Mother’s Day is a holiday that means well, but it’s complicated.  For me, being American but raising my children in the UK, there was always the question of which Mother’s Day we would celebrate. Do we recognize UK Mothering Sunday in March or the US Mother’s Day in May? Sometimes we’d do one, sometimes the other, sometimes both, but never neither. Like so many complicated things in our family, it became a joke.

But for many, Mother’s Day isn’t a joke at all. There are those who want to be mothers and aren’t. That’s no joke. There are those who have lost children, as I have. Also, very much no joke. And there are those who have lost their mothers, which is also no joke no matter how long ago it may have happened, no matter how complicated the relationship may have been.

I knew this year’s celebration was always going to be a low-key affair for me, with my children being on two different continents at the moment, and neither of them near me. That’s okay, though. I have always believed that my main job as a mother was to raise children who would go on to live their own lives, no matter where those lives may take them. They might be separated from me geographically, but I always know we are together in our hearts no matter where we are on the globe. Leaving is part of growing up, part of being a child. But I have also learned that it is part of being a parent.

My own mother died just two weeks ago. I know my grieving process is just beginning and it makes this year’s Mother’s Day much more difficult. My response to difficulties is to write about them, and this year I reworked a poem I had written a while ago and read it at my mother’s funeral. Over the past two weeks I have realized that the poem isn’t just about my mother, or about motherhood in general. It is about and for all parents, so I share it with you now.

That I Have to Leave

Do not be angry that I have to leave.
Your eyes will still pop open every day.
Forgive me leaving you here now to grieve.

Don’t cling so tightly to my tattered sleeve. 
In time, I know, you won’t want me to stay. 
Do not be angry now that I must leave. 

We’ve worked so hard to make our futures weave 
a cloth to shield us all. But now it frays.
Forgive me leaving you here now to grieve.

A youthful road seemed easy to perceive. 
But now time crumbles off like hardened clay.
Do not be angry that I have to leave. 

I love you with a force hard to conceive. 
I beg you, take that gift and step away. 
Forgive me leaving you here now to grieve. 

Our eyes are full of tears. Ignore them, please. 
With backward steps I free you from today.
Do not be angry that I have to leave.
Forgive me leaving you here now to grieve.