Real Life Stories

Why mother’s day is now the toughest day of my year

I lost my mum in April, but feel her absence most in May.
By Ishani Nath, Flare
Wearing her mother's yellow dress, Ishani Nath holds hands with her mum, Veena, a few months before she passed away. Photo, Marjan Tropper. Wearing her mother's yellow dress, Ishani Nath holds hands with her mum, Veena, a few months before she passed away. Photo, Marjan Tropper.

I remember sitting in a big red chair, staring at her and thinking, “Mum, what have you done?”

In the moments right after my mum passed away, I could not fathom that she had left us. She had fought so hard, beating ovarian cancer three times and celebrating with multiple tequila shots along the way. She had willed herself to live so emphatically that it was hard to comprehend we would be leaving the hospital, and attempting to go on with the rest of our lives, without her.

On that day, two long yet impossibly short years ago, everything changed. The phone number that was my go-to dial whenever anything good, bad or boring happened was reallocated to a stranger. Our family went from a trio to a duo. We knew the guest lists for all celebrations, big or small, would now always have one notable absentee.

And Mother’s Day would never be the same.

Veena holds newborn Ishani in this photo from 1989. Veena holds newborn Ishani in this photo from 1989.

Most days the memory of my mum is like the hum of my fridge in my apartment; it’s constantly there but with time, I’ve trained myself not to notice it. But each year around Mother’s Day, it feels like the world cranks up the volume to the point that it cannot be ignored.


For the entire month of May, we’re bombarded with greeting card commercials advertising how nothing quite matches a mother’s love. Stores slap labels on stacks of pastel-coloured items marking the perfect gift, picked just for her. Flower shops create bouquets designed to show your mum just how much you appreciate her.

I used to be a happy consumer of all these items. I’m an only child, so Mother’s Day was my responsibility and I took it seriously. Growing up, this day in May typically entailed a somewhat challenged attempt at making brunch and finding the perfect sweater, item of jewellery or mani-pedi appointment for the occasion.

Now, it is a day of forced remembrance.

Mother’s Day is a Motherless Day for me and many others, but what about those who have a bad relationship with their mum or who never knew them at all? As soon as Mother’s Day is done, we’ll all move on to Father’s Day — a day where some will cheers to their pops while others will be confronted with a potentially challenging father-child relationship, or perhaps even grief over a lost parent.

In fact, I was surprised to learn it was that very feeling of loss that actually sparked the creation of Mother’s Day. In the early 1900s, an American woman named Anna Jarvis created the day as a way of showing her appreciation for her mother, who died in 1905. Her Mother’s favourite flowers were carnations so she gave red and pink blooms to mothers and white blooms to people with mothers who had passed away. It was only a matter of time before greeting card companies and florists began using her day as a marketing opportunity. When that happened, Jarvis denounced the holiday completely.

Photo, Marjan Tropper. Photo, Marjan Tropper.

While it could be argued that Mother’s Day still maintains its original intended spirit, I have to agree with Jarvis. This s--t has gotten out of control.

I’m all for appreciating moms — or now, for me, my maternal stand-ins — and special days that commemorate the people we love in our lives, but greeting card companies need to stop telling us how to feel, who to celebrate and when to mark the occasion.

Because at one point, these arbitrary holidays that separate the haves from the have nots will become daunting for all of us. It took losing my mum for me to realize that.


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