Words From an Orphan's Memoir: Simple Advice for Mother's Day
Author’s Note: Excerpts in the first part of this posts are from my personal memoir; from my perspective of losing my Mom at a tender age. In honor of Mother’s Day, I offer 6 simple, practical tips about how to deepen your bond and strengthen the sacred relationship with the soul you call Mother.
At a time when I needed her the most, my beloved Mommy passed away. I was 16 at the time.
My single mother had a stroke, a 2nd one, and it was fatal. One day she was fine, the next day, gone.
Just like that.
I still remember it as though it was yesterday. Standing on the porch in shock, denial, and disbelief, I was still expecting my mommy to appear at the end of the driveway like she always does after a stroll around the neighborhood. I had to consciously remember and remind myself that she is no longer physically in the world with me.
I remember the visual of a baby bird being tossed out way too young from the comforts of the nest. 🐣 I did not feel ready to take care of myself, and yet, the task before me is imminent.
Instinctively, I knew this was a crucial moment in my life: either I would take the challenge and fly, or fall into the abyss of sadness and grief.
“When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe one of two things: either there will be ground to stand on, or you will be given wings to fly.” O.R. Melling
At 16, I instantly found myself to be an orphan. My association with the word ‘orphan’ is in tandem with little elementary age children: little orphan Annie, Tom Sawyer, and now, modern day Harry Potter.
But at 16, I didn’t feel like a valid orphan. I wasn’t a kid anymore, yet I’m not quite adult. I didn’t where I belonged.
My sweet sixteen didn’t feel very sweet. In one instant, I was tossed into the wilderness, lost, and tasked to find my way home.
I didn’t know at the time, the magnitude of my loss. I simply felt that my protector, my confidant, my heart, my mommy ... was gone. She was robbed of her life, at only 54 years old - way too young.
I still needed her, but I acted like I didn’t. I wanted to be strong for her, to let her know that it was okay to go toward the Light, as it was calling her home.
I wanted her to go without the burden of wondering whether I would be okay.
And as I took on the burden of raising myself, without a clue in the world how to do it, I too, secretly questioned whether I would be okay!
Sixteen is practically legal and my ego was strong. Young and determined, I plowed through my emotions like a weed wacker, metaphorically trimming my own hedges and plucking out weeds. I was a mess, but no one knew it. I had to be strong.
I got rid of what I considered my vulnerabilities by masking my emotions or stuffing them down altogether. Nights were the hardest within the safety of my walls when I cried myself to sleep.
In no time though, my survival instincts kicked in and I was out to prove to the world and everyone around me that I was okay. I carried on, focused on my work, and lived the mother-daughter bond/relationship vicariously through my friends.
I’ve had friends who have had dramas and melodramas with their mothers. Power struggles, disobedience, mischief, and arguments - I’ve heard and seen it all unfold in the life of the mother-daughter relationship.
I’ve been counsel to girlfriends whose mother didn’t want anything to do with her daughter’s romantic relationships. I’ve been in conversations about how controlling/judgmental/disapproving moms can be. I’ve witnessed my nieces and sisters grow through stages where they felt ashamed of their mothers (and mother’s likewise, ashamed of their daughters for some action or misdeed), only to come back, make up and continue fostering a loving relationship.
Because I am an outsider to those relationships, I can see from a unique vantage point how these soul relationships are blessed, even despite the disharmony that may be present. As I am present to the void of being a motherless daughter, I cherish watching these relationships unfold, regardless of drama, however big or small.
I can see and bless these dynamics as a way for two people to grow through their differences in order (god-willing) to have a more coherent relationship.
Just about 3 decades have passed for me to unpack and process my grief. I have lived through grief in various stages; all shades, shapes, and sizes. Through the deaths of boyfriends, friends, family and the family pet, which I have found to be the most exquisite of all pain. I suspect I’ll always be a work in progress.
Every time a loss is suffered, grief brings up all the unprocessed pain, and I’d find myself dealing with it all over again.
Over the years, I have become intimate with the grieving process, and frankly, I am a better human being because of it. Little by little, I deepen, aging like a fine bottle of Scotch whisky 😉.
Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sufi poet writes: "The wound is where the Light enters You."
Indeed. There were days when I couldn’t think about my mom without tears in my eyes. Even after so many years, not a day goes by that I do not think of my beloved Mommy.
The Maternal Bond
I have been a daughter to my mom for the first 16 years of my life. I, myself, am a Mother to 2 amazing souls. Over the decades and in between, I have had the privilege to witness the beautiful dynamic and maternal bond that is present with moms and their children.
The bond is a give and take. It is a push and pull. It is a coming together and a falling apart.
Very much like a pulse and a heartbeat, there is a rhythm to every mother-child relationship. Our relationships with our mother (as with each of our children) is a sacred one.
Losing my mother at 16 years old, I had no idea of the magnitude of loss I faced.
Because, when I was 16, the last thing I wanted to do was let Mom in.
- I didn’t know how much I needed her hugs and tender touch when a boy broke my heart. Over the course of many broken hearts, I have needed her counsel, her reassurance, her loving embrace.
- I didn’t know how much I needed her to be witness to my graduations - to see me receive diplomas for high school, bachelors and masters degrees. I have needed her approval, her pride, her encouragement.
- I didn’t know I needed her on my wedding day. After the ups and downs of my 20s, I wanted her to see that I finally found the right guy for me. I had finally found Love! ...or perhaps, Love has found me? I desperately needed to share and celebrate this momentous occasion with my Mom.
- I didn’t know how much I needed her presence when I gave birth the first time, nor the second.
The void is real.
Her physical presence would have been really nurturing and reassuring for me during the birthing process (She did give birth 8 children!). After the baby was born, I craved Chinese herbal remedies and yearned for those ancient Chinese secrets that she took to the grave with her.
Sure, I have been blessed with mother figures - souls that have stepped into my life to offer gentle guidance and care. Feminine, strong, incredible women role models have been at my side to counsel and support me, emotionally and spiritually.
At the end of the day, however, when all is awry, all I wanted was my mom - to be in her loving arms again, safe, knowing that I am loved no matter what.
Even though each and everyone of us has a different experience of mom, Moms represent unconditional love and nurturing.
Moms give life.
She is our first home, and from this source energy, Mom literally built every cell in our body, with the exception of course, to the 23 vital chromosomes from our biological fathers.
Just for the miracle of giving life in itself, mother’s are a marvel and worthy of great celebration!
As we take an even deeper look, we may realize an opportunity beyond roles: we get to be present to the distinctive and personal relationship of a mother and her baby (you!).
Room to Deepen
This post is written to the sons and daughters who still have living Mothers - Moms - Mommies in their lives. Regardless of age, the relationship dynamic or otherwise, there is always room to strengthen the maternal bond.
Take it from an orphan, you don’t know what you’ve got in a Mama until she's gone. However distant or loving you may be in your relationship with your mother, I am sharing these points below with you, from a place of great admiration and hope.
No longer do I have the opportunity for physical contact with my mom. My relationship with her is a Spiritual One.
Those with moms who physically still walk the Earth have an unbridled chance to experience Love, in the relationship with their Mom as source energy.
Life is Short
One day, she’ll be gone.
Cherish what you have now, and mindfully look for ways to deepen your relationship with your mother.
Through the years of processing, I have grown up: literally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have processed the void of losing my mom in all sorts of ways. I have matured, allowing grief and pain to be my teachers. As mom is no longer physically present, I have developed a deep spiritual relationship with my mom.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I share with you 6 Simple Ways to Love Your Mom below.
If you are a mother and are looking for ways to deepen your relationship with your child (be it with daughter/son/adult children), these also prove to be insightful.
M . O . T . H . E . R .
Make moments. For many of us, Moms are a fixture. We think she will always be around. Guess what? She will not.
Remember college when home = laundry? For many of us, moms = ordinary life, and we may become methodical in our interactions with our moms, as though nothing extraordinary is happening.
Truth is, what we may deem as mundane and ordinary IS extraordinary - it is the moments of our lives unfolding.
