By: Allyson England Drake, Full Circle Founder and Executive Director

My mother, Joan Carter England, died April 29, 2018 from pancreatic cancer. She was sick for 13 months and fought harder than I ever thought possible to have as many days on this earth as she could.

I mourned her before she died because watching her decline physically and mentally was brutal, to say the least. And even though her death was anticipated after nine weeks in hospice, I felt a deep sense of shock and denial after she died.

It didn’t seem real that my mom was gone. I was a daughter without a mother. 

We buried her on Mother’s Day 2018. It seemed appropriate for my mom, as her roles as mother and grandmother seemingly were the favorite jobs she held. She was the type of mother and grandmother that would always “show up.” She was always there for those she loved, no matter what. She never missed a school or sporting event, always served as team mom or room parent, was there to help if you were sick or just having a bad day, planned for big holiday meals and celebrations for our family, and never missed the chance to say “I love you.”

For our family, those first few years without her have been spent figuring out how to “do life” without her. We just faced the three-year anniversary of her death and my children and I comment often how we feel her presence now more than ever. We talk about her all of the time, usually about the things she loved, what she would say or do in various situations, and the many ways she was always there for us.

We laugh and smile at the memories now, instead of feeling that intense pain in those early days and months. We look for signs from her and are comforted when we are fortunate enough to receive them.  But, don’t get me wrong, I am still attempting to figure out how to be a daughter without a mother.  

Since that day, Mother’s Day has been tricky for me. I try to celebrate my own role as a mother to two amazing children, but I also mourn the loss of my own mom. I remember the discord I felt the second Mother’s Day without her, feeling torn between the deep sadness I felt because my mom was not with us and the joy I felt for being a mother.

So, after a few years, I am still working to find that happy medium between the two. This year, my goal is to give myself grace to feel all the feelings on Mother’s Day – my sadness, my gratitude, my longing, my joy, my disappointment, my happiness – and so much more.  

For all of you “motherless daughters” out there this Mother’s Day, give yourself the best present you can — grace to feel whatever you feel and the ability to exist between the “and” — gratitude and longing, joy ­and sadness, celebration and mourning. 

Walking Miles in Memory in memory of Joan Carter England