Perspectives on Grieving
I Wouldn't Have Missed You For the World: A Mother's Day Tribute
Many people define their lives by worldwide events. Pearl Harbor Day, JFK's assassination, Man Walking On the Moon, Nixon's Resignation, The Attack on the World Trade Center. For 4 people, the defining moment of their lives was June 9th, 1971. Almost 46 years ago, those 4 people lost the center of their universe, and their lives were forever defined as "before" and "after".
I was an 11-year-old sixth grader when my mother died, in Sister Audrey's class 6B at Saint Vincent Martyr School in Madison, New Jersey. Although I understood the concept of death, I didn't fully grasp the impact it would have on our lives. She died at the age of 52. A heart attack. She went to bed a little early the night before, not feeling very well. The next thing I heard at 5:50 in the morning on that Wednesday was my father on the phone telling the doctor "I think my wife's deceased".
How different would our lives have been should you had lived? Maybe a lot; maybe not at all. I do know, however, how proud you would have been to see how those you loved rallied around us and took care of us. Your brother, Joe, and his family. Aunt Sis and the Manahans. All the Hutchinsons and the Casses. And how proud you would have been of Dad. A widow (for the second time) at the age of 62 with three teen and pre-teen sons. Who made sure they followed through with your plans: we knew from an early age that college was not an option, but was a privilege that we were expected to value and expected to complete. From the day we were born we always knew about our college fund bank account. Dad raised three boys that had always at the center your values of the importance of family and the importance of education.
How proud you would be to see how your sons have grown into men. How they took care of their father in his final days. How they each dealt with the challenges they faced in their lives. How proud and delighted would you have been to see your five beautiful grandchildren. Their strong personalities; their successes and their challenges. What a tragic loss for all of us that you have not been here to share in our lives and our love. But you must realize that there is not a day that goes by that we do not think of you and do not feel your love. We remember your voice, your laugh, your intelligence, your wit, your cleverness. The New York Times crossword puzzles you would do in pen. Sitting around in the living room together around the black and white tv on July 20th, 1969, as Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind. Our beloved Mets defying all odds to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series. Vacations in Atlantic City, Buckhill Falls, Washington, Montreal, Boston. You inspire us still until this day.
If, given the choice of having you for my mother for almost twelve years, or someone else for a lot longer, the answer is clear. As you said to me so many times through the years of my childhood, I wouldn't have missed you for the world!
This was a Mother's Day tribute that I posted to Facebook a few years ago, and each year I re-post. I remember clearly what it felt like as Mother's Day approached in the years following my mother's death. The first year was so awkward. Other kids in the seventh grade were making hand-made cards and gifts, but I had nobody to make one for. I was overcome with a profound sense of sadness and loss, different from what it was like when I first found out my mom had died. Now I knew she wasn't coming back. I felt different from the other kids. This continued on into eighth grade. Once I moved on to high school, things were a little different. But my freshman year, I had a crisis of realization of the impact of my loss. I went off by myself, and let myself go into fits of crying. It was important for me to be able to let myself go. The crying was a release that let me get in touch with the feelings that I had buried for three years.
As the years have gone by, I now look forward to Mother's Day, and to my mom's birthday as well. It's a time I set aside to fondly remember her – to look at her pictures, to read her poems and journals, to be close to her. To make me once again remember that I wouldn't have missed her for the world.
This family photo was taken about three years before my mom died. I'm on the right, next to my mother, holding my cousin. Also in the picture are my father and my two brothers.
About the Author
Chris Harrington was born in Morristown and grew up in Madison. Chris has worked in food service distribution for 34 years, with Sysco for 25 years and now with Gordon Food Service for nine years. Chris, who speaks fluent French after living in Montreal for 8 years, lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his husband, Jeff.