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The Bitter and Sweet of Mother’s Day

I cling tightly to the memory of the last day I saw my daughter, Emily, alive. It was Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018, just three days before she died. I’ve […]

I cling tightly to the memory of the last day I saw my daughter, Emily, alive. It was Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018, just three days before she died. I’ve recounted that day in previous blogs, but I noticed that I only wrote about the happy parts–the flowers she gave me and the beautiful card with such sweet words that I will always cherish. 

Emily’s 2018 Mother’s Day card to me

What I didn’t write about was her underlying irritability on that day and her anxiousness to get away from all of us. She showed up late for brunch, and I was later disappointed that following a visit with a dear family friend, who was like a grandmother to my children, Emily immediately left. Thank God she said, “I love you,” and I said it back. We have those last words to each other. But I had hoped that she would spend the entire day with me. I realize now that she probably was irritable because she needed to use, or the drugs were wearing off, and that she was anxious to get away because she needed to get high so she wouldn’t get sick. 

Even admitting that my last Mother’s Day with my daughter wasn’t perfect is hard for me. We want only to remember the best of the dead. We want to gloss over the underbelly of emotions that we don’t like, or in some cases, don’t even want to admit to ourselves that we have. The truth is, I was dreading the days to come. My family was planning an intervention, hoping to get Emily to admit she had a problem and agree to go to treatment. Of course, we never got that chance. Emily died just three days before we were to carry out our plans. 

Five years ago, I was full of anxiety but also full of hope on Mother’s Day. For several years following my daughter’s death, Mother’s Day seemed like an impossible task. I just wanted to run and hide from the memories of my last day with my daughter, along with those uncomfortable emotions of feeling like I must have failed as a mom for my daughter to use heroin laced with fentanyl and die. For so many of us, Mother’s Day isn’t the utopia our culture makes it out to be. Some of us have lost our children. Others are estranged from their kids. And then there are those who are missing their own mothers. Grief comes in many shapes and sizes, and Mother’s Day can be a wallop of pain for many. Society tells us to be happy on Mother’s Day. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be sad. Forcing ourselves to act otherwise is inauthentic. 

Angela Kennecke with husband, Jeff, and their 4 children
Last family photo with Emily taken September, 2017

On Mother’s Day weekend, 2023, I have another daughter graduating from college. It’s a joyous time that deserves celebration. It also means I will be surrounded by all of my other children. I’ve come to realize that the anticipation and dread leading up to these anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays after a child dies is often much worse than the actual day itself. I have a game plan for this upcoming Mother’s Day. I will breathe, live in the moment, and focus on my living, now-adult children. They have now all been alive longer than Emily. They all know I love them, and I’m so proud of each of them. That hole in my heart from losing my oldest child is still there. But somehow, my heart has grown even larger to compensate for it. A mother who lost her child more than a decade before Emily once told me, “Life can be richer and more beautiful after experiencing such pain if you allow it.” She’s not wrong. I will long for Emly this Mother’s Day, and those bittersweet memories will still be with me. But I will also be grateful for the children who are still here with me and let my mother and dear aunt know how much they mean to me. Mother’s Day is both bitter and sweet, and I’m okay with that. 

Faith, Hope & Courage,


13 responses

  1. Angie Dolan Avatar
    Angie Dolan

    This is a beautiful, well-expressed, memory of love, hope, and commitment! You share in such a personal way that we are all involved! Thank you!

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Thank you so much for reading!

  2. Ginny Ostermeier Avatar
    Ginny Ostermeier

    Thank you for spreading awareness, God hold you tightly and lift you up in heavenly realms when you’re painful memories overwhelm.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Thank you for reading!

  3. Rosa Santaba Avatar
    Rosa Santaba

    So beautifully said.. I cling to the last time I also saw and spoke to Maya. On our last phone call, we also said “Love you to one another.” I always showed my daughter so much love and never judged her about her life , at at that time. We were also having an intervention with her and like you, Maya died approximately 4 days after my talks with my family. We didn’t realize the monster of fentanyl.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      I am so sorry for the loss of Maya. We also didn’t realize how prevalent fentanyl was in the drug supply five years ago. My heart is with you, Rose. Unfortunately we were not able to save our children.

  4. Sandy Thomas Avatar
    Sandy Thomas

    Thank you for sharing your pain. We have walked in your shoes with children, however we have been blessed with sobriety and thank God for the blessing each day. We will pray for your family and we pray for all those suffering from this disease of addictions.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      I’m grateful your children have found recovery! Thank you for your prayers!

  5. James Nelson Avatar
    James Nelson

    Great article, Angela. My daughter showed a similar anxiousness and urgency in her final days with us. In each case, I see so many similarities. The issues with mental health, addiction, and the interaction between the two drive so many similar behaviors. Thank you again for helping me keep the memories of my beautiful daughter Miranda alive.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Thank you, James, for sharing Miranda’s story. All of our children seemed to display similar issues and behaviors. I am so sorry for your loss!

  6. Kristi Schroeder Avatar
    Kristi Schroeder

    Thank you Angela. Very well explained. You keep her memory alive with class.

  7. Nancy Palmquist Avatar
    Nancy Palmquist

    Thank you for your story and spreading the word of the use of drugs can do to a person. Great job your doing Angela.
    Memories lives on. You have a wonderful beautiful family. Congratulations on your daughter graduating.

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Thank you, Nancy!

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