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By the age of 18, one out of every five children will experience the death of someone close, according to OMEGA, Journal of Death and Dying. Losing a loved one to death can be a devastating event. However, losing a mother seems to cut deep down into the core of one’s own existence. Oftentimes, leaving people to feel orphaned regardless of age. —And unsurprisingly, the loss of a mother at a young age can cause many individuals to question their identity. I lost my mother at the age of nine and till this day, I’m curious of what life might look like if my mother had lived, if she had the opportunity to raise me, how I might be different, would anything about me have changed? 

A childhood bereavement study completed by Comfort Zone Camp found that “69% of Americans who lost a parent growing up still think about their parent frequently.” No doubt—I’m at no loss of wonder when it comes to my mother. Debra Garcia lives rent free in my mind. She races up and through my innermost thoughts and impacts my emotional health even after decades of physical absence. My deceased mother is part and parcel of where I come from, where I’m headed and how I’ll eventually get there. And while time has tamped down grief, Mother’s Day still stirs up that longing for a mother who lives in the flesh and not in the imagination—particularly as I celebrate my own motherhood and bear witness to others revere their ole earths in the physical. 

All is not lost—not for myself or others who mourn mothers in the month of May. We, too, can honor our mama’s spirit in real time. Here are three ways to cherish the women—who brought you into this world—on Mother’s Day even if she’s no longer here. 



Eat Mother’s Day meal

Source: Boogich / Getty

Food is salve for the belly and the heart. Feast on your mama’s favorite meal to cook or eat. Debra was a damn good cook—and she loved to eat and that is memorable for me. One of my fondest moments is being eight-years-old, and my mother sending me—across the street from where we lived—to a Jewish deli to order her favorite sandwich: “a pastrami-on-rye-with-mustard-and pickle.” I fall in love with pastrami sandwiches each Mother’s Day. They bring me joy. I can still remember the cadence of the words marching from her mouth and her reminder to not “forget the pickle.”



Honoring deceased mothers with Altar

Source: Pinterest / pinterest

Revere your mother in death— as you would in life. While some visit their dearly-departed mothers in cemeteries, showering their graveyards with flowers and balloons and what-nots, I cannot. My mother was not buried but instead cremated. Her cremains were not bequeathed to me or my younger brother. We were children when she transitioned and were unable to recover her ashes as adults. Therefore, I’ve erected an altar in her honor. On Mother’s Day, I venerate her with praise, food, liquor, money, flowers, candles and loosies—my mother enjoyed Newport cigarettes in her day. I ain’t gonna deny her in death. I blast some of her favorite music: Betty Wright, Ray Parker Junior, and lots of Luther Vandross. 



Mother’s Day balloons

Source: Daniel Llao Calvet / Getty

Let your mom fly high using symbolism. After a day filled with love, praise and reflection, I release a bouquet of white balloons into the atmosphere and imagine my mother’s spirit floating freely. I watch them waft away until they are out of sight and remind myself she is not out of heart or mind. I imagine she is filled with food, honor and fully liberated in her current realm. I whisper well wishes. 

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