Missing Her

When death shrouds Mother’s Day

Aabye-Gayle F.

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Closeup of a puzzle with a piece missing in the center.
“Just like a puzzle with a missing piece, without her my family is incomplete.” {Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash}

I thought I’d be better at this by now — missing her. Some years it’s not as bad. Other years it feels unbearable. Time has helped, but time also hurts. The loss grows less foreign each year. But each year also carries me further away from her.

When my mother died, I thought the world would surely cease — or at least it would stop mattering to me. But it’s been over twenty years and there is still much to live for, even though I’m still acutely missing her.

All I can do is wonder how different our lives would be if she were still among the living. Just like a puzzle with a missing piece, without her my family is incomplete. Her death shattered my family. We lost each other and ourselves for a while. Some of us broke down. Others pulled away. We all suffered while putting on a brave face.

All I can do is remember and miss her. Miss her love, her advice, her hugs, and her laughter. I miss her cooking and the way she enjoyed her food. I miss her combing my hair and the scent of her perfume. I even miss hearing her sing off tune. I miss the sound of her calling my name. I miss our talks, her jokes, and the way she lived her faith. I miss when she challenged or embarrassed me. Missing a loved one means missing everything.

When my mother died, I didn’t know how I could possibly survive without her. Every happy occasion’s joy felt tempered. Every challenge felt exponentially harder. Loss is never inert. It always takes energy. Some days the burden is manageable. Other days it’s impossibly heavy.

Missing her means Mother’s Day is shrouded with death in my family. It’s a day we can’t escape our experience of unexpected loss — of unforeseen tragedy. Without a mother to shower with gifts, if it isn’t sad, it’s at least very awkward — all those commercials that don’t apply to us.

I never know how to best mark this day. Just as I’m never sure how long to stand beside her grave. Will I focus on my fond memories or want to wallow in the pain? Every year is different. My mourning ebbs and flows like the waves.

Missing her has become a part of being me. Both her life and her death have shaped who I am. Figuring out how to live without her is a challenge I’m still facing. It’s more than twenty years later, and I still sometimes get lost in my grief.

Missing her has first and foremost taught me this: Death is a difficult thing to live with.

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