Mother’s Day memories of the mom I lost

Remembering our last Mother’s Day together has eased the pain and regret I’ve felt since my mother’s death, Alden Loury writes. I owe my view of the world, and myself, to her.

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Alden Loury in his younger days, with his mother, Janice Brazan, who died in 2022. She pushed me to be curious, always in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and she taught me to never question whether I’m good enough, Loury writes.

Alden Loury in his younger days, with his mother, Janice Brazan, who died in 2022. She pushed me to be curious, always in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and she taught me to never question whether I’m good enough, Loury writes.

Provided

The memory is a year old, but I can still see the smile form on her face as she opened her front door to greet me.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” I told my mother as I extended my hand to present the bouquet of flowers, an assortment that included roses, carnations and a few calla lilies, her favorite.

She laughed as she took the flowers, flashing a warm smile, broad with delight and a hint of surprise.

It was Mother’s Day 2022, and my mother, Janice Brazan, probably didn’t expect the flowers. My custom was to get her two cards — one serious and one silly — along with a gift card. It had been a few years since I’d gotten her flowers. As I watched her face light up, I thought to myself: “I should get her flowers more often.”

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Her warmth remained throughout my visit. I caught her up on the latest with her three granddaughters — one in law school, one graduating from high school and the youngest preparing to start eighth grade in the fall. She was always proud of the girls, often creating boards and other crafts to recognize their accomplishments or just to impart encouraging messages.

Perhaps it was her laughter and good nature, but as we talked, I decided that I’d shed my pride and finally tell her about what was happening with me. For months, I’d shielded her from my struggles enduring the emotional pain of a divorce and the financial strain of a pandemic.

I was always nervous to share my challenges with her. After some time to reflect on her words, I would appreciate her counsel. However, in the moment, I would often feel attacked.

But it felt different this time.

I can still see her smile that day, as she patiently listened and shared her thoughts. Her words were comforting, even uplifting. Afterward, we hugged and said our farewells, and I felt relieved to have shared my feelings with her. I thanked her and apologized for sometimes being prickly.

Almost two weeks later, I came over to help her run errands, something that had become our routine. Only this time, she didn’t respond when I called to let her know that I was on my way. And she didn’t answer the doorbell when I arrived at her apartment in south suburban Blue Island. A neighbor buzzed me in the building, but there was still no response when I knocked on my mother’s door. I could hear the faint sound of the television in her living room. Maybe she’d walked to the drug store a couple blocks away, I thought. So I waited.

Pain, regret — and gratitude

After an hour had passed, I began to worry. I called 911. Sometime later, several first responders arrived. I waited anxiously as they pried open the front door and went in. Moments later, a paramedic emerged to tell me that my mother had passed away.

Almost immediately, I was awash with emotion and tears as I crumpled to the floor.

In that moment, and almost every moment since, I’ve felt sadness and pain. It’s been so hard that I haven’t sent thank you cards to friends and family who attended her funeral. I can’t bear the thought of reliving the unbearable loss with each signature.

Alden Loury with his mother, who died in 2022.

Alden Loury with his mother, who died in 2022.

Provided

I’ve also felt a deep sense of regret — for the arguments, for the times I didn’t call to check on her, for the times when I should’ve told her how much I loved and appreciated her.

If only I had more time, to say all of the things I should’ve said and to take back all of the things that I shouldn’t have told her.

But the memories of our last Mother’s Day together have eased my suffering and slowly transformed my regret into gratitude.

The memories remind me that she was a precious gift who poured an enormous amount of love, wisdom and care into me. I’m grateful for the time we had.

In many ways, I owe everything I am to her. My view of myself and the world around me.

She pushed me to be curious, always in pursuit of knowledge and understanding. She taught me to never question whether I’m good enough. My worth isn’t defined by the actions or choices of others.

And she told me that my story is constantly being rewritten. It’s not over until it’s over. Moments that appear to be failures are merely stumbles, lessons learned, on a journey that continues. That carried me during my 10-year odyssey to earn a college degree. One of my proudest moments was having her there to see me get my diploma. We did it together.

She’s given me all that I’ll ever need to carry on without her.

Alden Loury is data projects editor at WBEZ and writes a monthly column for the Sun-Times.

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