Holidays can also be times of emotional difficulty following divorce or death of a close family member. If a relative's death, especially a particularly untimely death, happens near any given holiday, that holiday is often marked with sadness with each passing year. The first time through any holiday following the loss of a relative who was important to a family's observance of the holiday also stirs bittersweet emotions. For anyone experiencing this, I hope the holiday is, in spite of a recent loss, filled with more happiness than sadness.
The holiday, of course, exists primarily so that the greeting card, florist, and restaurant industries can make a huge windfall off all of our collective guilt for not showing greater appreciation to our mothers throughout the year. Mothers are taken for granted. If I'm ever a mother, I assume I'll be taken for granted as well. C'est la vie. This, however, does not make it acceptable to take our mothers for granted.
My own mother's path to motherhood and through it has not been entirely smooth. She had a nearly-successful-but-failed attempt at acquiring twins before having Matthew and me. Once she finally had us, as much as she actually had wanted us, there surely must have been times when we caused her to question the costs versus benefits of actually having children. We weren't always the world's sweetest or most cooperative children, yet she never let on that she was having second thoughts in terms of motherhood.
Early in our lives my mom developed health issues including Graves' Disease, thyroid eye disease, and leukemia, along with less serious but still incapacitating urinary calculi, otherwise known as kidney stones. Through all her health issues, at least as far as Matthew and I could tell, my mom seemed to prioritize our needs above her own. There were two intervals n which she was hospitalized for a few months at a time. Otherwise, she sought treatment and returned home as soon as was practical after each procedure, often leaving hospitals against the advice of her doctors because she had two young children at home.
My mom stayed home with my brother and me until our final year before kindergarten, and only worked part-time even that year so that she would be home with us when we were not in preschool. From that time on, except for the times she was being treated intensively for illnesses, she worked on a full-time basis. She probably didn't have to work, as I suspect my dad earned enough to have kept us in the homes we lived and clothing we wore, and his earnings probably kept food on our table as well. What my mother's earnings did accomplish, though, was to cover our medical school tuition costs so that Matthew and I will start off our careers debt-free. Few of our med school peers will have this luxury. Both Matthew's and my undergraduate educations were financed with scholarships, and I've had enough scholarship money left to cover my med school expenses so far, but if it runs out, I won't need loans.
My mom probably could have spent every day either at a spa or practicing music, but she chose instead to make a financial investment for my brother and me. She probably would have grown tired of having massages and facials anyway, but she could have switched from one hobby to another whenever she became bored. Instead, she dealt with students and with pesky special education issues for something like twenty-three years. Entire forests have been cleared to provide the paper that is necessary to document -- usually in multiple formats -- the most minute details about every student enrolled in any special education program. If anyone out there thinks that working in special education is just about helping especially vulnerable children, think again. It is about helping kids, but a whole lot of additional time is spent providing the documentation that will hopefully keep oneself and one's employer out of litigation. It's the sort of paperwork that causes literal headaches. A lesser person that my mother would be addicted to Vicodin if not benzodiazepenes. She still works, though not in special education any longer. She teaches music at the university level. Some university professors profess that their students are every bit as "special" as the most involved special ed. students, though I don't think the verdict is yet in on that where my mother is concerned.
In any event, my mom has earned far more than any lame gift I can ever give her. To her I give my love and admiration, and to all mothers everywhere who have done the very best they could with their circumstances, I give my utmost honor and respect.