I struggle with some holidays more than others. Mother’s Day is one of the tougher ones. It reminds me of what I’ve lost or have yet to gain.

Tickle fights were always kid approved!

Tickle fights were always kid approved!

What I’ve Lost

You see, I lost my mother nineteen years ago. I was barely a teenager, just getting into that phase of life where I could interact with my mom on a more adult level. Seeing people still fortunate enough to spend today with their moms reminds me that I no longer can. It brings the spotlight on the last nineteen years I haven’t been able to call her, make memories with her, touch her. I am so very happy for all those who still have their moms. But, for me, the loss is felt more sharply on this day.

With every tough experience, I try to think what I can learn and apply to my life today. Pain shouldn’t be wasted. It should be a catalyst for change.

Christmas morning was always a special time. Mom and I made popcorn and cranberry garland (seen on the tree) every year.

Christmas morning was always a special time. Mom and I made popcorn and cranberry garland (seen on the tree) every year.

What I’ve Learned

1) Live every day, to the best of your ability, like it’s your last.

Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Don’t live life in fear, but do live it purposefully. In my life, one of the ways I apply this is that I always let my family and friends know how much I love them. You never know the moment you say goodbye for the last time. I don’t want my loved ones to have any doubt in their minds about how I feel about them.

2) Put away pride and pursue peace.

Let go of your need to be right. If you argue, apologize first. Have a servant’s heart and give to others. Don’t let the little things bother you. Does this mean people may take advantage? Yes, probably sometimes. And, I’m not saying to stay in toxic relationships. However, many people rank their predetermined rights or thoughts of fairness over other’s feelings. You may win the argument. You may be right. But, so what? Is it worth hurting your relationships to prove it? Is your fairness campaign worth your family and friends? Humility in relationships goes a long way.

3) Let go of grudges.

There is nothing more ridiculous than keeping people out of your life because of something that happened in the past. Forgive people, even if they don’t ask for it. You are only robbing yourself by carrying that toxic bitterness inside you. Mark Twain said it best, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which is it stored, than to anything upon which it is poured.”

4) Get your priorities right while you still have time.

So many of us feel the strong need to achieve something, even at the cost of relationships we believe will always be there. We want to get that promotion, climb the ladder, get noticed, make it big. We think that once we do that, we can then go back and fix the messed up relationships of those pleading for our time now. You can always achieve big things, and you should. However, when it comes at the cost of your closest relationships, you have to determine if it’s worth it. I believe one of the few things that last is the love between people. We need healthy interactions with our loved ones more than faster cars or bigger mansions. In your pursuit of the world, you may lose those who have your heart. Money and success can’t buy back the lost time or erase the pain of rejection.

5) Spend your time wisely.

I wasted so much time when my mom was alive. I took it for granted that I would always have her. I would give anything to go back in time and physically drag my teenage butt away from the television, or off the phone with random boys that I now no longer keep up with, or from hanging out with my friends to spend time with my mom. I have some great memories, but I could have made so many more. So, from me to you – give your time to those you love while you still have them! Pick up the phone and plan something. Please! Don’t take it for granted that they will always be there. Regrets are horrible weights to carry.

She patiently let me ride every plastic animal in town.

She patiently let me ride every plastic animal in town.

What I’ve Yet to Gain

Mother’s Day also reminds me that I am not a mother. Not because I can’t be… we just haven’t yet been in a place in our lives where we are prepared to nurture a child. I don’t want to bring kids into the world when I know that I’m not ready just because everyone around me has done so, or because I need to follow a certain societal timeline. Having a child is a huge responsibility. It’s introducing a new person to this world to shape, nurture, and invest in.

Life has been very unstable these last 11 years of our marriage. I’m honestly very glad that we haven’t had a child as an additional stress in our lives. But, I’m not made of steel; I also feel the heart tugs to have children. Mother’s Day further opens that ache. Hopefully, life will settle down in these next few years and I will discover we can offer the right kind of home environment.

People tell me, “If you wait until you’re ready, you will never have kids.” I know that’s true to a point, but I’m pretty firm on being in a place in where at least one parent can really devote time to a child. I would rather not have children, than have them and be unable to give them the level of nurturing I feel they need. That wasn’t a possibility until recently. Our lives were on very shaky ground. Even now, while things are better, they are not guaranteed and I’m just not quite ready to get into the adventure of motherhood until life is more settled – much to the future grandparent’s dismay.

So, for those lucky ladies who are already mothers, my thought for you is to remember to enjoy the experience and know how special you are. I have enough mother friends that I often hear about how you just want to poop in peace, are tired of wiping rear ends, dream of sleeping in, and feel constantly covered in spit up. If I’m lucky enough to join your ranks someday, I’m sure I will feel the same way. But, also realize how fortunate you are to have those amazing kids in your lives. Not everyone has the chance to be a mother. It is a gift – even on the hard days.

My mom was the single most influential person in my life, and she was only with me my first 15 years. She was a stay-at-home mom. Her family was her focus. For those moms who feel like your work isn’t important, I want to help you realize just how amazing you are. Since I am someone who knows what life is like without a mother, I am even more convinced of the importance of a mother. There is no paycheck, except crayon pictures and play-dough snakes. There is no promotion, except those moments when you realize they have gained another level of independence based on your investments and coaching. There is no tangible award or medal, except wet marks from snotty kisses and clover necklaces. But, I promise you, there is also no higher calling …

Happy Mother’s Day!

One of my last pictures with my mom, just before she started chemo.

One of my last pictures with my mom, just before she started chemo.