We turned around, we blinked, and suddenly it has been five years since I last wished you a Happy Mother's Day in person. I still have to do the math as I write that. Five years? Could it really be that long already?
I can remember the first mother's day that Tracy spent without you. That was a hard one. My mom visited, and other people reached out, and that was nice. But none of it really mattered to your daughter. She missed you. So much that it hurt. And even though it had been four months since your passing she could still hardly believe that you were gone. There was a surreal-ness to it all. Like it couldn't really be true. People, everywhere, can't simply just loose their mothers and go on living like nothing has changed. Can they?
But what she didn't quite grasp then was that you don't loose your mother and go on living unchanged. It changes you. The grief sucks you in and molds you. It's like taking a piece of dough and kneading it. Thoroughly pounding and stretching it. Love and exertion and tears mix into the batter. And then it is rolled out - stretched until it becomes something else entirely. And as it bakes it finishes the transition. No longer an unsuspecting ball of dough. Now it is bread. Not better or worse. Just very different.
But after only four months without you she was still drowning in the grief. Being pounded and kneaded but not yet ready to be stretched and rolled out. Five years later things are different. The transition is complete. Time has not lessened the grief but it has softened the rough edges. And what remains is a longing. Your daughter has come to terms with the fact that she will never again touch your face or feel the warmth of your hugs. But she misses you. And so do I.
This Mother's Day is different. As you know we have had a pretty phenomenal year. I don't know if you had any hand in choosing Mac for us, but if you did - WELL DONE! He is the absolute picture of perfection. He is everything that we hoped he would be and more than we could have ever imagined. Just like the early days after your death, when it seemed too inconceivable to believe that we would never see you again in this lifetime, it feels entirely unbelievable that he is ours. It's funny how those two extreme emotions, of grief and of gratitude, can feel the same in your stomach.
But it is in times of celebration that your daughter often feels your loss the most. And I know that you know this. Because every.single.time you send us a smiley face and let us know that you are watching. And we appreciate those smiley faces more than you will ever know. You taught your daughter to be skeptical, to protect herself and her heart. You taught her to be smart and think critically. And she is and does all of those things. But when you send her a smiley face she forgets all that. Her eyes well up with tears and she just believes. So thank-you. Please keep sending them.
As this Mother's Day approached I knew she was missing you. And I was hoping that you would send us a smiley face to let us know that you were watching, wishing your daughter a happy first Mother's Day from beyond this world. But my Mama taught me to make things happen so instead of waiting for you to send us a message I brought your daughter to you. I suggested that we visit your grave and see the smiley face on your tombstone instead.
I'm sorry we don't visit you there more. Although I know that you aren't there and that crying at a graveyard is the last thing you'd want us to be doing. We are more likely to find you when we turn up the music and dance around in the kitchen with Mac in our arms making silly faces. We are more likely to find you at a flea market bartering little old ladies out of their bingo winnings. We are more likely to find you in a smile. And, I promise, we do find you in those places. But today we also found you at your grave.
As we approached your tombstone, the one your husband lovingly picked out through red tear-filled eyes, I gave your daughter's hand a quick squeeze. She smiled and introduced you to your grandson who was full of coos and smiles and arm waves. And then she sat him down on your grave. Before I could stop myself I was lecturing her.
Babe don't let him sit there. It's disrespectful.
And your daughter laughed at me.
Do you think Shirley cares if he sits on top of her? She would want him to dance right here on this spot.
And then it was time to go so we said our good-byes and wished you a Happy Mother's Day. It was bitter sweet. And the bitter and the sweet worked together to make each other stronger. The sweetness of our precious baby boy was magnified by the bitter of your absence. And the bitter of your absence was magnified by the sweetness of our son.
I'm not sure why I started this letter and now I'm not sure how to end it. I just wanted you to know that you were not forgotten on this, or any other, Mother's Day. I want you to know that we are treasuring your grandson and taking the absolute best care of him that we can. And I want you to know that you raised your girl right. You would be so proud of the Mom she has become. Also, please keep sending us smiley faces. They never cease to make us smile.
Your always grateful daughter-in-law,
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