Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


Lessons From A Long Lost Mother's Day Card


I’ve often wondered whether my mom knew how much I loved her.

For years, I wasn't certain if I’d ever told her properly, outside of relying on assumption. 

Did she know how lucky I felt to have a mom who was vibrant and kind, loving, and funny?

Nobody has ever quite believed in me like she did. But that’s part of the composite sketch of a really great mom, isn’t it? They see in you a shining star whose flaws are lovable and endearing.

My mom died in 1997 at the age of 49 from a brain aneurysm. There is a thick fog surrounding that time.

I remember only a few hazy moments, like when she squeezed my hand while lying in the hospital bed, and when she unexpectedly sat up, and later how the monitor suddenly indicated she was taking breaths on her own. I recall the nurse who’d given me two thumbs up in the hallway. She believed that my mom was going to survive.

And she might have, had she not suffered a second aneurysm while waiting for the brain surgeon to arrive. This is all too much to process even now, approaching the 16th anniversary of her passing. Writing these words takes me back there. The tears fall as much today as they did then.

Some people are too full of life to die. My mother was one of them. She was healthy, vivacious and naturally fun and flirty.

Sometimes I dream we’re having a hilarious, belly-aching laugh or sharing the strongest hug I’ve ever known and I don’t want to let go. They seem real, my dreams, and are hard to shake when I wake up.

There is still the urge to phone her up and share all the big news. I want to tell her all about the love of my life (she would’ve adored him), and about our perfect baby boy whose cuteness is only surpassed by his spirit, and whose soft apple cheeks have clocked more kisses than I can count. His giggle would make her melt.

We'd catch up on everything that has happened throughout the years, not skipping a beat. 

It’s difficult to imagine what we’d be like as mother and daughter today and what advice she'd offer me as a new mom. What would it be like to have her here, with her bell chime of a laugh, experiencing life’s milestones with me?

Even now I wonder if I’d said enough, done enough, loved enough. It’s a common thread among those who’ve lost loved ones too soon.

Then, one day I found an answer: It was in the last Mother’s Day card I’d ever given her, dated May 11th, 1997.

Inside, in my neat printing, I express many of the sentiments I have today.

“To my mother,

Mom, I can never thank you enough, firstly for being my mom because with that you gave me so much more than most children ever get — and that is happiness, creativity, love and independence. All of these things, mom, you’ve given to me from your own talent. 

Most people never have the chance to become friends with their parents, and when I sit here and think about that, it seems so sad. I feel so fortunate, for both of you taught me self-reliance, pride and strength, but most of all, friendship. I love you and dad more than I can put into words, and I respect and feel proud to have two of the strongest people as my mom and dad. You have both given me strength. Thank-you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”

My mom died three months later.

But there it was. She had known how much she meant to me, and not just from a heartbreaking goodbye in an unfamiliar hospital room, but here in our living, breathing, happy lives. 

As Mother’s Day approaches, I'll be sending loving vibes to my own dear mama, wherever she may be, and to all of the other great moms around the world.

I wish you a day filled with love, memories and appreciation. And many belly-aching giggles, because truly that is the very best part.