“I’m excited for Mother’s Day,” I said to Sal on the way to school.
“Am I finally going to see your mom?” He asked, matter of fact.
“No, Sal, you probably won’t see her. I am excited because you always make me a beautiful card,” I told him. “And I get to celebrate being your mother.”
“Oh,” he said a little disappointed.
“Will you see her as a ghost?” He pressed.
“I don’t think so Sal.” I reminded him, “I don’t see her anymore, you know that. But I am able to feel her and talk to her.”
“Can I see her as a hologram?” No doubt imagining her popping up in his Minecraft game.
“No, Sal.” I laughed. “But sometimes I do see her in my dreams.”
My heart ached in that good kind of way. There was something about the conversation that felt so compassionate to me. I felt gratitude for my son. In his own intuitive way, he must have known that there is love and consideration in the asking. If you’ve lost someone, especially if it’s been a while, you may understand. It gave me great hope. But more than that, it reinforced that the conversation around death and loss does not have to be taboo.
It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t even mention to my son that I had a mother. My fear and inability to trust told me that he couldn’t grasp and handle a conversation about death. But the truth is, I didn’t want him privy to the fact that sometimes we lose our mothers. It was too vulnerable for me, so I just kept my loss my own. Until the day came when he left me no choice.
“Why don’t we ever go to visit your mother, mommy?” He asked.
I was taken back. I didn’t have a good answer for him at the moment. I lied.
“Nonna (my mother in law) is my mommy.” I said as my heart pounded.
He laughed, “No she isn’t.”
His question was the catalyst for my knowing that he was ready and deserving of the conversation even if I didn’t have all the answers. So I shared with him what I believe about the mystery.
As I anticipate Mother’s Day, I know that I will celebrate my own mother, myself, the women in my life, but also my little one. He is my teacher. He came into my life as much a mystery as those who left it. He came and shook me up, stretched my healing in ways unimaginable and also gave me love. The only kind of love that matters, the unconditional kind.
Mother’s day is a day to honor relationships that have formed us, that have blessed us and challenged us. There is something eternal about that. My son is ahead of the game now. He understands that we never lose those we love, even if they only come to us in our dreams.
There is an unique alchemy that occurs when you are simultaneously filled with grief and gratitude at once. There are no words for the mystery and no way to convey how graceful and powerful those moments are.
So to all of you that are joyful and a little achey. To those of you celebrating the gift of being a mother, having a mother or missing a mother.
I honor you.