Not a day goes by without thinking of Julia. For that matter, not a minute goes by. She is with me always, entwined in my every moment, my every thought. I have rough days. But, I also have times of happiness, times when I think of Julia, something she did or said, and I smile.
This week, I found myself thinking more about the little things Julia and I would say or do; thoughts drifting back to our mother and daughter rituals.
I think back to our daily banter.
“I love you, Julia. You’re my best girl.”
“I’m your only girl, Mommy.”
“I know, Julia, but you’re still the best.”
I remember the things we would do together, created as part of our daily routine.
My thoughts go back to taking Julia to preschool and the steps we would take before I departed for my day at work. Julia and I went through these same motions every day, steps created to make my little girl feel better when she was sad because I was leaving, to bring some comfort because her mother could not stay by her side.
As I would get ready to leave, Julia and I would kiss and hug, telling each other to have a good day. Then I would take Julia’s hands and open them up, palms towards the ceiling, and one at a time, I would gently kiss each palm and close Julia’s hand into a fist. I would remind Julia that these kisses were there for her to use later in the day, if she felt lonely or needed a reminder that I loved her. A kiss to use until we were together again. A kiss for Julia to use when she needed it.
As Julia grew older, she would do the same to me, taking my hands and placing her lips to my palms.
I think back and smile, remembering how we would do this morning ritual even after Julia entered grade school. Julia and I kissing each other’s hands before we went on to our busy days.
So here I sit on Mother’s Day, my second one without Julia. This day created to celebrate the joy of motherhood. But for me and for any mother that has lost your child, it is bittersweet. It can be a reminder of time lost, of loves unfairly taken away.
Last year, I found it hard to go out on the days leading up to Mother’s Day, wanting to retreat in my sorrow. Strangers would arbitrarily wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day”, not knowing the pain behind my strained smile. The grocery clerk, the salesperson, the man at the post office; all assuming that I had children and would be spending the day with them. None of them realizing the sadness in my heart.
But this year is different. This year, I smile. I have gained strength in my memories of Julia and in knowing and understanding the amazing gift I was given. Although the pain of losing Julia is still with me, I find myself feeling thankful this year.
I am blessed to have been her mother, grateful that she was in my life for even a short time, and hopeful the Julia’s life and message will make a difference for others.
So don’t be afraid to say “Happy Mother’s Day”. It will always hurt a bit. But, I will take a deep breath, look at my hand and place my palm to my cheek. A kiss from long ago, embedded in my palm, waiting there for when I need it. And, I will smile.