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Lessons From Mom On The First Mother's Day Without Her

Updated: May 21

by Scott Beller

Director of Communications, DADvocacy Consulting Group


This is the first year I won't be wishing my mom a happy Mother's Day.


It’s something I know I share with many others who've also lost their mothers over the past year, including those affected by the devastation wrought by the coronavirus outbreak. It’s given me a new perspective on the holiday.


Mom with me at Kings Dominion, 1975

My mother Mary always gave more than she received. She single-handedly raised me and my sister even though we lived together with my father until my sophomore year of high school. While my dad was physically there but never really there or what DCG founder Allan Shedlin likes to call Absent Without Leaving (AWOL) my mom did her best to be involved with and a reliable source of support for her children.


She was our safe place and our solace. If we needed a boost, a playmate or practice partner, a laugh, a hug, a warm meal, or a ride, she was there. She was our patient sounding board. We knew we could ask or talk to her about anything at any time, risking no judgment. She filled the dad-shaped void in our lives (to borrow another "Allan-ism") with an abundance of affection, measured discipline, and understanding.


She was always there.


Me and mom at my high school graduation, 1987

And when I think back on our home life while growing up, my happiest memories are dominated by my time spent with her. It’s not necessarily what she said that made those times memorable and happy, but how she made me feel.

I felt I could do or be anything. I felt wanted. I felt like I mattered.

So, when my sister and I spent last summer desperately looking for a way to save my mom's life – a place for her to rehabilitate and literally get back on her feet so she could again take care of herself – I wanted her to feel the same way. I wanted her to feel as loved as she made me feel loved for 50+ years.

I wanted her to know (and I think she did) that her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids needed her. We all needed her, perhaps selfishly, to still be there loving, comforting, and rooting for us. To meet that goal, we needed her to work hard.

But her desire to again be there for all her kids, to return to her life filled with giving more than she got, was maybe too much for her body to bear.


She passed away last September after a little more than a month of physical therapy and getting her type-2 diabetes under control. To me, every day without her since then has felt like Mother’s Day.

Mary A. Barham, Dec. 10, 1947 - Sept. 5, 2019

In December, my sister and I met at my mother’s burial site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to celebrate her birthday with gifts of flowers, angels, and an Amaretto toast (mom’s favorite adult beverage). The long drive there and back gave me a chance to ruminate on the things she had taught me about being a parent – about how to be a good dad. The biggest lesson I learned from her was that no matter our flaws as moms and dads, we really must be there for our kids, in body and mind. That way, when we’re not, our kids can carry on to take care of themselves.

In my adult life, every time I told my mother, “I love you,” she would reply, “I love you more.” It used to bother me. I didn’t want what she said to be true.


When I finally became a dad, I realized it was.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Mary Barham, and to all the other moms in my life who continue to provide me with plenty of love and support, including my wife Elisabeth, sister Jodi, Aunt Barbara, niece Brittni, cousin Cari, and grandmother Omi. To these and every other mom and grandmother out there, I hope you all are appreciated and celebrated today and every day by your kids/grandkids who love you but may not yet truly understand the purity, strength, and depth of your unconditional love for them.


Mom and me at my wedding, March 25, 2006

Scott Beller is the proud dad of two mighty girls and also Editor of the Daddying blog and DCG's Director of Communications. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own creative communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from Virginia Tech.

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