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You'd think that after 10 years and four children, I'd take Mother's Day off.

But I can't.

I haven't been able to take ownership of Mother's Day since my own mother passed away. This year marks the 10th anniversary of her death, and this year, instead of just being sad, I am surprisingly confused.

I'm bewildered because so much has happened in 10 years and so little has actually changed. While both her daughters have moved, changed jobs, experienced life's joys and tragedies and she now has six grandchildren; it's as though emotionally I've never left that cold dark day when we lost her. I still can't help but miss her terribly. It's a childlike kind of grief that doesn't mature with reason or time. I would have thought that the 10-year mark would earn me a plaque or at least a better grasp of my sorrow.

Losing my Mom has changed my motherhood experience, so naturally it has changed my perception of Mother's Day. I think for those of us who have lost their own mothers, Mother's Day isn't a day off -- it's just a day on for our second job: mourning.

I've moonlighted at this particular career for a decade now; lying awake listing the should, could, and would of's and wrestling with the nightmares. But Mother's Day is a grueling double shift with a cranky boss and no overtime pay.

Nonetheless, I punch the clock for the one fringe benefit. Those puddles of light that spill from my own kids' homemade cards and inedible breakfasts. I love to see their pride in their gifts of clay flower pots and refrigerator art. Their little faces beaming with such unmitigated joy is the greatest gift any mother could ask for.

But these are the exact moments that I want to share with my Mom. I still long to have her read those cards over my shoulder or feign delicious French toast. It is within these moments of aching duality that I find most frustrating as a parent--wanting to be the best mother I can be, and wanting the best mother back to show me how.

They say that motherhood is the toughest job in the world. I would add that those of us who've lost our own mothers work very hard to get through our one day off.

I wrote this piece for Whoa Momma two years ago. While the experience of writing it was cathartic, it was the many reader comments that followed that truly made it rewarding. It was so wonderful to hear your memories of your own mothers who have passed, and how you keep her special memory alive. Here are just a few that I kept as comfort on Mother's Day and beyond, and offer a belated thank you for sharing them.

* "My sister and I lost our mom almost 6 months ago. Sunday will be very hard, I will spend the day like I do everyday remembering all the wonderful times and keeping the memories close to my heart. She was an amazing woman and I hope to be the wife, mother and best friend she was."

* "Thanks for the article. My mom died on May 11, 1990, which was the Friday before Mother's Day. We had the visitation at the funeral home on Mother's Day. Each year is still hard especially the years that Mother's Day is actually the anniversary of the day she died. She wasn't here to see me get married or to see my children. I try to celebrate because my children enjoy making it special for me but it is till one of the hardest days of each year."

* "I miss my mother too, especially on Mother's Day. It's not the same even though I have 3 children of my own...Time does heal and it takes a long long time but eventually you have to consider that your children need you to be the mom that you long to have yourself."

* "...I find the bright spots throughout the day. I love the cards, hugs, kisses and gifts my kids me, but it only makes me wish that mother was here to see them and to see me with them. My dad always told me that mother has the "best seat in the house" to watch over me, I keep that in mind, always."

--Tracey Henry

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Posted by Sharon Wynne at 8:27:06 pm on May 03, 2011