Every year as Mother's Day approaches, I feel a sadness creep in. I miss my Mom. My first Mother's Day without her was the first Mother's Day I was a mom; albeit, my bundle of joy was nestled comfortably within my womb, I was a mother nonetheless. I remember that first year, being a jumble of hormones and emotions, breaking down in sobs during church as the message was all about moms and how lucky we were to have them and should honor them on that day. The ache in my heart was so intense. I never thought I'd be going through life, especially the joy of becoming a mother, without my own mom. I was a mere 26 years old that Mother's Day and was quite without the mother I needed. Every year I reflect internally and in writing about how amazing my Mom was and what a big hole she left when she passed away nearly 18 years ago. I get sad. I feel ripped off that she was called to Heaven so early in my life and in the prime (age 59) of hers.
But this year, I wanted to focus on something a little less gloomy...the way that God has placed people in my life here and there who sometimes fill a little of that hole in my heart left by the lack of a present Mom. While by and large, I did everything on my own including going through pregnancy, delivery, taking care of my newborns, teething, potty training, and raising them to the beautiful tween and teen that they are, there are some friends who on occasion filled a need I had where my Mom no longer could. These precious friends were probably completely unaware of how they'd blessed me and they weren't necessarily old enough to be my mother, some were not even close. But we all have that innate need sometimes to have someone just step in and help, encourage, pray for us, give some advice, just hug us in a way only a mom can.
One of my "Mom Substitutes" has been my sister-in-law Terri. She's got mothering in her blood. After all, she was a kindergarten teacher and has been a long-time day care provider, Sunday School teacher, and Vacation Bible School teacher. She's practically my same age, but she's been in our family since well before my Mom passed away and grieves her loss too. She knew how special Mom was. Terri has been there for the birth of both of my babies; maybe not right in the room, but waiting not far outside. When battling Crohn's and in some pretty serious surgeries and health crises, she was at the hospital (sometimes even taking me there!), once even spending the night with me while I suffered in immense pain, 20-some weeks pregnant with my son, even when she had kids coming the next day. She asks about my health, if I'm eating right and doing what I'm supposed to, just like Mom did. And during those times of suffering, she was the one caring for my kids so I could heal in the hospital. When tragedy struck my children and I a few years ago when their father passed away suddenly, it was Terri (and my brother and nephews) who opened their home to us without question and we lived with them until we gained strength to move on to our own new place. Terri is always there for me, even though distance separates us, for a hug, an encouraging text, and a promise to pray for me.
Another Substitute Mom has been my dear friend Patti. Patti is a hoot. She's funny, unique, beautiful, a little sassy, and literally would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it. Patti filled a gap for me just by being her caring, nurturing self. She hugs on my kids, encourages them, and is always there to listen. I remember crying in her kitchen over something or other a few years ago, and she was right there with a caring heart and understanding words for me. I felt better when I left. Everyone always feels better when they leave Patti's house because she makes them feel like they're the only person on Earth and treats them like gold (just like my Mom did).
My friend Mary is a Godsend. Mary started communicating with me a few years ago through cards that came in the mail out of the blue. We both attended the same church but didn't yet know each other as we went to different services. She had reached out to me and sent me notes of encouragement and prayer, and blessed me more than she knows. Since that time, our friendship has grown. My children love her and her husband Jerry, and so do I. They've filled a need for me that they probably don't realize, being parental roles for me and my kids, and literally and figuratively embracing us and being loving, fun, generous friends.
My Aunt Mary, my Mom's sister, was a Substitute Mom to me. We would spend hours talking on the phone about anything and everything. She is a very sweet, loving person who knew firsthand how fabulous my Mom was and understood my pain and how much I missed her. During another Crohn's health crisis years ago, Aunt Mary drove me to the doctor one morning when I called her in serious pain, no way to drive myself, and a toddler at my side. When things got dicy later, she spent a long day with me getting an IV infusion at a hospital an hour away, something loving, sacrificial, and very mom-like.
More recently, I've been blessed with a new Mom Substitute, my mother-in-law, Sharon. Although I was previously married, I'd never had in-laws so this has been a new experience for me and a great one. Sharon has already given me a tremendous gift, her son. His parents raised him well and that's why I chose him. She's been very supportive and loving towards me and my children, and welcomed us into the family. She's very intelligent, funny, and exactly my kind of person, and I'm so happy God gave me a good mother-in-law who is not only a mother figure but a friend.
I know there are many Mom Substitutes I've had over the years. Some maybe I didn't even know their names, but gave me a kind, motherly word in a one-time encounter in a store, hospital or restaurant or really any old place. None can replace my Mom or BE my Mom; there was no one quite exactly like her, but they were there to fill that hole a little and lift me up when I needed it. I'm completely grateful to each of them and always will be. While they may not even know the impact they've made on my life and how they warmed my heart and even healed it a little, I will never forget their kindnesses and will always be warmed by their words and actions, especially on days like Mother's Days.
If your mother is living, embrace her and treat her extra special, not just for this holiday but every day. If you didn't have such a close relationship with your mom, be on the lookout for those Substitute Moms that may find their way across your path. Accept the gift of filling that gap you might have in absence of your own mom. If this is a painful holiday for you, seek out someone who might be quite without a daughter or a mother and take her a little flower or gift. You don't have to give birth or even be related to honor someone's role as Mom.
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