Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 12, 2013

Keeping memories alive on Mother's Day, all year long

Special to the Record-Eagle BY CYMBRE FOSTER
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Some spend Mother’s Day with their mothers.

Others devote the day to remembering them.

Hospice of Michigan in Traverse City recently held its third annual “Remembering Our Mothers” event. The two-hour program offers the bereaved grief support and time to remember mothers who have died.

“Mother’s Day can be a day to acknowledge the person who nurtured them by remembering and sharing stories,” suggested Kathryn Holl, Hospice of Michigan grief support services manager. “It can be something like lighting a candle or planting a flower, making her favorite food or going to the beach, if that’s something she liked to do.”

Holl said it’s important to acknowledge the relationship, even if it might be painful.

“When someone dies that we love — the woman who nurtured you and imprinted on you — it’s a great severing, no matter the age,” said Holl, who took care of her mother for the last four years of her life. “A lot of people who have lost a mother anticipate Mother’s Day, especially the first one, with trepidation.”

Joan Abbott lost her mom in 1997. She said there isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t think about or remember her mom and her place in her life.

That first Mother’s Day was probably the most difficult. Now Abbott spends Mother’s Day with one of her daughters.

“We reminisce and I honor them being a mother,” said Abbott. “I see it as a kind of honoring the circle, passing it on from one woman to the next.”

Holl agreed that stories are a great way to remember mom.

“They feed us and bring us warmth,” she said.

Loretta Downs, who has been a hospice volunteer for more than 25 years and holds a master’s degree in gerontology, also believes that the first Mother’s Day is the most difficult. Her mission is “to create opportunities for people to talk about death and dying in positive terms.” She was recently a guest speaker in Traverse City talking about end of life issues.

“There are so many anniversaries the first 13 months after someone dies,” she said. “But it gets gentler as time goes on. It’s important to remember that when someone dies that person is out of our lives but the relationship is always there,” she added.

One way to remember mom is to have a few keepsakes around that make you smile when you look at them.

When Downs’ mother died seven years ago, she kept some of her pots and pans as a reminder.

“I don’t use them daily, but when I do use one I feel my mom’s hand on it,” she said.

Abbott also kept a few special objects that remind her of her mom.

“There are also some in my daughters’ homes and the grandchildren, who didn’t know her, have the stories associated with those objects that continue to be told,” she said.

Abbott also has a church pew in her entry that was decoupaged in family photos in honor of her mother, a daily church goer. It creates a dialogue that keeps her memories alive.

The women said that they also get what Loretta calls hugs or waves from the other side that remind them of mom. Abbott said that sometimes the wind chines — a gift from her mother — ring when there’s no wind. Downs said when she finds a coin on the ground, she keeps it just like her mother did.

Downs also sees her mother in the world around her.

“I see her energy existing in a lot of things,” she said. “Like when I see petunias, I think of her and it makes me happy.”

Downs also likes to spend Mother’s Day honoring the mothers she knows. Her advice is to “love them up while you’ve got them.”

Holl noted that Mother’s Day can also be a tough day for women who have lost children.

“It’s important to honor them and remember that they are still a mother,” said Holl.

As for Abbott, she planned to remember her mother today like she has in past years — with a family dinner that she’ll make sure includes a dish made from one of her mom’s recipes.

Hospice of Michigan offers grief support services free of charge. For more information, call 929-1557.