Brendan Matthew Whelley, the best son in the whole wide world, died in December just a month shy of his 42nd birthday. Bren was a person with special needs. He had some developmental delays, was visually impaired, had severe food allergies and numerous health challenges. He was also a delight. He savored every day, rarely complained, and brought joy and light to the world. I’m not saying he was never crabby or discouraged but those moments passed quickly. He would feel them and let them go.
Bren was my favorite person and constant companion. Every Mother’s Day on my facebook account or on my blog I would write one line, Why I love being a mother… and post a series of pictures of Bren from that year. Those pictures always included Bren with his dogs, swimming, making book sculptures, doing volunteer work, going to his CHEERS (Communities Helping Each and Everyone Reach Success) group activities or University of Dayton basketball games, and eating French fries. My boy loved his fries!
I was dreading this Mother’s Day. For the first time in 42 years I would not be with my son. I would not be awakened with a cheery “Happy Mother’s Day, thanks for being my mom!” and presented with a gift he had made. In recent years we would celebrate by going to Red Robin. If you are unfamiliar with Red Robin, it is a hamburger restaurant chain where they serve bottomless fries. You can understand why he thought that was the best place to celebrate everything.
I miss him. I am struggling to figure out life without him. But only life without his physical presence as I feel him every day. I focus on the joy he shared and try to be like him as much as possible. I am blessed with loving friends, who loved Bren too, and are helping me grieve. We remember his amazing hugs, sometimes a quick squeeze, sometimes a thirty second special. He and I had another unique way of hugging. For whatever reason, he liked to ride in the back seat of the car on the passenger side. One of us would yell “Hand Hug” and I would reach back and we would clasp hands. Even now, I holler it out and reach back as though he was still there.
My first thought today was of Bren. Then I was blessed, I believe by him, with a second powerful thought. I am still a mother. I always will be. So today I am celebrating motherhood, mine and all the other mothers’ in the world. I am going to sit with my memories. If you know a mother who has lost her child, think of her and if you feel comfortable doing so, reach out. Sometimes just “I am thinking of you.” is enough. I have told everyone to please speak to me about Bren, to say his name. To not worry that they will make me cry. There will be plenty of tears today; yet I will be smiling so much as I remember him. I am grateful for every day I got to mother Bren and I am grateful for all he taught me. I’m going to pass out hand hugs and spread some joy.
Be like Bren, hug your loved ones and be grateful for those in your life.
And I will revel in the deep knowing that I am still and will always be a mother.
*This post was scheduled for Mother’s Day but was delayed by a technology glitch. The message remains true.