"What do you wish you could say to your mom right now?"
Would you tell her how hard it is to appreciate everything she’s sacrificed? Would you vent your anger? Would you apologize for a long-unacknowledged wrong?
Would you tell her how much you loved her?
That’s what we asked people in New York City’s Washington Square Park on a Thursday afternoon in May, the week before Mother’s Day.
Participants wrote their messages on index cards and dropped them in a shoe box.
Aude from Paris writes a note to her mother. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.
Some were heartwarming.
Some were heartbreaking.
Some were revealing.
Some made no sense at all.
All were intensely personal.
The largely anonymous notes express a kaleidoscope of emotion — sorrow, anger, love, guilt, and deep gratitude. All for the person who made their authors into the people they are today.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. "You are my best friend, mentor & someone I can share everything with!! Love you Mom!!" Although we argue so much I will always love you I’m living perfectly fine Mom. 4. "Hi Mom XOXO Miss you every day! Thank you for everything!" I love you. Ti tengu caru. 6. "The mitochondria in our cells come from our moms! Thanks for making me strong, mom!" 8. "Mom, I hope you feel better from your surgery soon!" 11. "Mom, if you weren’t so tough on yourself, you’d be able to love unconditionally. Both you & I can change."
12. "Hi mom! Thank you for making me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I am your #1 fan and I can’t wait to see you at the airport on Mother’s Day!!!!"
13. A bit of impromptu artwork for mom. 14. "I love you. I’m sorry. You were always right!" 15. Translated from Spanish: "I would love to be sharing this journey with you too. We miss you. Happy day!" 16. "Even though I haven’t seen you in five months, thank you for giving me the world."
18. "dear mom, i am sending love and an understanding (& forgiveness!) on a universal level — and shared by all the Angels, of all you were willing to suffer & endure and sacrifice, for your daughters."
20. "Mom, thank you for trusting me to make my own decisions this year. And thank you for supporting all of those decisions. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon and having some of your banana bread"
21. "Mom, wish you were still here. Your final days at that horrible Calvary Hospital were painful to watch.
I wish I could turn back the clock to 2008 when I seemed to have had a temporary nervous breakdown leading to me yanking the car keys out of your hand — leading to that horrible order of protection which separated us against your will and mine. At least I found someone to take care of you. Because of those years I have evolved into a more humble person. I am working to become a new positive person. Poor for now, but rich in spirit. You would be proud! I miss you terribly, and I apologize for spending your money in a careless fashion. Hope you see me from Above."
23. "Love you even if I spend tons of time doing what you tell me to avoid doing." Am sorry for all the stuff I did. I really love you & I wish you was here. Happy Mother’s Day. Love you.
26. "Mama, I wish I could take you to all the places that make me come alive … then I remember I celebrate them because of you … I miss you … I’m sorry … I love you … thank you."
The notes reveal that while a mother’s effect on the lives of her children might be complicated, even fraught at times, it is always unforgettable, even years later.
Whether your mother was loving or distant, whether she was there or not, whether she’s alive or passed on, for so many, she remains center of gravity around which parts of your life will always orbit.
If that’s not cause for celebration, what is?
Happy Mother’s Day.