She didn’t end up making it out of the rehab in time to witness her grandson’s birth, but she eventually made it home a few weeks later. When her strength didn’t resume as we had all expected, her oncologist paid a housecall to let us know that the cancer had spread even further, and that she should cease all treatment and start hospice care. She slipped into a coma one evening as my newborn son, Henry, and I lay beside her, and she died the next evening, with my brother and me by her side, having given us time to say our goodbyes, tell her how much we loved her, and reassure her that we would be okay.
The Mother’s Days since have been tinged with bittersweet longing. While I’m crazy about my boys and appreciate however they want to celebrate the day, I miss having someone to honor. Sure, I call my dad’s partner and wish her a happy Mother’s Day and send my favorite aunt (my mom’s youngest sister) a pair of earrings much like ones I would have chosen for my mom, but there will always be something missing. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a single mom, but I always felt the need to really make something of the day for her—to show her how deeply I felt she was doing a great job. And now I also miss her vote of confidence in my parenting, since it felt like it was coming from the pro.
I try to keep or create who she was for my boys, who didn’t get to really know her. My older son, Ben, has vague memories of her (or maybe just memories of what I’ve told him they did together, since he only two when she died), but my younger son Henry just a few weeks old when she passed away. She was too weak to even hold him.