walk around the heartbreak. Pressing on is one of my Mother’s greatest attributes.
Saturday making the lasagna sauce I got teary-eyed again. I tried to blame it on the onions but I knew that wasn’t true. I continued to feel overwhelmed. It’d struck me that because he was the oldest my brother’s birth began the celebration of motherhood in her life. Every mom has a first Mother’s Day but no mother should have a last one with her child.
By Sunday I felt like a fountain of grief. At church midway through worship when Chase noticed I was shaky he reached his arm around me and gave me a side-hug just like I do my Mom. He’s been taller than me for a couple years but I finally noticed the differential is the same between him and me, as me and my Mom. The symmetry felt poetic. I’m my Mom’s fence post and he’s one of mine. Later that night I saw Luke give his grandma the same kind of hug. Taller than all of us she looked like she might be wearing heels with the inches he added.
Dinner turned out to be nice. The boys and everyone else at the table went out of their way to fill the room with love. Wine and chocolate chip cookies helped too. Only once my voice quivered and my sweet Mama had a second serving of lasagna—a sure sign she was enjoying being herself.
When everyone left and I had the chance to plop down on the couch, Buddy came running like he always does. As soon as I was settled he wedged himself up next to me offering me the dog version of a hug.
With a few minutes to reflect on all we’ve been through in the last four months I was reminded that grief can only be weathered with a fence-post-faith—the belief that anchored to the people God has surrounded me with I’m stronger and taller than how I might feel. Dory said, “Just keep swimming” but with side-hugs I think God says, “Just keep standing!”