Motherless daughter. I’d heard those words but never gave much thought to all they carried until I lost my mom.
My view of motherhood was shaped through the blessing of growing up as my mother’s daughter. It has been just as powerfully impacted by having to journey through most of motherhood without her.
When I found out, just two years after we’d moved back to our hometown to treasure the gift of raising our children near our parents and families, that my mom had lung cancer, I held on to fierce and faithful hope.
I never imagined a life without her in it.
At the hospital the day before she passed away, the doctor suggested we each (my dad, brother, and I) say goodbye and give her permission to pass on. I will always remember the pain and anger that swirled inside of me, and I refused to do that. I prayed harder for her to hold on and fight. My prayers weren’t answered, and many times I have wished that I had been selfless enough to express that loving permission.
My loss was indescribably massive–I lost my mom, one of my best friends, role model, and Nana for my children. For any moms who have had to raise children without your mom, I’m confident you can relate to this feeling. Reaching for the phone to call and ask a question, followed by the sinking feeling as you remember you can’t do this. Facing struggles that your husband, father, or even friends could help with, but they can’t provide the help you seek. The help your soul craves is not within reach.
No one can fill the void left when our moms aren’t here with us anymore.
Sure, others can care for and comfort us, fill us with love, and offer guidance and support. And while all of this is precious and something we may treasure, it doesn’t replace all that our moms bring to our lives.
We feel this even more strongly when we are moms ourselves. Our moms walked the path we are now walking, and they know us in ways no one else quite can. Countless times I have reflected on what my mom would have thought, said, or done. Not having her to lean on and ask for advice led me to a realization—our childhood memories create a library of wisdom, crafted by our moms. These memories are there to guide us, to soothe our souls, and to be the whispers of our moms’ sweet voices filling our souls.
As a stay-at-home mom, my mom devoted all her time to my younger brother and me. She was wholeheartedly involved with us, our friends, and our schools. A bike ride to a nearby park for a picnic and summer days at Glencoe Beach, making drip castles and eating grapes and ice cream are just a few of the memories I have of our time together. She listened and supported even when she disagreed.
She wouldn’t hide her opinion, but we knew she would love and support us no matter what.
Whenever my dad traveled on business we would have a sleepover in my parents’ bed, snuggling and whispering into the night, and then we would feast on breakfasts of egg-in-the-middle or brown bears (like French toast but with brown sugar that created a sticky caramel coating) in the morning.
I could talk with my mom about anything—she always held me in a space of love, even if she disagreed. When, after two years of dating, I chose to leave my job and move to Atlanta with my boyfriend (now husband of 30 years), Mom supported me. She shared her honest reservations but made sure I knew she was there for me no matter what I decided.
When we were expecting my daughter, my husband didn’t want to know if we were expecting a boy or girl, but I did. My mom was the only one I shared that information with, and for my entire pregnancy, she filled me with all the joys and blessings and precious love that having a daughter brings to a mother—that I brought to her. She loved being a mom so much and was beyond excited that I was going to experience it and that she would be part of it all.
Well, she continues to be part of it all, just differently than when she was physically here to share in it.
I was a stay-at-home mom with both of my kids, truly thankful to so deeply share in their lives. Without consciously realizing it, I recreated beloved traditions from my childhood—breakfast picnics, sleepovers when their dad was away, drip castles at the beach, making our home a second home for their friends, and more. But there is something more precious than these traditions: the love, listening, and connection are the real gifts that made our relationship what it was and will always be. This is what I have used to guide my mothering and what has helped me cultivate relationships with my own children that I cherish beyond words.
I know, without a doubt, I’m the mom I am today because of the mom my mom was. My mom taught me everything it meant to be a mom, simply by being Mom to me.
Motherless daughter. I now understand the full impact of these words. I also know in my heart that I am not “motherless.” My mother is an integral, infinite, and beloved part of me, and she will always be my mother, always with me. Not in the way we usually think about it or how we would prefer it, but we are forever connected all the same.