by Ashley Weeks Cart


I’ve been finding that it’s not the days that I anticipate being hard or challenging or grief stricken that are my undoing, it’s the day or two after that milestone or holiday or date.

I can foresee the challenging moments on the calendar, so I plan for them. Activities and action fill those days so there’s little room for grief or dwelling on absence. Mother’s Day was full with plans. From breakfast out, to mother/daughter yoga class, to a trip to Beacon New York to visit the Dia Art Museum and explore its funky town on the Hudson. We ate meals at new restaurants. Rolled in the grass. And were thunder struck by modern art.

“Did you know that we’re allowed to go inside the art?!? INSIDE THE ART!!! This. Is. Awesome!”

Richard Serra made quite the impression on Courtland.

It’s the aftermath of these days, having survived them, having come out the other side, that strike with unfairness and pain. Time has continued forward during these moments. The world didn’t end or stop when my small universe did. The whole world keeps going, despite this momentous, life-changing personal loss, and the very inertia of that is a reminder of the length of time since I last heard her voice, saw her face, squeezed her hand, experienced her laughter. Each new day is one day further from the last time I hugged my mother.

A friend sent me this beautifully resonant piece from The New Yorker this morning, and it provided language and affirmation of so much of how I am feeling today, and in these aftermaths.

There’s a word in Hebrew—malkosh—that means “last rain.” It’s a word that only means something in places like Israel, where there’s a clear distinction between winter and the long, dry stretch of summer. It’s a word, too, that can only be applied in retrospect. When it’s raining, you have no way of knowing that the falling drops would be the last ones of the year. But then time goes by, the clouds clear, and you realize that that rain shower was the one. Having a mother—being mothered—is similar, in a way. It’s a term that I only fully grasp now, with the thirst of hindsight: who she was, who I was for her, what she has equipped me with.

I avoided social media yesterday, knowing all too well that I wouldn’t be able to stomach the celebratory, loving photos and messages about mothers as I longed for my own. It’s something much deeper and more painful than jealousy, something far more visceral and gut wrenching.

Meghan O’Rourke has a wonderful word for the club of those without mothers. She calls us not motherless but unmothered. It feels right—an ontological word rather than a descriptive one. I had a mother, and now I don’t. This is not a characteristic one can affix, like being paperless, or odorless. The emphasis should be on absence.

And that’s just it. I feel the presence of her absence. “She’s no where, and yet she’s everywhere.” While people and experience and time fill in around that absence, she is irreplaceable.

“For henceforth you will always keep something broken about you.” (Proust)

My family, my loved ones, keep me from collapsing under the weight of that break.