Open Letter to My Mom on Mother’s Day


Picture of my Mom with flower girl Dina at my brother’s wedding in 2009

Mom, you have thrown yourself into your role as mother with unrestrained dedication since the beginning. You schlepped me to more activities than I can count, rooted me on in every event, proofread homework and hand-sewed Halloween costumes. You still, to this day, sew and alter clothes, now not just for me, but for my children, too. You cooked and cleaned, planned vacations, helped research colleges and did a million other things, too numerous to count. When I finished school, got married and started a career, you probably thought your work was mostly done, but in some ways I’ve relied on you more than ever in the past 11 years, since becoming a mother myself.

You’ve stayed on the phone with me in the middle of the night as I cried right along with my colicky baby. You’ve helped me navigate the tricky waters of having a child with some special needs. You’ve come to me when I needed help or invited us to stay with you, for weeks at a time. I know I can call at any time and you’ll always be there for me.

But, I don’t think either of us foresaw this latest call for help. It’s been a whopper. Cancer. As I go through this, the toughest part has been watching the toll it’s taking on Jacob and Dina. I am disappointed that my life has been derailed by cancer. Initially, the thought that I may not get to do some of the things I’d always planned and expected to do with my life upset me, but I’ve adjusted, understanding that my life may take a different path than I anticipated. Really the only thing I can’t adapt to, is the possibility that my kids might have to grow up without a mom, that they might have to experience a suffering or loss that I can’t shield them from. This devastates me. The thought of any real harm coming to my children devastates me. One of the only things that I can imagine more difficult than getting an incurable diagnosis like mine, is for me to witness one of my kids getting it.

And, yet, I realize, that is exactly what has happened to you this year. And you have stepped up to the plate big time.

People have called me brave and strong and all sorts of other flattering things this year. But you, in the background, you have stepped up more than me. At a time when you should be past the difficult mothering tasks and reveling in the gravy that is grandkids, you’re back to nursing your baby. By my side whenever I’ve needed you these past 5 months: flying up and back without complaint in spite of your fear of flying; sleeping in hospitals and on couches in spite of your back pain; talking with doctors, researching treatments, driving me to appointments, cooking and cleaning, doing my laundry. The list of things you do for me is as endless as ever, and I am grateful.

But, the thing for which I am most grateful, is something that has really surprised me. It’s your positivity. I don’t think it’s a secret that you’re a worrier. Worrying is a specialty of yours, an art. Worst-case scenario is your jam usually. I would have guessed that a diagnosis like mine – an actual worst-case scenario – would send you into a tailspin, and with good reason this time. But, it hasn’t. Turns out, when the chips are down, you do what needs to be done, as you always have, even when it means figuring out a new way to be. Without being artificial, or Polyanna-ish, you’ve helped me keep my hopes up. You believe in my future, and help me believe. Whether you instinctively knew this was what I needed, or what you needed yourself, I’m not sure. But from the bottom of my heart: thank you. Once again, as always, you are there for me. I’m not sure how I could navigate this without you. I couldn’t be a more grateful daughter. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.