anne mikolay 2018My mother passed away twenty-six years ago. After all this time, do I still miss my mom? Absolutely.

My mother was a constant, shining light in my world; her death extinguished that light. The day she died my world instantly became smaller, less bright. Nothing was ever the same again, certainly not me. I was different. A part of my identity died with my mother, and I suddenly felt less than, less than I was when she was with me.

Immediately after Mom’s death, I walked around with a raw heart and struggled daily to suppress an underlying sadness in everything I did. I operated on auto-pilot and felt strangely removed from everything around me. Little things, once taken for granted, were greatly missed and underscored my mother’s absence. Holidays, for example, were just not right without her puttering around in the kitchen, fixing her delicious mashed potatoes; nothing was ever truly right again. Life was diminished without my mother.

My sons were young when my mother passed. The oldest was three; thankfully, he has vague memories of her. My youngest, who was six months old at the time, has no memory of her, a fact which breaks my heart to this day. He will never know my mother’s caring, see her smile, hear her laugh, or experience the contentment of simply sharing a cup of tea with her. He will never remember how she rocked him and cuddled him in his infancy, even as she battled the pain of her illness. But, as they say, life goes on. I learned to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Grief, I have learned, is a mysterious thing. Contrary to the platitudes, people do not get over loss, and time does not heal all wounds. Grief is steadfast. It never goes away. It takes up permanent residence within you; you become accustomed to it. You learn to accept it, to handle it, but grief will not be ignored. It pops up unexpectedly to remind you it’s there, a force to be reckoned with, especially on certain days, like Mother’s Day.

And then one day I looked in the mirror; my reflection was a revelation. I clearly saw my mother’s face looking back at me. My features were her features. I had never much resembled my mother, but age had corrected that. It’s her mouth, her nose, her eyes I see when I glance in the mirror. It’s her voice I hear when I sing or laugh. More importantly, it’s her wisdom I impart to my sons as they tackle life’s challenges. It’s her gentleness that passes through me when I hold my little dog, feed the backyard birds and squirrels, or comfort someone in need. It’s her joy I feel when I realize my little boys have grown into good, respectful young men.

Despite such epiphany, grief does not subside. It is, ironically, an effective, perpetual teacher. Twenty-six years after my mother passed, I am just now realizing her death did not extinguish her light. I may feel diminished by her absence, but in truth, I am not. I am the person I am because of who my mother was. Her light lives in and through me, granting me comfort this Mother’s Day and always.