Reflecting on her mother’s death, Ruth Margalit writes, “I now mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar of grief”:
Meghan O’Rourke has a wonderful word for the club of those without mothers. She calls us not motherless but unmothered. It feels right—an ontological word rather than a descriptive one. I had a mother, and now I don’t. This is not a characteristic one can affix, like being paperless, or odorless. The emphasis should be on absence.
Freddie deBoer praises John Dickerson’s piece on his late mother. And Freddie remembers his “own mother, gone 25 years, somehow, this year”:
I am aware that her memory is passing grain by grain with those who loved her and have left us now themselves, I also know that as long as I am alive to feel that loss, her memory will persist, in a manner I neither want nor would wish away. Because for as far away as she seems to me now, memories like smoke, the truth is I still wake up in the night and feel that powerless grasping, reaching around in the dark for some object that I will never find, and it’s like it was yesterday, my father walking in that door, and I know that I will eat forever and not be fed, and within me that cold fire will burn forever.
A few readers share their sorrow:
My mother died on April 12 of this year.
While it was sudden, it was not unexpected, and it was the saddest day of my life. I have many friends who have lost their mothers, much younger than me (I am 56). It is mind-boggling to realize that whatever sympathy I had to offer – truly rang hollow. Not out of any oversight or short sightedness, but because the magnitude of the loss of one’s mother is not understood one iota, until it happens. Then it hits you like a ton of bricks.
My dear mama was one for superlatives; each year any celebration we had as a family was “the best one EVER!” This year Mother’s Day was decidedly the WORST one ever. I am now in a club that no one should ever be in a hurry to join, even though the majority of us will belong to it, eventually.
When someone who is “unmothered” reminds to you call, hug, kiss, and LOVE your mama – do it! I would give anything for one last superlative …
Your post struck a solid chord for me. My mother died when I was ten years old on the day after Christmas. She had been sick for two years, but nobody prepared my siblings and I. In our minds, people got sick, but then eventually they got better again. It happened 47 years and two stepmothers ago, but we still feel that ache.
For a while after her death, I found some comfort from the smell of her clothes, still hanging in a hall closet. After some hesitation (I was afraid my friends would think I was being maudlin), I posted the attached image on my Facebook page:
I was stunned by how many people it touched. Silly me. The loss of a parent doesn’t hurt any less for an adult. It’s universal.
My mother passed away 14 years ago, and this time of year is always difficult but for some reason, this year has been especially difficult. I don’t ever want to begrudge all my Facebook friends who want to share their love for their moms or my mom friends posting photos of their lovely days with their families. But it is a lonely time for those who are “unmothered” (I love that term!) and especially so when I scroll through my Newsfeed on Mother’s Day.
So to see your acknowledgement of that reality in this thread means the world to me. It is a small comfort knowing that I am not alone and that others understand what it’s like.