This year, I’m remembering my mom’s spirit, and the power of so many women I’ve met around the world.

Mother’s Day is hard for anyone who has lost their mom, but this year must be particularly so because of coronavirus. So many people have lost a parent suddenly, without being by their side, able to care for them and return their love in the way they’d always imagined.

I lost my mother in my thirties. When I look back to that time, I can see how much her death changed me. It was not sudden, but so much shifted inside. Losing a mother’s love and warm, soft embrace is like having someone rip away a protective blanket.

I got a small tattoo on my right hand after my mother died, knowing that hand tattoos fade. It looks to others like a letter “m.” But it wasn’t an “m” for Marcheline, her name. It was a “w” for “Winter” — the Rolling Stones song she sang to me as a baby, and that I remember loving as a little girl. “It sure been a cold, cold winter,” she would sing to me. And at the line, “I wanna wrap my coat around you,” she would wrap me up in my blankets and snuggle me.

I loved my mom. She was raised Catholic on the South Side of Chicago. My grandfather, who fought in World War II, loved bowling, M*A*S*H, Benny Hill and my grandmother, Lois. My grandmother died before I was born, when my mother was in her twenties. “Diamond Lois,” my mother’s boyfriend called her. Not because she was a socialite but because she scrubbed the floor in her diamonds. Before my grandparents moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, they ran a bowling alley. Their parents before them ran a bar.

She loved to feel alive. She loved to laugh. When I was down, she would break out those rock songs and remind me of the fire within. One of my early memories is of her lighting candles and placing Beatles albums around the house the night John Lennon was killed. The other time I recall her being worried about a public figure’s health was when Pope John Paul II was shot.

Losing her mother made her deeply sad. When my father had an affair, it changed her life. It set her dream of family life ablaze. But she still loved being a mother. Her dreams of being an actor faded as she found herself, at the age of 26, raising two children with a famous ex who would cast a long shadow on her life. After she died, I found a video of her acting in a short film. She was good. It was all possible for her.

Before her death, she told me that dreams can simply change shape. Her dream to be an artist was in fact her mother’s dream. And later she hoped it would be mine. I think of how true that must be for so many women before us, whose dreams have taken generations to realize.

Listening to “Winter” now, I realize how lonely and afraid my mother must have been, but also how determined she was to fight to make sure her children were all right. As the “w” faded on my hand, so did that feeling of home and protection. Life has taken many turns. I’ve had my own loss and seen my life take a different direction. And it hurt more than I imagined it ever would.

But now, with my girls growing up and being the ages I remember so well as a daughter, I am rediscovering my mother and her spirit. She was a girl who danced all night on the Sunset Strip and loved rock 'n' roll. She was a woman who loved, even after loss, and never lost her grace and her smile.

I now know what it’s like to be alone and to wrap my coat around those I love. And I know the overwhelming sense of gratitude at being strong enough to keep them safe and warm. When your children come into your life, they immediately and forever come first.

This Mother’s Day, I think of refugee mothers I have met, living in poverty and displacement. Every one began her journey of motherhood with a promise to do all she could to protect her child. To lay down her life if necessary. And if she is defeated and silenced, few things are more tragic.

Through refugees, I’ve come to believe that a mother is the strongest person on earth. The softness of her skin is deceptive. She is a force driven by love and loyalty. There is no one who solves more problems. When she has only love to give, it pours from her soul.

When a mother comes to you for help and you do not provide it, she may weep. But she will never give up. When you deny her child safety and shelter, she may seek it in a hostile land where her body is vulnerable to abuse. Her heart will be sick with loss. But she will fight on for her child. Because she is a mother.

Women who are abused aren’t “weak women,” they are often mothers. They are often trying to manage danger with no way out. They will stand between their child and harm. They will face isolation and criticism. But their only thought will be: “Hurt me, not my child. Insult and ignore me, not my child. Take away my food, but not my child’s.”

A woman like this will suffer unimaginable pain in war or in a refugee camp, but she will not leave her child and seek another life. She will sit for 10 years, 20 years or more if necessary. I remember all the beautiful faces of the refugee mothers I have met, like pages in a family album. Their eyes full of exhaustion, but never giving up. Because they who were once daughters must now wrap their own child in a blanket.

Nothing is more painful for a mother or father than to be unable to provide their child with the things they need. This is a reality many more families are facing during this pandemic, even in America. But I have learned that when children know how much you love them, sometimes that understanding counts for more than the thing itself. And when they grow up, knowing that you never abandoned them, or left them in an unsafe situation, or ever stopped fighting for them, will be what counts.

So to the mothers everywhere who feel helpless — yet who still give every last bit of energy, every last bite of food and the only blanket to their children— I honor you.

And to anyone who is grieving this Mother’s Day, I hope you will find consolation and strength in your memories.

credits : NY Times

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