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  • Writer's pictureLola Sofi'

Remembering Lillian: Navigating Mother's Day Without Her

A mother's love is eternal, even when she's no longer by your side." - Unknown*

Missing Mom on Mother’s Day: It’s Okay to Feel All the Feels

Ah, Mother's Day…a day filled with brunches, bouquets, and Hallmark cards. In the Water’s household, it was the tradition of taking Mom to her absolute favorite place to dine, Red Lobster. For me and my siblings, the day often began with, “Who’s picking up Mom?” a task one needed to prepare for in advance.  You see, Lillian, our mother, was a city girl, who didn’t have a driver’s license and believed in public transportation; however, when riding shotgun with her children, or anyone else, for that matter, insisted on copiloting the vehicle. Needless to say, anyone having to “drive Mrs. Daisy” to the restaurant would need a stiff shot of bourbon to settle their nerves from all of the “look out’s!” and “watch out for that fool over there!” comments received for the entire twenty-minute drive.

Mom would be decked out to the nines. Her outfit (usually something with leopard print) would match her purse, shoes, and just the right head scarf to accent one of her many wig choices, the spiky Tina Turner, the super long and curly, Diana Ross, or the short and sassy, Hally Berry. I remember asking as a child when she donned the staircase in what she called, the Diahann Carroll, why the blonde hair. She just winked at me and answered in her movie star voice and devilish grin, “because blondes have more fun, sweetheart.”

When arriving at the restaurant, Mom would glory in choosing the perfect seating. Sometimes she’d choose a booth by the window, a table in the center of the room, but never, ever anywhere near the restroom or the front door. She would rather wait until a table freed up elsewhere than succumb to inadequate seating. This is why to this day, I keep almonds in my purse. On Mother’s Day, you can never know how long the wait will be, and I’d rather not keel over from hunger pangs while doing so.

And while navigating the seating was a “thing,” ordering her meal was often something else. Lillian had a big personality, almost as big as her heart. She always tipped well, but believe me, the wait staff earned it, just from listening to the family introduction. “These are all five of my children,” she would proudly proclaim, stating our names, occupations, how many children we have, our children’s children, and any other information she thought relevant to our family history. After this ten-minute introduction, she and the server were now on a first-name basis, laughing and sharing whimsical tales. When it came time to order, and all of my almonds were gone, Mom was pretty predictable about her meal of choice. She never met a shrimp she did not love, so whether scampi or fried, jumbo or butterflied, we always knew what she wanted.  It was the salad that was the “thing.” The exchange went something like this:

Server: “Ms. Lillian, would you like soup or salad with your meal?”

Mom: “Salad please.”

Server: “And your dressing?”

Mom: “I’d like all of them, thank you,” and she closes her menu waiting for the obvious…

Server: “I’m sorry, did you say all of them?” with eyes opened in astonishment.

Mom: “Yes, dear. Bring all of them.” Her smile would widen.

Server: “Wow, I’ve never had anyone ask for all of our dressings before.”

Mom: “Well sweetheart, you’ve never met Lillian before,” speaking of herself in the third person. “I…am one of a kind.” (Cue the devilish grin)

This is just one of the many Mother’s Day memories I have of Lillian. My mom passed away nearly 14 years ago. That’s fourteen years not seeing her beautiful face or the sassiness of her stride; fourteen years not hearing her voice on the radio (she called in often) or hearing her recite the beginning of Mark Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar—she loved to display all of the literary poems and narratives she learned and committed to memory from her school days that we had not. Fourteen years without tasting the sugary sweetness of her apple strudel or smelling the fragrance of Irish Spring soap that lingered on her body like the scent of the fresh, morning dew. It’s been fourteen years and there isn’t a day that goes by when she is not referenced somewhere in my words, deeds, or thoughts. 

I cannot begin to describe how much I miss her and how I long to hear her voice. But I am just one of the many daughters who sees the empty chair at the Mother’s Day dinner table as a bittersweet reminder of their mother’s passing. Her memories conjure up an ache in my heart, however fleeting, that can open the floodgates of tears or bellyaching laughter, depending on the season. 

And you know what? That's okay. 

It's okay to feel the full spectrum of emotions – from sadness to gratitude to even a hint of envy of those who still have their moms by their side.

Coping Through the Comfort of Memories

I’ve heard it said, when you lose your mom, you gain an angel. 

But can I just be real for a moment? 

Sometimes, I really wish she were here in the flesh. I wish she were here to share in the big moments of my life, to help welcome my grandbabies on their first appearance to earth, to tell me she was proud of me for taking a leap of faith or to give me truth and pull my coat on issues of importance like no other can do. 

I wish she were here for the so-called “little things” like guessing the Wheel of Fortune puzzle together or just having her to hold for whatever reason. 

There was a time when I thought coping with these feelings of loss, meant holding in my emotions or shaking off any feelings of nostalgia in the name of “being strong.”

But coping with the loss on Mother's Day isn't about brushing aside the pain; it's about embracing it. It’s about honoring my mother’s memory in my version of her signature shrimps and rice dish, and finding comfort in every bite, knowing she would have loved this. 

You may find comfort in looking through the photo memories created by your cell phone or take refuge in being wrapped in your mother’s favorite quilt. Even visiting your mom’s favorite shopping spot may provide a sense of comfort. (Retail therapy is a thing, folks.

Whatever the memory, if it brings you joy, hold onto it and feel what you feel. 

Helping Others Through Their Loss

When my mother first transitioned from this life to glory, a part of me felt lost, orphaned, even at the age of 42. But having a support system to confide in, rely on, and tap into was extremely important to me. These were women whose mothers had “received their wings” years ago and understood the loneliness of being “no one’s little girl” anymore. 

For those of us who have walked this path of loss, those card-carrying members of the daughters of mothers who have passed on—the club that nobody wants to be a part of—we can serve as a beacon of hope for those who are just beginning their journey. Providing a kind word, a listening ear, or a simple gesture of empathy can go a long way for someone who just lost the first love of their life.

Honoring Her Legacy

Growing up, my mother taught me that only two things in life are certain: God is Love and change is inevitable. I experienced both of those certainties in real-time when she passed. But that’s just one of the many nuggets of wisdom my mother planted in me. Her legacy of faith, love, boldness, perseverance, and compassion lives big in me. With every laugh, every lesson, and every "I love you" she’s spoken, even without words, she was tilling the ground and sowing those seeds in our hearts that would allow her spirit to flourish big in all of us, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations to come. 

And while Mother's Day may never be the same without her— although I still talk to her as if she's still here when seasoning my shrimps and rice—I take comfort in knowing that her love will always surround me and her legacy lives true in me. 

"A mother's legacy is not measured by the wealth she leaves behind, but by the love she sows and the values she instills in her children." - Unknown

So, if you’re one of the many daughters, like me, who are missing their moms a little extra today, you’re not alone. And remember, it is absolutely okay for you to feel what you feel, whether you're shedding tears or sharing laughter. 

Take comfort in your memories of her, honor her life with your gratefulness, and carry the mantle of her legacy in your hearts with grace and love. I believe she’s cheering for you. I know Lillian is for me. 

A toast (with glasses raised)… 

Here's to the women who shaped us, inspired us, and loved us unconditionally. Happy Mother's Day, Mom… you will never be forgotten.

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