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When you think of Mother’s Day, you typically think of family gatherings, store-bought greeting cards, flowers, celebrations and happiness. When you log into your social media accounts you are met with numerous pictures of moms, long narratives written by grateful children, and a detailed account of the day’s festivities. It’s a joyous occasion for all, or so it would seem.

But, for me and many like me it doesn’t quite look like that. If you’re like me, the holiday begins a few weeks beforehand when you see all the department stores pulling out all of their Mother’s Day marketing schemes and you silently wish you could bypass this time of year all together.

I will be 33 in August. My mom died when I was 25. She was my best friend. Every Mother’s Day since then has been a terrible reminder of my greatest sadness. In the beginning I would ignore the greeting card aisle, scroll quickly past online Mother’s Day contests and try to avoid social media all together. As the years have gone on I sometimes catch myself reading the Mother’s Day ads, and maybe that’s because my heart has healed a little over the years or maybe I just secretly enjoy the fact that seven years later I am still able to feel so much at the mention of “mom.” After all, pain has a way of numbing things.

This year an Instagram hashtag caught my eye — #becauseofher. I sat there feeling included in this holiday for the first time in seven years. My mom isn’t here, I can’t write a page-long essay detailing why I know she is the best mom, deserving of the spa day grand prize. I can’t treat her to the local bed and breakfasts Mother’s Day brunch special but I can share with the world what simply is, because of her.

My mom taught me to be kind and loving. She taught me the importance of caring for people and giving to those who are in need. She taught me to laugh and how to be silly. She showed me how to be strong and more importantly she showed me that true strength is the ability to be vulnerable. She showed me unconditional love and taught me the importance of it. She let me be little, and she helped me grow up. She filled my childhood with music and laughter, adventures and fun. She showed me what a mom is supposed to be and although my mom never got the chance to meet my babies or watch me take center stage for my most important role yet, I know that she would be proud of me.

I was never the girl with huge career aspirations; I never dreamed of going off to college and getting a degree, I never wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. I “just” wanted to be a mom. It was the only thing in this life that I knew I was supposed to do. That dream became a reality for me a year and a half ago when my daughter was born. Then that happiness multiplied three months ago when my son was born. My mom always told me that “you never truly know what love is until you have a child.” She was right. My kids are my heart, my happiness and my greatest purpose. I am a woman like most, a mess of insecurities, second guessing myself on the daily, but one thing I know for sure is that I am a good mom, because of her.

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