Audrey Benz. Photo courtesy of the Benz family

Mother’s Day: What the holiday means when they’ve passed

7 mins read

This Mother’s Day I urge people to call their moms, their dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, whomever stood by your side reveling in your achievements as you age. Family is one of the most important things in this universe. They help build your character, teach you things of great importance and love you when you sometimes feel undeserving. 

Family can mean many things. They can be a group of humans that share the same DNA, branched from an ancestry that reaches back generations. They can be a group of friends who have a common bond and know their connections will last forever. Whatever the definition or specifics, family is important. 

It’s been over a year since moving back home to spend time with, and care for, my grandmother Grace. I took an opportunity to travel back home after quarantining when Minnesota went into lockdown at the dawn of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. I loved spending that time with my grandma. I thank God for that opportunity every day because I understood how lucky I was to have those moments with her.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself reflecting on those I lost within the past five years yet again. It’s been nearly five years since my grandfather, my father figure growing up, died of cancer. This Mother’s Day weekend will mark four years since my mom died of an accidental overdose. Now, come June, it will be a year since I lost my grandma.

It’s a strange sensation understanding that you’re entirely alone without parental figures to celebrate this year. I’ve lost a lot since they all three died. I never knew who my father was, but my grandpa who helped raise me ensured I’d never feel like I was without one. My grandmother played the role of strict, yet caring mother alongside him. My mother did her best and taught me how to accept myself and grow into who I wanted to be.

Jerry, Grace and Audrey Benz in 2016. Photo by Zack Benz

Now, this first year without any of them, I feel totally and utterly alone. I’d like to stress the fact that I’m not actually alone in life. I have family, and I have friends. Great people who help inspire me on the daily. But I still feel like an orphan. I look at all these people who love me and realize that none of them can truly understand how I feel or relate. I guess that’s just how life works. I lost my parents in my mid 20s. My older relatives lost theirs later in life. My younger relatives and friends still have theirs. 

When I reach a milestone, I no longer have a parent to call. My potential future spouse and possible children will never get to meet three of the most important and influential people in my entire life. I have an aunt that I’m very close to, but it truly isn’t the same. She has her own immediate family and I recognize the importance of that.

I have two sisters who both have families of their own, and both still have their father. I do depend on them both for extended support, but it’s not the same as calling my mom after I swiped right on a cute new guy. In fact, my mom died before I could even tell her I was swiping right on cute guys.

I honestly don’t know why I’m writing this. Perhaps because it’s therapeutic in some way, perhaps I want others to recognize the importance of a loved one. As I sit here, struggling with my latest COVID diagnosis, utterly alone in my family farmhouse, I miss them. I miss their smiles. I miss how genuine they would be with me. I just miss them. 

When my grandmother died, one of the first thoughts that flashed through my mind was “I have nobody to be proud of me anymore.” Idiotic, and perhaps a bit selfish, but true. 

I feel kind of stupid admitting this, but my aspirations in life all stemmed to making these three figures proud of me. I wanted to ensure a legacy for them like none other. I just wanted to make them happy and prideful of what they created. I still strive for that achievement, but it isn’t the same without them here.

All I know is that with each passing birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparent’s Day, I miss them more. I was lucky to have such a close relationship with them, I was blessed to have the time I did, but I still miss them. Every day.

We had our arguments and disagreements, but those were menial issues when you looked at the big picture. If one dwells on all the negativity, they forget about all the positive. Remember the hugs, the smiles and the fun banter. Remember the genuine love. That’s what I do. That’s how they continue to live on.

So this Mother’s Day, call your moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Call whomever made you you, and thank them. Tell them you love them. And tell them you’re proud to have been raised by them. Before it’s too late.

Zack Benz

Zack Benz has been a fan of the Daily Planet since he was eight years old. The Daily Planet has always been a beacon of hope for him and it’s his life’s mission to make it shine in a similar light to so many around the world. Zack graduated with a degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2019.

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