We have a ceremony, and I thank my friend Julane for giving me this way to honor the memory of my son. We purchase balloons (not mylar, they are bad for birds and the environment), take them to a park or another scenic spot and release them to the sky with our notes to our loved ones attached. This will be my third year.
My son Jim was due on Mothers’ Day 1970, which fell on May 10 that year. He was late (he kept to that practice in his life) and didn’t arrive until May 25. My sweet-natured, golden-haired boy died of a drug overdose in 2009 at age thirty-eight. He will be forever young, and I am certain that he would have stayed young at heart throughout his life, even if he had lived to a ripe old age.
It doesn’t matter if we lose them to disease, accident, crime, suicide or overdose, we all grieve the same. The Oregonian ran an editorial a couple of years ago quoting some quack who said that people who die from drug overdoses were not loved enough as children by their mothers. Yes, on the editorial page of the Oregonian.
I learned from The Oregonian this morning that Mother’s Day was originally established as a day of unity for the mothers of the world to unite against war and militarism. It was proposed by Julia Ward Howe, songwriter of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1870, after the horrors of the Civil War. Her effort was denied. Years later, in 1914, Mothers’ Day was officially recognized, but the original purpose was lost. Now it’s all flowers and candy, and endless ads featuring perfect, photogenic mothers and their perfect, photogenic children.
This post is for all the rest of us, imperfect mothers who love their imperfect children. We still love them, even after they have gone down the wrong road somehow. We still love them when they disappear for days or weeks or a year. We still love them when they are lost and unreachable, when they are incomprehensible. We still love them when they are in jail. When we can’t help them, all we have left is to still love them.
In my note to Jim this year, I tell him that I miss his company at the movies and his thoughtful reviews afterward. I miss the sounds of his guitar playing while I cooked Sunday dinner. I tell him I’m sorry for all my parenting mistakes. I made many.
I’m so grateful to be part of this small group of mothers. People who have lost a child make no judgements about other grieving parents. We share our stories and send our balloons up to honor our lost kids, all of them perfect.