First, congratulations to all you moms reading this. Whether you have children of your own, have raised your siblings, worried about your nieces and nephews or your friends’ kids, no matter, you’re a mom and we all know what a demanding, never-ending, marathon being a mom can be. It can also be a fountain of love, compassion and indescribable happiness.
While many of us spent the day with our children, and the luckiest among us spent the day with their moms, I had a rather unusual Mother’s Day. My son was unavailable. He works for a local catering company at a newly opened Hilton and celebration weekends are his busiest. I received an invitation to go to dinner with another family, but I opted to stay home and bask in the “nothing-to-do-ness” of the day. Although the plan was to stay home, when I remembered the flowers I purchased for the cemetery a few weeks before, I decided to hop in the car and bring them to mom.
When my son was young and lost his paternal grandfather I couldn’t bring myself to tell him the purpose of a cemetery so whenever we visited his grandfather’s site I told him it was his “quiet spot;” a place where the rest of the family could go and remember their times together. Yesterday I went to my parents’ “quiet spot.” I brought a small rake, scissor’s to cut the silver and purple ribbon I would wrap around the silk white roses and purple lilacs that I would put in the metal vase in front of the heart shaped stone that mom selected after dad died.
In addition to one million other thoughts that come to me when I visit their “quiet spot,” I always worry because their names are mixed up on the heart stone. Mom’s name and life years are noted above dad’s head and dad’s name and life years are noted above mom. I worry that in generations to come no one will know who is where. Yet, somehow it seems okay. Their lives were so intertwined anyway.
I’ve come to realize that if I park between two particular trees along the dirt road in the cemetery I can easily find the heart stone 30 feet away. After switching last season’s weather-faded flowers for the bright new bouquet with its shiny purple ribbon, I swept away dried dirt and grass from the heart stone and noticed that the smaller stone to the right that marks my grandmother’s and two grandfathers’ spot needed some attention. Once the cleaning was finished I went looking for small stones to use to build two tiny stone towers that I leave behind for mom and dad.
Walking down the dirt road looking for stones I looked over in the direction of the housing project where I grew up. Fifteen years ago, at dad’s funeral, I realized we could see “our” building from his spot. Even though it had been 35 years since anyone in the family lived in that building, we were a family there, living together, and somehow it has always been comforting to me that mom and dad are close to home.
After building my tiny stone towers and cleaning up my mess I walked back to my car, opened the trunk and put my trash inside. That’s when I decided to look for the “quiet spot” of my friend who died less than a month ago. Although I wasn’t sure he was in the same cemetery, because of where he grew up I couldn’t imagine he would be anywhere else. Just before slamming the trunk closed, on a whim I grabbed a small bouquet of white daises that I had taken from the heart stone, then I closed the trunk and headed for the newer section of the cemetery.
I didn’t get very far when I came upon my aunt, uncle and cousin’s “quiet spot.” Stopping there to say my version of a prayer it dawned on me that this particular aunt, who had died more than 20 years before, was my godmother and there I stood on Mother’s Day with flowers in my hand. I walked away with a smile on my face but the white daises stayed behind.
For the next ten or fifteen minutes I wandered among the newer stones, reading names that I recognized from my childhood, but didn’t see any indication that a site had been created within the past month. I began to walk back to my car and as I passed an older section I saw a fresh site in the distance and wandered over. I was totally taken by surprise when a small white sign propped in the ground told me I had found my friend. I sat on the ground with him for a few minutes and when I stood up I noticed the marker on the site next to him. I laughed out loud when I read the name … my friend was now right next to one of his life-long friends from childhood. Again, I walked away with a smile on my face.
A few minutes later another familiar name engraved in stone caught my attention. My first husband’s parents, who were very much alive when we divorced, are now not ten feet away from my friend; a friend they knew well, a friend who grew up with their son; the same friend who introduced me to their son, my future husband.
As I stood in front of that stone I had another epiphany and the irony is far from lost on me. On this Mother’s Day, without intending to do so, I met more than one of my mothers; my mom, my grandmother, my godmother and my mother-in-law, all women who had been important in my life.
Thinking about yesterday, I can’t help but be in awe of where our very ordinary daily lives take us if we just give up control every now and then and follow our hearts.