The last formal family photo with Tina Eubanks in March 2006, nine months before she passed away.
There are times after the loss of your mother when rational thought does not come easy. On social media people are posting pictures of their mother, and a mix of emotions emerge–pain, anger, regret, happiness. In your head you know that everyone who has their mother is doing exactly what they should … what you would be doing if your mother was still here. You would visit her, have a meal, give her cards, and tell her how much she means to you, but you cannot. I don’t know this feeling firsthand. My mother is still here, a survivor of cancer and cancer free for almost 30 years. When I was married in 1988 my mother was undergoing cancer treatment. She is still here, but the mother of my children is not. My children were 12, 8, and 5 when their mother passed away. Nearly a decade later, they miss her every day. Of course most people lose their mother at some point and it is always hard, but going through your childhood and teenage years without her is a unique kind of pain.
As a father of three hurting children I wanted to do what most men want to do, fix it, but this can’t be fixed. I tried many things and found ways to survive Mother’s Day. Decision number one was to skip church and don’t eat out on Sundays. It is too painful to see everyone else with their mothers. Decision number two was to do something different, not sit around the house moping. The first year I took them to the pet store and bought them all hamsters. I wouldn’t recommend you do that, really, but at least it gave us something to smile about that day and the stories we have are fun memories. For us, a mixture of diversion and remembering has worked. We have settled on visiting my mother most of the time. She and my wife were very close and the she is adored by my children. She has filled many mothering roles for them.
Deciding what to do is not easy. I had to try to perceive the thoughts and feelings of my children. Knowing what one wants during grief is difficult. Even the griever does not know for sure except that they want the one thing they can’t have. It is even harder to discern the feelings and needs of children. The key is to stop trying to make them feel a certain way. Listen, observe, and discern how they already feel. Address that. One thing I learned early on for them is that visiting the cemetery was not something that helped them at all, so we didn’t. That ritual is only for the living and if it doesn’t help, don’t do it. You have to find a middle ground of remembering without being maudlin, distracting without dishonoring. I can’t say I have always done it right. Most days we have moved on and are living the life before us, but on Mother’s Day she must be honored and remembered.