This will be the first year I won’t be able to pick up the phone and wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day. Cancer took her sweet voice and twinkling laughter from me last summer. Since then I’ve dreaded the coming of Mother’s Day. I feared I’d spend the day curled up in the fetal position while everyone around me posted photos of their moms with the caption “I can’t imagine my life without my loving Mom!”
We, humans, thrive on rituals. Whether happy or sad occasions, we mark major life events with a prescribed activity. We baptize, circumcise, blow out candles and open presents. We don silly block hats and capes to walk across a stage and collect a piece of paper. We host showers, wakes, and funerals. We exchange rings and vows and even jump over broomsticks.
And on Mother’s Day, we send flowers and cards, have brunch, or at least call our mamas.
Now that I will likely spend more than half my life without my Mom, I need a new ritual for Mother’s Day. I want it to be something I can do every year, and something my kids might enjoy too. I’ve collected a list of ways to commemorate a lost parent on Mother’s & Father’s Day, for myself and other moms in the same boat.
I decided to honor my mom by dedicating a little patch of my backyard as “Grandma’s Garden”. The only challenge is I definitely do NOT have a green thumb. I’ll stick to hardy hosta plants and one of my mom’s favorites, Lily of the Valley, both of which will still flourish under my neglectful watch. So my “garden” is not going to be about plants as much as it will be a collection of outdoor figurines. Everything from angels and fairies to gnomes and animals. I used to laugh at my mom’s growing penchant for polyresin outdoor décor. Now my Mother’s Day ritual will be adding a new whimsy to Grandma’s Garden each year. Our first installment is a guardian angel overlooking two youngsters, who happen to look a lot like my 5-year-old twins.
You can look to both Etsy and your local jeweler for a special gift that commemorates your lost loved one. My mom wore the same necklace every day for the last 10 years of her life, a gift from my dad for their 40th wedding anniversary. My husband took the necklace to a local trusted jeweler in Atlanta, Cumberland Diamond Exchange, where they were able to make a replica. If you’ve inherited jewelry of some sort from your loved one, perhaps Mother’s Day/Father’s Day would give you motivation to have a professional repurpose the piece for you.
There are tons of budget-friendly options on Etsy too. I adore this necklace: it’s created with your loved one’s handwriting! Chances are you or someone in your family has a card tucked away in a drawer signed by mom or dad. Such a neat idea and so easy to order!
Make a Toast
Another easy way to celebrate a lost parent on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is to serve one of their favorite meals or drinks. Was your Dad famous for his chili? Did he cook a mean steak? Maybe your mom loved baking cookies or made a legendary lasagna, like my mom. Now might be a good time to try your hand at their recipe. Sure, it won’t be as good. And that’s ok. It makes you appreciate the special touch your mom or dad had that can never really be replicated.
If you’re not feeling brave enough to attempt a recipe, just visit one of your mom or dad’s favorite restaurants and order their favorite dish/drink. I’m always on the hunt for a place that serves Brioche French Toast!
Memories with Media
Remember the old mix tapes of your youth? Nowadays you can put together a playlist of your mom or dad’s favorite songs in mere minutes. Ask their relatives if they recall any favorites songs, bands, or concerts your mom or dad attended in their younger years. Play the songs for your kids and see what they think. I’m still waiting for my 5-year-olds to fully appreciate the literary genius of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Did your mom have a favorite book or author? Or did she give you a book as a gift? Mother’s Day would be a great occasion to read something she loved or picked out for you, even if it’s not your typical genre. My grandmother (my mom’s mother) gave me the book Gone With the Wind for my 14th birthday. I happened to pick it up and re-read it after she died when I was 24. I got so much more out of it that second time, I vowed to read it every 10 years as I passed through different life stages. I’ll be on my 4th go-around in the not-so-distant future…
There’s always movies or TV shows. Maybe this Father’s Day you can stream some episodes of Cheers, M*A*S*H, Happy Days, or The Jeffersons.
Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
If you’re lucky enough to live near places your loved one enjoyed visiting, take advantage of Mother’s Day/Father’s Day weekend to revisit one of their favorites. You could also try out one of their hobbies. It’s a great time of year for golf or picking strawberries in honor of a golfer or gardener. If your mom was crafty, check out a class at Michaels or another local craft store.
I’d give anything for just one more hour to spend with my mom, and I keep trying to reconnect with her somehow, whether through “Grandma’s Garden” or a pan of lasagna. Sometimes I watch my 5-year-old daughter and feel like I’m flipping through the yellowed pages of my own baby book. It makes me stop and realize that I myself am the closest connection I have to my mom. And the single best way I can honor her memory on Mother’s Day is to celebrate all the ways she contributed to making me the person I am: the woman that I am, the wife that I am, and especially the mother that I am.