"Mother's Day" - Leah R. Ackerman
Kevin and Leah Ackerman with their mother
At the age of 8 I survived a profound loss that rattled my entire existence. My mother's death made me acutely aware of just how fragile life can be and of the importance of nurturing the relationships I have with those around me. Through my experience I came to realize that children grieve developmentally. A child’s grief is constantly changing throughout his or her lifetime and will continue to do so well into adulthood. I have found that the significance I put towards my grief and my personal narrative has gone through an evolution which has brought forth endless possibilities of how I can connect to my mother.
Over the past 20 years I have learned that words are at times incapable of defining my experience. I cannot simply label this evolution as “good”, “bad”, “healthy” or “normal”. All I can do is be cognizant of its existence and accept what it presents as well as what will manifest in the future. Just as a fruit that grows from a tree, my grief and relationship with my mother has endured the process of growth. The fruit ripened into respectable form and while I was proud of the fruit that came I knew it would eventually fall to the ground and slowly begin to nurture the soil from which it came from. Who am I to try to cling onto this dying fruit and not allow it to endure this natural process over and over again? Just when I feel I have come to a place of complete acceptance and my “wisdom fruit” feels ripe, I find that life beautifully occurs and calls upon my mother in a way I never knew existed. Thus, the process of growth, healing, acceptance, and letting go starts all over again. Although she is no longer physically with me, my mother continues to teach me one of life’s most valuable lessons; to let go and allow rebirth to happen in every moment of every day. I suspect that this process will continue throughout my lifetime, I welcome it’s sometimes painful visit and I make space for it to run its course as my teacher.
Today as we celebrate Mother’s day, I find myself torn between two worlds. One is that of a woman who lives in a world full of mothers and can’t help but long for the mother she’ll never see again. She needs her mother to say the words that she can never say, to guide her through life’s path with love and acceptance, and embrace her in ways she can only dream of ever knowing. This is the grief of a motherless daughter. The other world is that of woman who lives with great fortitude. She finds no challenge too strenuous to face. She can allow herself to be open and vulnerable without losing the power to stand up for what she believes in. She has the insight to find love within her heart and answers to the questions she can’t help but ask. This is the resilience of a motherless daughter.
On mother’s day, I not only reflect on and celebrate my lifelong relationship with my mother, I celebrate all of the mothers and women who surround me. You have touched my soul with the warmth in your words, you have lifted me up with the strength in your embrace, and you have shown me acceptance in the gift of your listening. Through each and every one of you I have been able to tap into the love that my mother has left within me. Thank you.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Leah R. Ackerman