The true value of a moment is not fully realized until it becomes a memory. Rather than intentionally making memories (eg taking snapshots or selfies to share with others and show off), we need to slow down and create space for moments to unfold.
Being present to what is happening - our precious and conscious decision to be present - presence itself - is the foundation for a moment to moment experience.
Rather than capturing memories or getting busy planning a plan to include mom in your Instagram feed ... the practice is to simply BE PRESENT.
Be present to her, at the moment when your soul meets her soul.
Pay attention to her voice, the way her face lights up, or how she cuts the vegetables. Rather than thinking about making a memory and capturing it on digital media, create a space for sacred moments to unfold.
Focus on the moments you want to create: Be with her and be present to her. Experience what is right in front of you.
Each fleeting moment can be of great value - make it count by living it fully: by unyieldingly being awake and present to the moment, and the beautiful dynamic of your relationship.
O: Open Up
Let Oprah be your inspiration to open up. Talk to her and talk with her. Go deep. Ask questions. Be curious about her life, and her path.
She was once a child. She was once your age too! Who is this person, before she became Mom?
Ask her to tell you about her first love, her greatest victories and her deepest disappointments in life. What was it like for her as she said her wedding vows? While she was giving birth to you? When she lost her first love?
Get to know her as a person and a soul. She is so much more than just the role of her lifetime: Mom.
If you listen objectively, without judgment, to really want to know her soul, I bet you’ll discover a deeper side of her, learn a bit more about her, which will not only strengthen your relationship bond, but may also give you deeper insight to understanding yourself.
Give generously of your time. Good grief, our lives have become so busy and full that we may tend to forget to carve out special (or any) time with mom.
We may rush from here to here, get on (and off) FaceTime or Skype quickly; run off with the kids somewhere; or to that ”important” planning meeting. Next time you interact with your mom: stop, breath, slow down and give yourself (and her) time to be present to your conversation.
Is there something deeper that is going on with her that you may have missed because you were in a hurry?
Is there something deeper going on with you that you want to share with her? Or don’t want to share with her?
What’s on your heart that you are not sharing? What is holding you back from being 100% authentic with what's going on with you?
Even though some of these questions may be best used as reflection questions, actually taking the time to ponder them will provide invaluable insight to help you understand your relationship with your mom, and with yourself.
Help her. Be of assistance. Is there something you can do to make her life easier? If so, it may be a great opportunity to be her hero - to help her with a project, a task or even to help her better understand you.
Sometimes, helping doesn’t just mean just physical help. You can help your mom greatly just by asking her how she’s feeling. Knowing that you care deeply about her and lovingly verbalizing your concern can help her see she is not alone.
Moms provide emotional support to children, and as we feel strong, we can also reciprocate emotional support to mom in return. This is part of the love contract, after all.
Don’t just tolerate your mom - celebrate her for the soul she is!
Embrace her for all of who she is and encourage her to go for her dreams!
As the children, we often forget that our moms are human beings. We simply take for granted that they are “made that way” and forget that they too, are on their soul’s path. Part of their path is you - their baby! And you both are indelibly linked.
Give her leeway to grump and complain - Truth is, we all do. Then, as a friend and soul companion, be her champion and love her anyway!
This is my favorite: ask yourself, how and by what do you want her to remember you?
Do you really want your mom to remember you as too busy for her? Would you rather than she remember you as invisible? manic? creative? messy? stoic? emotional? capable? cautious? warm? generous? loving? unloving?
No judgment here.
Whatever you value and however you care to be remembered, make sure you are conveying your values and sharing them with your mom with consistent action, words and deeds.
On a similar note, how and what do you want to remember her by? Having these questions to ask of yourself will set you up to build an intentional relationship, providing a platform to unending love and honor for your mom.
Some (Most) of these are not tangible Mother’s Day gifts. They cannot be sold, traded or bartered. Your presence to yourself and your relationship with your mom is The Gift.💝
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller
True love and overflowing gratitude comes from the heart. Whether you are starting, building or repairing your relationship with your mom, the heart is a very good place to start. ❤️
Happy Mother’s Day to the mothering energy within us all, and to all moms & mother figures everywhere!🙋🏻♀️