Celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: A Little Late But Lots of Love

On Sunday May 14th of this year, I spent the day in Pennsylvania with my Mom. There was nothing really unusual about it; some might say it was kind of expected, since it was Mother’s Day. But though the day was filled with flowers and love, it was because I took my mother to the funeral of one of her best friends. The love surrounded the grieving family; the flowers filled the cemetery where we said our last good-byes.

Though I brought my mom the traditional fuchsia hanging basket for her front porch, neither of us felt like celebrating. When I got back home to New Jersey, I didn’t open up the Mother’s Day cards from my kids or my husband or my mom. I just couldn’t. They sat in a pile on the counter by the phone, and I told my family, “Let’s reschedule. We’ll try again in a few weeks.”

We knew it would need to be while before we would all feel in a celebratory mood, because the following Tuesday — two days after we buried my mom’s friend — we drove to Long Island for another funeral. This time it was my uncle, my dad’s brother, a kind, sweet man who I had only recently learned recited poetry when he was first dating my aunt. Why is it we discover so much about people after they’re gone?

It was a tough week.

The next day, I flew to South Carolina for the BlogPaws and Cat Writers’ Association conference, where I was scheduled to speak. Every animal I met at the conference was therapy for me, as I sorted through the sadness of the previous days.

On Thursday night — two days after I tearfully delivered a eulogy for my uncle — my brother called to tell me that my cousin had died, very suddenly. Away from my family, I sought out my blogging friends, and they enveloped me in love and caring as I did my best to process and then compartmentalize. I still had my session to do, and people were counting on me.

I flew from South Carolina directly to Michigan, where I met my daughter; we came together as family to support my cousin’s wife and children.

Finally home again, I began to process the loss of so many people close to me.

And then Brian’s dad was taken to the hospital with heart failure. He seemed to be doing better, and they were talking about releasing him back to his assisted living apartment, but he got up one night — not wanting to bother the nurses — and he fell, breaking his hip. Brian and I dropped everything and drove up to Connecticut, and just a few days later he was gone.

And so we buried my father-in-law on June 17 and came home to New Jersey to sit shiva in our home — on Father’s Day.

Calvin stands guard by a photo of Brian's dad that we had set out during shiva.

Calvin stands guard by a photo of Brian’s dad, Bob Wood, that we had set out during shiva. That’s Brian’s dad and his sister in the picture on the shelf above.

Athena tucked in among photos and memories of Bob.

Athena rarely goes on this table, but she carefully placed herself in between photos of Bob and awards honoring his work with those who are mentally disabled. There was something about the care Athena took to settle herself in among the frames; her thoughtful gaze seemed to imply that maybe she understood the sadness within her favorite human, my husband.

—————

This past Saturday, Aaron, Corinne, and Luke, as well as my mom and my brother — who was in town from California — gathered at our house for a combined delayed Mother’s and Father’s Day. We sat by the pool, basking in the sun and each other’s company.

The cake says Happy Mother's and Father's Day!

The cake says Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day!

It was a moment to feel alive, to break bread — or ice cream cake — to share stories and exchange hugs and gifts, celebrate loved ones who are still with us, and remember those who are with us no longer.

My mom holding one of Corinne's Mothers' Day gifts, a framed photo from her and Luke's wedding.

My mom holding one of Corinne’s Mothers’ Day gifts, a framed photo from her and Luke’s wedding.

In the end, it’s the memories that sustain us — not just the big momentous events like weddings, though those are joyous occasions worth celebrating, but also the small moments in between:

Sorting through gifts my mom brought — glassware she collected — she always comes to our house with a bag of something to distribute.

Lilah helps my mom unpack her bag; there might be something in there for dogs.

Lilah helps my mom unpack her bag; there might be something in there for dogs.

Interpreting a weather radar screen with my daughter, in an attempt to guess if a small rainstorm will hit us.

Covering the outdoor cushions with my son, after the rain started anyway.

Buttering the first of the season’s sweet corn, and thinking of my dad, who loved fresh corn.

Discussing the relative merits of chocolate chip mint ice cream with my son-in-law.

Listening to a Hans Zimmer album with my husband — a Father’s Day gift from Corinne.

Watching the fireflies dance in our woods with my brother.

Enjoying a rainbow with the entire family, oohing and ahhing at the visual gift from nature, wrapping up our day in a ribbon of color that arced from one end of the sky to the other.

A rainbow wrapped up the day

A rainbow wrapped up the day

Hold close your dear ones. They leave too soon.

A note about our gifts

Both Brian and I kept up with our tradition of donation gifts: giving money to nonprofits that we know support the causes that the recipients hold dear. We began this last year when so much of what’s important to us seemed to be at risk.

Thus, we donated on behalf of my mom to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, the group from whom we adopted her cat Penny.

I honored Brian with a gift to Committee to Protect Journalists, which supports press freedom worldwide by defending the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.

And Brian donated on my behalf to the International Rescue Committee, an organization that responds to the humanitarian crises around the world.



10 Comments on "Celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: A Little Late But Lots of Love"

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  1. You’ve been in my thoughts since BlogPaws and I’ve been sending lots of healing thoughts and prayers. I love your tradition of giving in kind donations as gifts.

    • Thanks Dawn. Yeah, I thought my cousin’s funeral was the last of them, at least for a little while. But then my father-in-law. And, tomorrow, yet one more: my mom’s cousin. Actually, his wife Pat. I’m bringing photos with me; Pat came to all of our family reunions, and always brought cookies she made special for me.

  2. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    Susan; I am sorry for all the losses you and your family have experienced in the past couple of months. May you all find strength in each other to get through this, and past this, difficult time in your lives ♥♥♥ My sincerest sympathies ♥♥♥ Laura

    • Thank you for your kind words. It’s been rough, but it’s moments like these that make one appreciate the people who are still here. We’ll be ok. Death is a part of life. It’s just been a bit concentrated recently.

  3. Denise says:

    You & the family are always in my thoughts & prayers. Things can only start looking up from here.

    All my love,

    Denise

  4. You and your family have been through a lot lately. I love your way of remembering and honoring your loved ones that have passed on with donations. Sending you comforting thoughts and prayers. ~Island Cat Mom

    • Thank you. I know death is a part of life, but it’s been a bit concentrated recently. I attended a fifth funeral — my mom’s cousin — just last week. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.

  5. meowmeowmans says:

    We are so sorry you and your family have had so much sorrow recently. I can’t even imagine. But I am happy you were able to see yourself surrounded by love in the midst of that sorrow.

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