Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have turned 72.

I can’t begin to tell you how badly I would like to celebrate this day with her.

Because she should be here with us, the family for which she sacrificed so much. She gave up so much of herself for us.

It will be 3 years next month since Mom died of liver cancer. Three long years. The longest of my life, because they were the first ones which I had to go through without her.

Not a day goes by where I don’t think of her. That’s a big cliché, I know, but you only realize how true it is when you actually live it.

Every day, I close my eyes and I can see her, sitting among us, smiling, her eyes filled with pride at seeing this beautiful, big family which she built with our father, the love of her life. I wish I could touch her, hold her in my arms, talk to her. Make her laugh. You don’t know how proud she made me when she laughed at something I said. There’s no greater reward for a kid like me than to make my mother laugh.

Today, I can still see her face when she learned that my girlfriend and I were expecting our first child. How happy she was! Of course, she already had four grandsons by then, but she was as happy as if this were the first. She was happy for me.

And her happiness filled me with happiness, too, when I realized that I had just accomplished something, that she was proud of me.

I’d love for her to still be with us, of course. To see what her kids and grandkids have become. To see her walk hand in hand with my father, just like the young newlyweds they had been over 50 years ago. To talk about my ongoing projects. To pass on a novel I’d just read so we could talk about it when she was done reading it.

To ask her for advice.

But mostly to say thanks.

How many times had I missed out on the chance to thank her?

Because, really, what more can you tell your mother than those simple words.

Thank you, Mom.

Simple words.

But, man, do we ever have trouble saying them.

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I don’t know what drove her to become a mother. Maybe she just went with the times. Maybe it was the influence of her own family: she was the youngest of five children (two sisters and three brothers). By the time she met my father, she already had a few nieces and nephews.

All I know is that she want a fourth pregnancy, after a miscarriage where she lost her third child. I don’t know why, but if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

You’re not born as a parent. You become a mother or a father, even if you’re never quite ready for all that comes with it. You learn on the job, you make a lot of mistakes and (hopefully) you sink a few good shots.

But you do your best.

Which is what my mother did with me. She did her best, and her best was quite good, let me tell you.

Because I would never trade it for anything in the world.

I consider myself lucky to have had her in my life for some 36 years. I have a lot more good memories of her than bad ones. I could write a long list of good times we shared together.

Our trip to Hampton Beach.

My basketball games, where she sat in the stands cheering me on, even though she knew nothing about the sport.

Our Saturday morning shopping sessions.

Taking the train downtown to go to a book fair.

Christmas eve nights. Christmas mornings. Pure magic.

Unfortunately, Man often only realizes the worth of something or someone when he loses it.

When you have it, you’re happy. You take advantage of it. You don’t stop to think about tomorrow.

Until it gets swept away in a heartbeat. With nobody asking for your permission. Nobody warning you that you’re going to lose it.

What’s worse, nobody tells you where it’s gone to. Because nobody knows. Growing up as a catholic, you’re told a lot of nice things about life after death, eternal life, heaven, and all that stuff.

But I really have no idea of what goes on. Nobody has come back to tell me about it.

All I know, all I feel, every hour of every day, is this gigantic hole, this emptiness inside me left by the disappearance of a wonderful woman who decided to be my mother.

I love you Mom, and I miss you more and more each and every day. I still need you.

You left much much too fast. Much much too early.

xxx Ton grand