T here are so many topics about ways to appreciate your mother while she is living. I’ve been thinking about those of us who have lost our mothers or the women who played that role in our lives. I also thought about those whose mothers are still living but the matriarch of the family has gone to Glory. How do we get through this holiday without pulling the covers over our heads, counting every second until 11:59 p.m.? There are ways to change the acknowledgement and recognition of the day. Here's my story. My mother passed away on October 2015. She suffered from Congestive Heart Failure. It was the hardest time of our lives. She was a central figure in the family, the matriarch. My mother was always on the go and full of energy. Before the disease slowed her down, she would go to a Singles gathering every Saturday night and dance the night away. Boy could she dance! We went to a friend’s wedding and my mother sat down three dance partners who were less than half her age. Mom loved to eat at restaurants. The family joke was when mom passed, the restaurants and diners in the city would have to close for a day of mourning. She loved good food and great conversation. We spent many a nights closing down restaurants, enjoying coffee and talking. That was our special time together. As life progressed, I grew to enjoy cooking her favorite meals and becoming the host for our family gatherings. That was what we did every holiday--eat, laugh, talk and maybe dance. My mother dressed like she shopped in the most exclusive boutiques but her favorite places were thrift stores. She threw together combinations of clothes and accessories like she was a Paris Week fashion runway stylist. I always admired her style and could hardly keep up. She was groomed to be a lady by her grandmother, Nana Blonnie.
When mom was a little girl, Nana would take her dress shopping. She would buy the whole outfit, a crinoline slip, shiny patent leather shoes, frilly socks, gloves and a matching hat. She would dress her for church on Sundays and take pictures of little Joyce sitting on the couch, her dress neatly spread out, hands folded, and legs crossed at the ankles. My mother loved hats but her favorite items were shoes. A sharp pair of shoes would stop mom in her tracks! My daughters, daughter-in-law and I worked hard to celebrate that aspect of my mother’s life as we said goodbye. Mom loved music, but gospel music was her favorite. She sang in church choirs and loved to hear her daughters sing. When mom had the stroke and was declared brain-dead, in addition to praying for a miracle, I prayed for her to wait for her grandson to get home from college to say goodbye. As we spent time with her during those last three days, her granddaughters, family friends and I sang her favorite songs. It was an anointed concert because the harmonies were so beautiful. Lastly, mom was sassy. She had a love for life and people. She counseled many. Advocated for the oppressed and abused. Drafted legislation or challenged laws and rules that were unfair. Taught many how to navigate complex and broken systems. If she could speak from heaven, she would tell us stop all that crying and mourning.
I can hear her now, “Chile don’t mourn for me, I’ve got my mansion and girl it is sharp! There are so many rooms, I can’t count. The restaurants up here are open twenty-four hours and serve the best food and coffee. The gospel concerts are amazing. You know, they got Walter and Edwin Hawkins featured on the regular and you know they are my favorites. I have a new body, free from oxygen, hoses, wires, plugs and batteries. Mom was a LVAD (Left-Ventricular Assistive Device) recipient. Anytime you think of me, think happy thoughts and praise God that you’ll see me again. I’m happy so instead of feeling sorry for me or yourself, celebrate my memory.”
Now that you know a little about my beautiful mother, here are a few ways we celebrate instead of mourning.
C R E A T E N E W T R A D I T I O N S
Some people grieve Mother’s Day because they mourn the loss of a person and the traditions the person once carried. What do you see in every store this time of year? Mother’s Day gifts, greeting cards and reminders. That is more than enough to send you running out the doors in tears. Adopt A Mom Select an Auntie, new mom, play mom, church mom or neighbor and do something special for them. It does not have to cost money. Offer to babysit, do a chore, or cook a favorite dessert. Give a Groupon to a nail salon. Do something for a woman you don’t know. Give a restaurant gift card. Donate money to your mom’s favorite cause. Just do it in memory of your mother. Cook and Eat We celebrate my mother and all mothers in our family by cooking AND eating great food. A lot of love goes into the dishes we create, you can taste it. We laugh and talk about mom as if she could hear us and giggle at her retorts. My mother was very funny and loved to make people laugh. Now that my kids are grown, my daughter Shelley cooks and host the dinners. My other daughter Tasha cooks when she is well. I try to do my 48-hour Thanksgiving cooking marathons, but I just can’t do it. These days, I share the duties and take as much of the load as I can. Laugh Have dinner and then go to a comedy club or host your own open-mic night. If you go to a comedy club I would suggest finding someone who is going to make you laugh until your sides hurt. Don’t procrastinate, buy tickets in advance. Garden When I had a garden, we planted a rose-bush when a loved one died. We selected roses in their favorite colors. Now that I have an indoor garden, I have a tree that I have propagated into baby trees when loved ones passed. It gives me something to nurture that is positive. My chores are actually very pleasant and relaxing when I take care of my houseplants. Buy a Plant Buy a plant and have it delivered to a hospital or nursing home and ask that it be given to someone who needs it. Be more detail specific if you have criteria for the recipient. Purchase a flowering plant and take it to church and give it to an elder. You can also ask the church to select a recipient. Take Family Pictures It is fun to get dressed up and get a family portrait taken professionally. Be creative and find various indoor and outdoor locations to take family photos. You can distribute the photos as gifts for the holidays. I know I am just scraping the surface, but I urge you to talk to family members and brainstorm ideas. I will always miss my mother, but I do her memory a great disservice if I don’t celebrate or allow my children and fiancée to celebrate with me. Mother’s Day can always be a day of remembrance, but new traditions would help the memory be sweeter and put the happy back into Happy Mother’s Day.