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The month of May is one I don’t look forward to. My late mom’s birthday is within the first week of May, followed by Mother’s Day, then the anniversary of her wedding to my dad — the love of her life — falls a week later. May tends to be one of those months that, in the past, have brought up a lot of feelings deep from within. At age 18, I flew out of the country for a month-long trip across Europe, mostly to avoid the markings of any of these once celebrations. Another year, I found myself in the ‘Mother’s Day’ card aisle, reading each and every card, as tears streamed down my face.

But as I’ve gotten older, more self-aware, and as more years tick past without her, I’ve learned to not shy away from Mother’s Day, but instead to embrace it and honour her. For those of you whose mothers have passed away, know you’re not alone and that there are many ways to honour your mom on this day. We spoke to six people who have lost their mothers to see how they do just that.

Amanda Alvaro, Co-founder & President of Pomp & Circumstance

Lost her mom in 2009

I write letters to my mom. It’s my solace and the way I processed grief in the early days and how I honour her memory now as the years pass by. It is not a celebration. Or a tradition. For me, it is deeply personal and intimate. Letters that have catalogued my feelings, my grief and some of the most momentous occasions of my life. Interestingly, when I look back at the letters I’ve written to her, the earliest ones are flooded with a profound sadness. But 9 years and 3 kids later, it’s morphed into something else. More like a profound respect and appreciation for the tools she gave me to be able to mother my own children. In writing, I’ve found a reflection that allows me to intimately connect with her as the years slip by.

And the most meaningful way I honour her on days like Mother’s Day, is in reading some of the pieces I’ve written, to my son (and eventually my daughters). It’s a moment to pause and to reflect and to share the memory of her. To pass it down and along, through them. To share a piece of this life I’m living without her, to celebrate the enormous impact she had on me, and to give her a place in my children’s memory of the Nana they never met but who still occupies such an important role in our lives.

Len Latinsky, Engineer

Lost his mom in 1999

My mom past away in 1999, 19 years ago.  For the first few years I spent Mother’s Day alone almost hiding/avoiding my thoughts and pain. I still find it hard to acknowledge the loss at times.  For many years now on or around Mother’s Day I visit her grave and spend time just talking to her as though she is still here. Updating her on things in my life. I also make a donation to Reena Foundation, a charity that she supported. I don’t know why, but I tend to do that anonymously.

I also like to tell my twin girls, that recently turned six, about her and how much she would have loved them. They have come to the cemetery with me several times even when they were babies. Lately they have come to have a different appreciation of what it means to go there. At first they just came along, now they like to put a stone or bead on my mom’s headstone, as they know that it is a physical reminder of their visit. Over the years some conversations with my girls about my mom are easier than others. But, each time we talk about what my mom was like or things she enjoyed, I have come to appreciate how empathetic both my girls are. They will sit quietly while I finish a thought or story. They will ask questions and appreciate some of my emotional responses. Although tough at times, my girls have made it easier to keep my mom in my thoughts as well.

Libby Roach, Food Editor, AuburnLane

Lost her mom in 2001

I don’t do anything particularly special, but the last time I did see my mother alive was on Mother’s Day, so it’s always a hard day, but even worse because of the memories of seeing her so ill.

Now, as a mother to two daughters, I spend every second with them, doesn’t matter what we do, and it’s never about the gifts. Just being together is all I want. This year we’re doing something my mom would have loved — going to the Jays game. My mom was a big Jays fan. We never went to games together, as she had MS and couldn’t manage the stairs/walking. We would often listen to the games on the radio together though. I talk about her often, she’s not a secret, they have their favourite stories about their grandma they often ask me to retell, over and over. That keeps her memory alive, even though they never got a chance to meet her.

Cory Chadwick, Speaker, Mentor, & Founder of The Personal Greatness Project

Lost his mom in 1999

It was a hard day the day Mom died and that was a tough way to say goodbye to someone you love so much. As much as that broke my heart, there was a sense of peace knowing her battle was over. I was in a low place though, and that’s what made me realize I have a decision to make about who I wanted to be. Mom inspired me, and somehow losing her became a source of incredible strength. Among many things, that’s something I thank her for every Mother’s Day.

I remember her at her best and tell her everything that’s been going on in my life, keep her posted on my (younger) brother, and as the years rolled on, about my incredible wife Erica, and most recently, my beautiful little boy Brooks. This year I get to tell her about baby boy #2 on the way. I know how proud she’d be and how happy all of this would make her, and while it’s hard not to cry a little, I always have a big smile on my face. When we’re all caught up, I tell her how much I love her, blow her a kiss, and let her know we’ll talk again soon.

Rayna Loeb, Entrepreneur

Lost her mom in 2002

I honour my mother by keeping her spirit alive, speaking about her all the time to close family, random people I come in contact with daily in conversation and mostly to my daughter, Elle . I have always brought my daughter to visit my mother (at the cemetery) from an early age and used to sit at her stone and do arts and crafts just so Elle would feel close to her. I love speaking about my mother all the time and what a strong incredible woman she was and how she brought strength to my life to be a good mom on my own. I also have kept a few important furniture pieces that remind me of my mom that I look at daily. Right on my dresser sits an 8 by 10 picture of my mother which was by far my favourite of her, so I get to see her face every day.

Keary Scanlon, Model-rigger in stop-motion animation

Lost his mom in 2002

My mother passed away on the 24th of May, which was about twelve days after Mother’s Day that year, and about three weeks after her birthday. I saw her towards the end in the hospital, on life-support, and later at the funeral home, but the last time I really saw her, conscious and alive, was on Mother’s Day.

Things went downhill from there pretty quickly. Oddly, perhaps, I never developed any rituals, or anything similarly concrete to mark her passing. When I’m back home, I’ll drop by to see how the tree that was planted in her memory is doing, but that’s about it.  It seems to me that the best way to honour her is to think of her well, and often, which I do. I just do it even a bit more often this time of year, I guess.