Taking Back May

May is not my favorite month. It’s a month associated with loss, pain, and emptiness. Every time May rolls around, another year is ticked off, marking the passage of time between now and when I had to say goodbye to my mom and best friend. This May will mark three years. Overtime, this gap will grow bigger and bigger; that scares me. And it’s as if my body can sense the change of season, almost as if the memories and grief associated with this month have been absorbed into my bones, resurfacing every year like a bad case of arthritis or seasonal allergies. I woke up on May 1st and I could feel that it was May. It’s like a heightened sense of awareness that something important is coming up, the passage of time that is so hard to wrap my head around. It’s a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart.

At the same time, I know that May was one of my mom’s favorite times of the year. Everything in her garden would be blooming and more often than not, that is where you could find her. And although my mom was in incredible pain three years ago in May, her demeanor was not phased. She remained optimistic, at peace, and smiling.

Mom's iris
Mom’s iris

As I sat studying for my exams on May 1st, feeling slightly sorry for myself and a bit apprehensive about the month, I started laughing thinking about all the silly things my mom would do to help me relieve exam stress. Like the time she stole my notes and textbook and forced me to dance with her for fifteen minutes while I was preparing for my AP exams in high school. At that moment, it seemed only appropriate that I have my own dance party to start off a difficult month. There’s really nothing like dancing around your living room and laughing at yourself to shake off the blues. As cheesy as it might sound, I felt like Mom was watching and laughing right along with me. It was like bridging a memory of the past with my present.

This little dance episode sparked an idea: do one thing every day of May that reminds me of Mom, something that captures who she was, what she loved, and how she lived. That’s 31 days of moments that will hopefully help me feel more connected to her. It’s going to be a celebration of all things Mom and focusing on the joy we shared. This will also be an opportunity to share more with you all about her. So it’s time, I am taking back May!

May 1st: *Epic* dance party
There is no photographic evidence of this because let’s be honest, the world wide web does not need to see that! But it did happen and like I said, it was the spark behind this idea.

May 2nd: Try a new recipe
On the second day of May, I decided to channel my mom’s inner chef. My mom was an incredible cook and even though she didn’t have a lot of time for it, it was always something she loved and it was always a treat when it was Mom’s turn in the kitchen (sorry Dad…). One of the coolest things about my mom’s cooking is that she was never afraid to try new things. It was an area where her scientific background and creative mind blended and resulted in delicious ‘experiments.’

While I can’t claim that I came up with this myself, I thought it would be fun to try out this recipe for homemade Cheez-Its. I’ve wanted to try it for a while but never made the time for it, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Granted, it’s not a very complicated or glamorous recipe, but while I was making them I kept thinking about how funny Mom would find it that I was actually making something in the kitchen. I’ve gotten a lot better and interested in cooking in the past three years, but it certainly was not my forte three years ago. I think this episode of Take Back May would have greatly amused her.

May 3rd: Grocery shopping with Dad
You know how when you’re younger you often accompany your parents when they run errands? Well, I did this a lot with my mom and it was during these seemingly unimportant moments that we had some our best conversations. It’s simple moments like those that I really miss being able to share with her.

With all the craziness surrounding the end of the school year and preparing for graduation, I felt like my dad and I had not been able to spend much quality time together. So on Saturday afternoon as he was preparing to go run some errands, I offered to come with him. I could tell he was surprised that I wanted to go with him, as I don’t normally offer to spend time with him while he runs errands. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had a great time catching up and just enjoying one another’s company. It took me back to my childhood when Mom and Dad were my entire world and it reminded me to appreciate every moment, even if it is as simple as going to the grocery store.

May 4th: Go for a walk
Sunday was a busy day so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fit in an activity. But then I remembered that one of my mom’s favorite stress relievers was going for walks, and it seemed like the perfect way to get ready for a busy week while doing something she loved. Our neighborhood is nestled a mile back in the woods so it is a beautiful time of year to walk and just be completely surrounded by nature. My mom loved plants and being outside; we have photo albums filled with pictures of flowers, trees, and other things she found beautiful that she took on these walks. Walking with my mom was always a special way for my brother and me to spend one-on-one time with her, and catch up on all that was going on in our lives. The memory of the last walk I took with my mom before she passed away is still very vivid and one that I will always remember.

Sunday walk
Sunday walk

May 5th: Chick-fil-A celebration
My mom was a very healthy eater and American fast food was not something she indulged in often. Honestly, I have no idea where this tradition started but on the last day of school, Chick-fil-A became the celebratory food of choice all throughout my childhood. And when I would walk over to UNC Hospitals to visit my mom at work or sit with her during her chemotherapy during my freshman year of college, we always got Chick-fil-A. During the rest of my college career, I have continued this tradition of saving Chick-fil-A for special occasions, only having it after completing my last final exam of the semester. So yesterday, after finishing my last exam of my college career, I headed over to Chick-fil-A. Maybe it sounds weird that a fast food restaurant triggers such strong memories of my mom but…it does. It’s a perfect example of how so many small, insignificant things remind me of her every day.

So stay tuned to see what other adventures May will bring in an effort to turn this difficult month into a celebration of Mom!

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