Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sisters as Mothers.....Mothers as Sisters

"Both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of what we can dare to be." ~ Elizabeth Fishe

Sunday is Mother's Day.

If you have been reading along with my previous postings, you should be aware that I am a single mother due to my husband's passing from cancer at age 38, leaving behind our three wonderful children.  But you may not be aware that I was also raised in a household in which my own mother passed away from cancer at age 39, leaving my father to raise five children on his own.

Because I lost my mother at such a young age, Mother's Day really never held much meaning to me until I became a mother myself.  As I was reminded of the upcoming holiday this weekend -  primarily due to pleas by my 7 year-old to close my eyes as she created craft projects in every room of the house as "surprise" gifts -  I reflected on the fact that although I was raised without my mother, I have had several "mothers" in my sisters and mother-in-law.

I am the youngest of that crew my father raised alone....three older sisters and one older brother.

My three older sisters have always been like mother figures to me.  As we were growing up, they were the ones that played games with me, made sure I understood the womanly changes I would encounter, taught me how to cook/bake, took me shopping, hosted wedding and baby showers for me, traveled to Philadelphia to help me with my newborn children when we came home from the hospital.  I had a very different relationship with each of them.....but I suspect those relationships would have been much different if my mother had been there for all of us.

I have a very vivid memory of my oldest sister, Janet, taking me to get a shots before high school and being mistaken as my mother....something she was not to excited about at the time; taking me camping with her and her boyfriend (eventually husband); taking me to the circus, and as I got older, talking to me about my job, marriage, children. etc.  I remember my sister, Audrey, playing game after game of Payday with me in her room; teaching me how to change diapers on her own children.  I recall Ruth going to movies with me, taking me on my first bike trip to Vermont; sending me care packages in college and attending my college field hockey games.

Janet unfortunately has also passed away from cancer at a young age - leaving behind two amazing, successful, independent and caring children.  

Audrey and Ruth were both very instrumental in helping me get through the loss of my husband.  As soon as she received word Brian was in the hospital, Ruth dropped everything and flew out to Bloomington to help with my children.  The day Brian passed away, he was asking to see our older son, Jay.  Ruth woke Jay up, helped him prepare for seeing his dad, stayed by his side, and took him out for a talk and donuts afterward.  Our youngest was celebrating her first birthday the day after Brian passed away.  None of us had any interest in celebrating but Ruth made sure there were presents, decorations and cake.  She got the boys involved, took pictures and I am eternally grateful for this....I can't imagine if we had not celebrated Rachel's first birthday.

Ruth and Audrey helped me sort through boxes of pictures as we put together memory boards of Brian for the visitation.  They kept our friends informed, assisted with arrangements, kept us fed.

Six months later Audrey was passing through Chicago on a business trip and added a few days to visit me in Bloomington.  She helped me with that daunting task of sorting through Brian's clothes.  It was her idea to save several to make quilts for each of the kids - something I still have not yet but it is always on my to do list.

When I moved to a new house, Audrey and Ruth flew back again and helped us with the move.  They emptied boxes, organized my kitchen, put pictures up around the house.  Then planned an impromptu trip to Chicago with me after making secret arrangements with my friends.  A very much needed escape from reality.

The next year I celebrated my 40th birthday.....and I was surprised by a visit from Audrey and Ruth....along with another trip to Chicago and Pat Benatar at the House of Blues.  We had a great birthday dinner with a friend at Smith & Wollensky overlooking the river watching the sunset.  A great way to ring in my 40's (which is never a depressing birthday for any of us because it meant we outlived our mother....strange perspective I know but you really do look at life differently when you've been surrounded by untimely deaths).

Another time I was heading out of town for the weekend - can't remember the circumstances at the moment - but I asked Ruth if she would fly out to spend the weekend with the hesitation whatsoever on her part. 

Three women who have had a significant impact on me becoming the mother I am today.

But there is one other woman in my life that has a substantial impact on me....and continues to love and support me every day.  The mother of the love of my life - Brian's mother - my mother-in-law.

I have always had a wonderful relationship with her - since the day I met her.  She has never had in-law status with me.....she has always held mother status.  There is NOTHING Robin wouldn't do for me - before and after Brian passed away.  She is a confident.  I trust her 100% and is someone I trust for sound advice about life.  I would truly be lost without her and am blessed to have her in my life.

So although I never knew my mother, I have plenty of loved ones that have filled that void.  Thank you to all of you.....and I dedicate this post to you.

Look around you....are there other women in your life that have supported you and been motherly to you?  Be sure to share with them your gratitude, give them a hug and wish them a Happy Mother's Day.

To honor the memory of my own mother and my sister Janet, I made a donation to LIVESTRONG.  If you would like to honor the mothers in your life with a donation, please click on the link below:



  1. You're an amazing and inspiring woman. Have a great Mother's Day!

  2. The more I learn about you, the more in awe I am of you. LiveStrong is definitely your motto. God Bless you on this Mother's Day!