A Legacy of Life Lessons From My Mother

I lost my mother in 1986. She was 57 years old. She had fought a long battle, that began with a breast cancer diagnosis. Mom was cancer free for five years, and went in for a checkup. We all thought she looked great, but the news was not good. The cancer had metastasized to her bones. She would die two years later. I think about her often, even though I lost her so many years ago. Memories flood over me, especially on Mother’s Day.

I was 32 when my mom died. It was devastating to lose her. My mom had a powerful personality. She could work a room! People were drawn to her. All of our friends loved to hang out at our house. I have so many memories of them sitting around the kitchen table, as they loved sharing their stories with her. We were all surrounded by a cloud of smoke while her cigarette dangled from her finger, as she offered them her advice on romance, and helped them to deal with their parents.

My mother taught me a lot about being a loving parent, and person. She redefined the definition of family. My family of origin included my parents, my sister, and me. Our doors were always open to other family members, who had no place to go, or people to care for them. A flurry of relatives including grandparents, uncles, and cousins lived with us. I honestly can’t recall a time when we didn’t have an extended family member there. My mother taught me that family was very important, and that its meaning could be decided by the occupants.

I will never forget a pivotal moment in our lives. My parents called a rare family meeting. I was 12, and my sister was 10. My mom asked us how we would feel about having a new brother, and sister. I looked at her flat stomach asking how she knew she was having a boy and a girl? She gently explained that they were considering adopting siblings - a boy who was 13, and a girl who was 17. My parents had attended their mother’s funeral, and heard relatives arguing about who was going to “get stuck with them.” Their father was gone. They had nobody who was willing to take them both. Our family vote was a unanimous yes! My mom was 34 at the time. It never even occurred to me what an undertaking it was at her age, doubling her family, and adopting a pair of teenagers, who had just been through a terrible trauma. We welcomed them into our lives, our hearts, and our family. None of us every looked back. We ultimately enriched each other’s lives in ways we never imagined.

I lost my mom before I met my husband. He and I shared a determination to begin a family. That was one of many things that brought us together. We got married later in life, and knew there would be childbearing challenges associated with this. I had a miscarriage a month after our wedding. It made us both realize how much we wanted to have a child.

This was the beginning of my infertility journey. My mother had experienced multiple miscarriages before she had me. She was determined to have a child. The doctor put her on bedrest for the final few months of her pregnancy with me. I so missed her presence, and guidance, as I began to try to build my family. I knew she would understand the emotional trauma of my loss, and would also empathize with my strong determination to have a child, and create a family.

Because of technology I had more options than my mom did. After suffering two more miscarriages, we were blessed with a healthy baby girl, thanks to an egg donor. This was my final try. I had told my husband I wasn’t sure I could physically, or emotionally, cope with another miscarriage. It took us two and a half years to get to this point.

We have created a home and life, similar to my family of origin. Friends and family are deeply engrained in our day-to-day existence. Our house is frequently occupied by guests. We have offered our support to them, and shared many of their life celebrations, and crises. That is a source of comfort and satisfaction for my husband and me. This is the life we share with our daughter, who has witnessed it all. She now understands how precious these moments and relationships are. It enriches us all. My daughter enjoys bringing her friends here, and we talk about school, family, and friends.

I have come full circle. My daughter is so much like my mother in so many ways. She loves high fashion, shopping, and getting her hair and nails done. These were all passions of my mother that we never shared, in spite of her herculean efforts. It is eerie how much they are alike. I keep mom’s memory alive as I tell my stories and share memories of her with my daughter. I have quenched her desire to know more about this woman, she shares so many traits with. I so wish mom could share her passions with my daughter today. I like to think my mother would be proud.

There will be many of you facing Mother’s Day without your mother. There will also be people who want to be parents but are not there yet. You may be facing this day with some trepidation. Try to do something special for yourself. Honor who you are, and the important relationships in your life, in a way that has significant meaning to you.

For more blogs on Mother's Day, click here.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 40 years. Ms. Waichler authored “Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire” which won 4 major book awards including best book of the year from Mom’s Choice and NAPPA. Her new book, “Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents is an Indie Best Book Finalist for best book of 2016. Her website is http://iriswaichler.com/

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