“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk in my garden forever.” — Alfred Tennyson
It was 19 years ago in February that I lost my mom to cancer. Nineteen years of memories, moments, laughter and tears that were never realized. I still miss her — every single day. But certain times of the year, like Mother’s Day, make the loss more pronounced. Over the years I have discovered a variety of ways to honor her memory that keep me connected to her. So, whether your loss is measured in days or years, I hope you will be inspired by these different ways to honor your mom’s memory.
Honor her giving nature
Try as I might, there is not a moment I can recall from my childhood that we didn’t have several animals of all species living in our home. If a stray wandered our way, it became ours. One way I honor my mom’s memory is to take on this love of animals, albeit to a less permanent degree. Whether it’s the box of kittens my husband and I found on the side of the road that needed a temporary home until we found their forever home, or stopping in the middle of a busy road to rescue a lost dog and find its owner, we never turn a blind eye to an animal in need.
Whether your mom had a soft spot for animals or made crocheted blankets for newborns, find a way to continue to give a little TLC to those in need.
Making monetary donations was not how my mom gave back. Not only because we simply didn’t have the means, but because it wasn’t what gave her real joy. She was a hands-on person who was fulfilled through her ability to really touch someone’s life in a personal way. She was the first person to provide dinner to a family in need or send a handwritten note to brighten someone’s day. Toward the end of her life, before she lost the ability to speak, she volunteered at the local library teaching adults to speak and read English. I am indebted to her for providing this example and setting the bar so high.
To honor her kind heart, I have made helping others a priority in my life and with my family. We provide for families in need, help shovel our elderly neighbors’ driveway and participate in community volunteer opportunities. And, at each opportunity, I make sure to tell anyone who will listen it was my mother’s inspiration that brought us there.
Use your mom’s inspiration and honor her memory by finding a way to give back.
Keep her hobbies and passions alive
One of my earliest, most vivid memories of my mom is sitting with her on our green shag carpeting (it was the ‘70s!) and listening as she read Dr. Suess’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me over and over until I feel certain it must have invaded her dreams. She was an avid reader who had a book going in each room of the house. I am so thankful that she instilled in me a passion for reading — and, with each of my two sons, I have worked to do the same. From birth, they had a bookshelf full of my old (and new) favorites, and as soon as they could walk, it wasn’t uncommon for me to find them in their room surrounded by the books they had pulled from the bookshelf. Each time we are all lounging around the family room and enjoying our separate books together, I feel my mom’s presence.
Pass on one of the hobbies or passions your mom shared with you to others. Whether it was reading, sewing, hiking or classic movie-watching, it will help you maintain your connection to her.
Don an apron
No one — and I do mean no one — left our house hungry when visiting. To say my mom was a good cook is a vast understatement. She was perhaps best known for her decadent fried chicken. Move over, Colonel Sanders — there’s a better fried chicken in town. Knowing you were about to indulge in my mom’s fried chicken was to also accept that, if it was a warm day, you would likely end up with grease oozing from your pores. Resistance was futile.
What I treasure most are the recipes I have in her own handwriting and the knowledge of how much happiness she received from giving this gift to others. Now that my children are older, I make sure I spend time with them in the kitchen teaching them what I can about her cooking. Most importantly, I have given them stories about the grandmother they never new.
If your mom was a killer cook, haul out those old recipes, include your children or siblings and try your hand at her masterpieces. Reminisce, laugh, cry — just don’t cry in the food!
Take a lesson
Holidays, rainy days, barbecues or just late nights together often meant my mother sitting at the piano or with a guitar in hand, singing our favorites. My lovely mother was graced with the voice of an angel and, while the only ones who ever appreciated my singing talent were my sons before they knew better, I have tried to honor her memory by keeping the love of music alive in our family. When my mother died, I inherited her piano, and currently sitting on said piano is a book on teaching yourself piano as an adult. It is important to me that I make the effort and that my sons see that it’s never too late. Since having children, we have owned one guitar, one flute, one clarinet, one trumpet and a set of drums. I honor my mother’s memory by encouraging and supporting these musical desires in my children.
What were your mom’s talents? Could she play a musical instrument? Was she a budding artist? Did she have a garden that made the neighborhood jealous? Choose one and go learn! You may not be the next Picasso, but you’re guaranteed to feel a special bond with your mom.
This one’s permanent, so no impulse buying here! Close your eyes and think of your mom — what do you first see? Since I wasn’t willing to get a fried chicken tattoo, I went for two of the other images I saw each time I thought of her. Next to the front door of the house I grew up in was a massive, gorgeous hydrangea bush that my mom tended to for all the years we lived there. And spread throughout the backyard were hummingbird feeders of all shapes and sizes. These have been and will always be symbols of my mother. One way I chose to honor her memory was to get a tattoo of a hummingbird drinking nectar from a hydrangea flower. I only need to catch a glimpse of it to bring her to mind and a smile to my face.
If this is something you’re considering, choose wisely. Go simple and get her initials, name or signature. Go big and choose a symbol that represents her. You’ll always have a wonderful story to tell when asked about your tattoo.
Reach out to long-lost family members
It was only because of my mother that my siblings and I knew our great aunts and second cousins. Family — and staying in contact — were her priority. She alone could have kept the long-lost art of letter-writing alive had she not passed. With her passing, it wasn’t long before distance began to grow between the family members. These individuals knew stories about my mom that I didn’t and could share memories that I otherwise didn’t have access to. For that reason, I have worked to remain in contact with those who knew how special she was. While it’s almost solely through emails now, I cherish each memory shared, each story related. By staying in touch, I honor the connections she worked so hard to maintain.
If your mom’s passing has caused relationships to grow distant, make a commitment to change that. Reach out to someone who also loved your mom and spend some time reconnecting and sharing your favorite memories.