The dreaded leadup to Mothers’ Day

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So here we are – that dreaded leadup to Mother’s Day. Everywhere you look, there’s roses, high teas, chocolates and endless, inspiring poems. But for some, its just a reminder of what we don’t have.

My beautiful mum died last year and to be honest, I’m dreading Mothers Day. It’s a day when that gaping hole opens up even wider just to remind you what you’re missing.

Today I’m meeting with a woman who has just lost her husband to cancer. They have two young kids. It’s a weird time that time between the death of a loved one and the day of the funeral. I heard myself saying that the preparation is just as important as the day itself. We need to take the time and remember, only get one chance. Keep the memory alive.

So in the shower this morning I’m thinking I should be taking my own advice. I’m going to turn this leadup into Mothers Day into a time of preparation.

So what’s the plan Stan?

Mothers Day this year is Sunday 12 May. In the two weeks leading up to then ie commencing today, I’m going to focus on a different memory each day.

Its Old School – I’m going to go through all my old photos and chose 14 different photos of Mum that evoke strong memories – a memory that takes me back to that time, just like it was yesterday. I can almost feel her.

Each day that photo will stay with me – on the visor of my car, in front of my computer at work, on the fridge while I’m doing the dishes, and then on my bedside at night.

When I wake up the next morning, the next photo takes its place.

This is not some research grief strategy I’ve read about – its just a random thing I’ve thought of to help me work through my own grief. And its about taking my own advice – the preparation is so important. Take the time to reflect and be grateful. And hopefully, by the time Mother’s Day arrives, my mum’s memory is well and truly alive, and I’ve managed to give her memory the time it deserves. Who knows, in doing so, I may even have got a little bit further through my own grief journey.

Stay with me if you want to see 14 of my most treasured snapshots……………….

1. Day 1 – My Mum as a happy child

2. Day 2 – Mum sitting on the verandah in Strong St, Terang.

Obviously I wasn’t yet around at this time, but I remember Mum (who was quite tall) and her bestie Aunty Lois (who was quite short!) sharing so many tales of this wonderful time in their lives – making beautiful dresses and then heading off to dances.

3. Day 3 – I’ve arrived on the scene!

This is the first photo I can remember of mum and I when I was a baby. I’m sure there were many others taken, but without Mum here, I don’t have any idea where they are. I was the firstborn to Mum and Dad, and am the eldest of five. We had a very blessed childhood filled with love, fairness and boundaries. I was a raging redhead and quite determined, even from a young age. As I got older, I’ve realised Mum was a master at picking her battles. I tried to learn from you Mum.

4. Day 4 – Love the 80s fashion

Mum was a wonderful seamstress and taught us all to sew. She was never idle. I was always amazed how she could sit in front of the TV knitting full speed – didn’t even have to look. The sewing machine would be going at all hours of the night as mum made beautiful debut and graduation dresses for us all. My how times have changed!

5. Day 5 – The weddings begin

With four girls in four years, the weddings were bound to come quickly. This is mum and dad sometime in the late 80’s. I’ve got no idea how they managed to afford it, and how they can look so jolly. I guess they knew the grandchildren were about to start arriving! It was a wonderful decade in our lives as the next generation started to arrive.

6. Day 6 – Our beloved Norma

Mum was an older sister to Wayne and Norma. Normie as we all liked to call her, had Downs Syndrome. When Nan died, Normie just came to live with us and we thought it was normal. It wasn’t till years later, I worked out how much we learnt from having her in our lives. Mum was an incredible role model and big sister. She showed us the way to have compassion and empathy always. Love you for that Mum.

7. Day 7 – Camping

As a kid, the best holidays were camping. I remember one holiday, we travelled to Narooma on the South Coast pulling our caravan. We stopped halfway for a break, and when mum checked the caravan, she found the family cat inside. She tried to be really cranky about it, saying one of us kids had hidden the cat in there. But in the end she just laughed and said, “Well we’ll have to make the best of it because we are not taking her back.!” There you go – that’s how you adapt!

8. Day 8 – Get your dancing shoes on

Mum and Dad were great dancers – especially jiving to the old rock ‘n roll songs. Another artform lost. I used to love watching them. Mum loved all music and always had these crazy CD’s in her car for the kids. There was one in particular called ‘Hernandoes Hideaway’ which my kids always associate with their beloved Marnie. I’ve got some in my car now Mum to inspire Mila!

9. Day 9 – Quandeine

We grew up on a small acreage in Dubbo on a property called ‘Quandeine’ . When I showed Maddie this photo, she said ‘this was our life as kids.’ We lived across the road from Mum and Dad, and often the kids would get off the bus and head straight to their house. They knew Mum closed the pantry at 4pm because it would spoil their tea if they ate any later. Living so close to them, we shared many wonderful memories. Looking at this photo and I’m sure it’s why I love the phrase “If we all just pitch in!” Teamwork, that’s it Mum.

10. Day 10 – Happy Birthday to You!

Birthdays were, and are, a huge thing in our family. It’s a day to celebrate. But it wasn’t about material things; just about being the Guest of Honour for a day. Mum was a great cook and her go-to birthday cake was chocolate. She would no more buy one at the shop, than fly to the moon. I really love this photo of Mum because she led the charge on birthday celebrations; but even when it was her birthday, she made it about the grandchildren. I do my best to keep the ritual going Mum but sometimes I just don’t get how you managed to do it all (I’ve had to buy one from the shop every now and then!!)

11. Day 11 – Aotearoa

In 2004, we moved to New Zealand. It took Mum a while to process this – not because Don and I were going, but because we were taking the kids with us! We had always had a wonderful association with New Zealand since I was an Exchange Student there in 1982. When I married a Kiwi, my host family (the Holmes) thought it was wonderful and our families shared many special times. I think this photo was Christmas 2012 – it was our last Christmas in NZ and we were so lucky to have the Holmes family join us. The following Easter, Mock Holmes suddenly died and now both of our families grieve the loss of two magnificent women. This Christmas we spent dancing on the deck with the girls trying to teach Mum how to use pois. It was hilarious and reminded me that Mum would give anything a go – don’t worry about what people will think.

12. Day 12 – To love and to cherish

We have been incredibly blessed to have such amazing parents. A few short years ago, Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We managed to surprise them with a garden celebration, that included bringing their original wedding party back together. Mum hadn’t seen one of her bridesmaids for over 20 years and didn’t even know where she lived. But we tracked her down and got her up to Dubbo to celebrate. It was so special for us to be able to give something back to them. Their love and devotion to each other, through thick and thin, guides all of us. We are grateful every day.

13. Day 13 – Mum’s legacy

So here we are nearly at Mother’s Day. These are my siblings with Mum and Dad, and I can’t help but think Mum would be looking down on us with a bit of a smile. We’ve all turned out to be pretty decent human beings with a strong sense of family. My sisters, and my sister-in-law Cindy, are all beautiful mums and we will all feel that sense of emptiness tomorrow. But we’ll pull together Mum and be reminded to be grateful for all we have. We hope we have done you proud Mum.

14. Day 14 – Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has arrived. There are so many photos I could have chosen for this last, special day of Mum’s tribute. I thought long and hard about using a photo of our whole family but in the end, this photo won out. It was taken at my ‘Thrifty Fifty’ birthday bash. This photo seems to capture all the other aspects I’ve focused on : birthdays, dancing, family, fun, the party was in a shed – so a bit like camping!. And finally, it’s of me and my beautiful Mum. I miss you so much but this journey has helped me realise how lucky I am. You are here, you are around me everyday and I am so grateful. Happy Mother’s Day Mum. I love you.