What Mothers Do

What Mothers Do ; Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a stuffed puppy on a Long Point, Ontario beach on Lake Erie with trumpeter swans in the distance.Mothers love to talk about their children. But if I talk about my daughter who died, someone might flinch or tell me to get over it. And next time she spots me in Wegmans maybe she’ll duck away into a different aisle. We will no longer exchange information about what our daughters are doing. Still sometimes I long to feel like Marika’s mom again. So I go to retreats for bereaved mothers.

To me Canada was always the cold wilderness way up north, a foreign country with foreign currency and crazy speeds on the QEW. A terrorist attack in Canada was all over the news two days before the retreat. I was nervous. But I’d already survived The Worst Thing. I propped my daughter’s stuffed puppy in the passenger seat and drove five hours to Long Point, Ontario, on the northern shore of lake Erie.

The Canadian mothers were a hardy bunch. Some traveled longer than I did to get there. Bighearted, bitter, tough, tender, broken and mending. Some clung to their faith. Some questioned it. Some had given their family members the finger when told to get over their grief. Nighttime pacers with tissues in pockets, acutely aware of time passing, looking for signs from the children who died, … immediately we were a group.

Together at one long table we ate hearty homemade soups. Our hostess gave us gift-bags and brought in practitioners for sessions in yoga, Integrated Energy Therapy, paraffin wax massages, and aromatherapy. We wore our children’s clothes. Some of us searched for trumpeter swans. We exchanged information about psychic mediums. We held sacred stones and envisioned angels with blessings. We held hands, encircling a table where candlelight brushed our faces and the faces in our children’s photos. We took turns talking about our precious sons and daughters and shared our personal nightmares.

When we thought we were all talked out, we sat around a windblown campfire listening to the sounds of waves.
“Do you believe this? Do you recognize yourself?” one mother laughed in the glow of the fire. Then we all doubled over in our chairs, holding our bellies, whooping with laughter, “Just look at all the things we do to feel better.”
My Canadian sisters. They are my heroes. I was not so far from home. And I was right at home, in the middle of these strong mothers who have learned from their beloved children that life is short, that we need to love it more. We need to love ourselves and each other more.

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20 thoughts on “What Mothers Do

  1. Mary Pare

    Hi Robin ( my American sister in grief )

    I really enjoyed your blog about our weekend in long point. We certainly did have deep belly laughs by the campfire. I haven’t laughed like that in a very long time. Certainly not in the last 7 months since our beautiful daughter Katie passed away.

    Grief knows no border crossings. Mothers all over the world grieve for their children who have passed away.

    I look forward to our next adventure and see what kind of memories we make the next time.

    Your Canadian sister in grief.

    Hugs Mary
    Xoxo

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      So good to hear from you, Mary. I loved working on beautiful Katie’s photo. Hope to catch you laughing at another campfire. We need to laugh more, I believe it is healing. Maybe in May?

      Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Yes, beautiful post and powerful image. Thank you, Robin. I love hearing about this supportive gathering and the campfire on the shore. I’ll love sharing this one.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      And I’ll love you for sharing, Elaine. Thanks. I think we need a supportive gathering in Ithaca for a bunch of us. Do you think they’d ever allow a campfire by the pond at Hospicare? Cheers!

      Reply
  3. SusanB

    Hello Robin, your description of your weekend captured me completely. I could see what you saw. I checked out Kimberly’s website and think that I would like to attend a weekend too. Your teddy bear and swans image is perfect. Well done.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Susan. I’m planning on attending the next retreat which should be early May. It would be great to meet up with you there. Maybe the trumpeter swans will be returning to Canada by then and you can see them too. There was something very comforting about being before them. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Annette Corth

    Dear Robin,

    What a wonderful description of your retreat. The image was both an aesthetic treat and a heartbreak when the stuffed animal came into view. You need a great big hug.

    Love,

    Annette

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I plan to collect that hug very soon. Hopefully before it goes to surgery. I guess waking up early that morning to catch the sunrise was a good idea after all. Cheers!

      Reply
  5. Kirsten Wasson

    Robin,
    This really moved me. And the image is just incredible. Haunting. Thinking of you.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Kirsten,
      A totally different experience from the kick-ass booting-it around LA. I am so touched that you keep up with me. Thank you.

      Reply
  6. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, what a touching experience! I felt this way about our singing grieving group at Hospicare that year we were in it together. The bond of grieving is so strong–we heal each other through the process.

    Lynne

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh my gosh – THAT’s where I first met you. Singing Through your Grief at Hospicare. Is there such a thing as grief-brain, sort of like cancer-brain? Because that’s what I have. If I can recognize that I indeed know the person standing right in front of me – that’s a good day. But remembering how we met – well, uh, hmmmm….. Anyway, I agree. The bond is strong and it feels like I have grief-sisters cheering for me. Thank you so much for being part of my healing.

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you Annie of baked meatball fame. Yes, even the brokenhearted moms have to kick off a little steam and laugh here and there. Especially when they are together. What’s really neat about that whole adventure is that our time together hasn’t ended. I now have friends in Canada who follow me here on my site and on Facebook. Cheers to YOU for following me. Okay – off topic here – but by any chance might you know of where in NY I could find spumoni?

      Reply
        1. Robin Botie Post author

          Spumoni! Got to find Rico’s Restaurant in Syracuse I guess. The stuff I found in Wegmans doesn’t come close to the original. But I have hope. Will investigate Rico’s. Many thanks.

          Reply
  7. Jill Swenson

    The retreat in Canada sounds like a wonderful experience. It is nice to know you are not alone in your grief.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Jill. Thank you so much for being here. Yes, it is amazing to listen and share with others who “know” loss. I decided, based on the writer’s life and obligations you described, that I WAS going to like getting out in public to meet my readers. And it’s been great for me in many ways. Thanks for getting me started on that. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Hi Sam. I am so thrilled to “hear” from you on my blogsite. And seeing little Charlie’s picture here is so sweet. I’m thinking you must know other mothers who have lost their tiny ones. Maybe you can start small and just have a gathering with them? I guess you’re already working hard to get the resources you know you need in your area but maybe you should ask on Facebook if anyone in the UK knows of some retreat. O my gosh I just realized you’re the first to see this new blog. I only posted it an hour ago. Yikes, Sam. Must be past your bedtime. Cheers!

      Reply

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