Gene. Mom to my sister and I; Mamu to her three grandchildren.

Gina. Mom to Sharon, Karen, Laura, Kathryn and Wendy; Maw to her ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Judy. Mum to Laurie and Tracy, Dana to her granddaughter.

These women put others first. They followed their husband’s careers, uprooting their families to resettle in new cities. They raised nine daughters between them, and were there over the years for the bloody knees and broken hearts.

This year is our eleventh Mother’s Day without Mom, Laurie and Tracy’s second without Auntie Judy, and the first for Auntie Gina’s daughters.

Val and I are among the youngest in the group of nine. During family visits, we tagged along with the older girls who – bless them – included us in so many things. I looked up to them then and still do.

I want them to know that Mother’s Days will be hard. That grieving is a journey, and it takes longer than you might expect. That the tears will come before words when someone gently asks “how are you?”

I want them to know that everything will feel better – like your head’s above water – until it’s not. And that’s ok.

I want them to know that when they finally find a new normal, it doesn’t mean you have forgotten her or love her any less.

It means the gaping hole she left in your life is starting to heal. Her love, her lessons, her expressions and habits will be with you always.

I want each of the girls to know that they are special people in my life. I hold you close in my heart, especially today.