Losing Mom: The Second Year Anniversary

March 20 is my birthday. Cliff and I are headed off on a small adventure that I hope will end in cake with buttercream icing.

March 20 is also the day, two years ago, that my mother died. You don’t grow up thinking your mother will die on your birthday, but mine did (and it’s okay!)

Each death is different. Each grief is different, but active grieving helped me so much in the weeks after Mom died. Washing her punch glasses, ironing her linens, setting the table like she would, let me honor her legacy of whimsy and taste.

It was a year though until I really told the story of what happened on my birthday in 2015: Losing Mom: Happy Birthday to Me.

I was so relieved when my mother died. So happy that she was no longer suffering. While my mind still drifts to some regrets, to words not said, questions not asked, all in all, I’ve been surprised by how gentle my grief has been. Shocked, really.I’d dreaded my mother’s death since I first learned as a little girl that people die.

In the weeks before Mom died, I felt the deepest, most excruciating sadness I’ve ever experienced. The pain the cancer caused my mother broke my heart and not knowing how long she would suffer terrified me. Yet in her death, my overwhelming emotion has been peace.

But at the birth of my first granddaughter this year a new touch of grief set in. Not a deep sadness but a longing for my mother. I want to pick up the phone: “The baby is smiling!” If only I could print out the pictures and mail them to Mom: “Who do you think she looks like?”

As I said goodbye to Emerson last month in Dallas, I saw in a flash the faces of my mother, and my father too. They would be bonkers, as I am, over this little girl. If only they could see her.

But maybe they can. Maybe they do.

I’ve wondered where my parents went. I even have days when I think, bizarre as it sounds, that I can bring them back. I wrote about this idea in Bringing Back Dad. I sometimes ask myself:  Where are my parents? Deader than dead? In the ashes we’ve yet to sprinkle? Or are they in the clouds? In the treasures they left behind? In the habits and speech patterns I inherited? In heaven? (My first choice, of course.)

For years I’d observe people I knew whose parents were dead. They seemed fine. They laughed and went to work and traveled and celebrated holidays. If those people were fine, maybe I would be too.

And I am. For those of you who haven’t lost your parents yet, know there comes a grace in the loss. A peace in knowing your parent is not suffering. A rich contentment in the good memories. A fading of the bad ones. But most of all, there come flashes of longing for your mom and dad that feel like love in its purest form.

Just like looking into the face of a tiny baby who is looking right back at you.

Top photo: Mom smiles as I hold my oldest daughter Katherine.

Bottom photo: Laura holding Emerson at five months. Gosh, can this baby smile!

32 thoughts on “Losing Mom: The Second Year Anniversary”

  1. So true. My dad, who died recently, led a good life and lived many years, sharing his love of his family, friends, and colleagues. We all miss him but are at peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. I am starting the process of losing my mom to dementia and it’s an emotional rollercoaster. It’s really helpful to hear about the experiences of others, including joy amidst the sorrow. I’m sure your birthday will never be the same.


  3. I have had dreams where I see the dead. I share them with my sister because she has them too. We both ask how do they look and always they look great. No pain, no suffering. I saw my Dad in a dream recently, gone 15 years, grocery shopping picking up parsley. He was smiling. He looked great. Happy Birthday!


  4. Happy Birthday, Barbara! I felt the same when my mom died — I was relieved she was no longer suffering and was at peace. It was sad but I knew she was ready to go and I honored that.

    I admire how you’ve found emotional balance upon losing your mom on your birthday. She said hello to you on the same day you said goodbye to her. In both cases, there was celebration of a life, the mystery of it. Your granddaughter is beautiful — the cycle of love continues.


    1. Thank you. Definitely some mystery and mysticism to the experience. LOVE your blog and Facebook posts. I’m back working on my middle grade novel and looking for an agent. You inspire me!


  5. Happy Birthday, Barbara! I found the message above from “jama” to really be quite important about the “celebration of a life, the mystery of it,” and how with your granddaughter “the cycle of love continues.” But, this is indeed, your birthday, and I hope that, as you had hoped, that it “will end in cake with buttercream icing.”


  6. Beautifully written, Barbara. Thank you for sharing this story. My parents were both fairly young when they died — my dad at age 66, and my mom a month after her 69th birthday; that was 27 and 24 years ago! Even after all this time, the peace in my heart increases when I hear stories like yours and those of your readers. It could be that I’m just “recalling” that peace, but it makes me ever-so grateful for the love they gave me, which I’m so fortunate to be able to pass on to my grandchildren who never knew them… all 12 of them.


  7. Yes, to those flashes of longing. Yes, to wanting my parents to see my grandkids and knowing how much they would love them. And yes of course, hoping our beloved parents are in heaven where there is true peace and rest. Thanks for this post, Barbara.


  8. Thank you for this post and I hope you have found the cake with buttercream frosting this evening! Having had such similar thoughts as those you expressed – I dreamed of my dad gone 24 years this month. I said in the dream, “where is Dad, he should be here”-turned around and there he was, clear green eyes and a gentle embrace. I believe our parents do come back when we need them, being open to how is the key-I guess! I strive daily to be open to the many ways 🙂


  9. I had a dream my dad told me I was all packed and it was time to go. I thought that meant I was going to “die” since he’d been gone 5 yrs at that time. The next night, same dream, only this time I was hollering at my husband that he couldn’t pack all his jeans he’d ever owned and to hurry up or we’d miss the ferry. When we got off the ferry I saw a sign that said Welcome to Grand Island, Nebraska. In waking I realized I needed to go somewhere, and “move on” and we sold everything and moved to Nebraska (north of Grand Island!) two years ago….not everybody gets dreams (and my dad ate a lot of parsley!) that move them to move, but hey, I’m 62 and up for anything! Thanks Barbara you’ve been part of my Nebraska journey, since I found your site after I got here!


    1. What good story! A dream that truly inspired a real life happy move. Not sure I’ve ever had a dream that enhanced my life in a positive way. But we can all keep dreaming!

      On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 10:39 PM, Friend For The Ride wrote:



  10. I’ve had a bad week. Not grief, but a hard family time. Your post helped me today. I often feel the pressure of aging parents miles away and dealing with my own teenagers.


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