Eleven. This is my eleventh Mother’s Day without my mom. Usually, I boycott every form of social media during this weekend because I don’t like to see all the memes, all the posts on walls, all the reminders to be good sons and daughters. Those of us without parents don’t exist in this cute little holiday world. But this year I am making an effort to do something different.

Losing my mother at age fifteen taught me a lot of things. Most of these things we don’t talk about a lot and the English language doesn’t allow for much conversation around these topics. (The principle response to “My mother passed away,” is “I’m sorry,” to which I always want to say, “Me too?” “I’m sorry,” is the best we’ve got for death, which is unfortunate.) Chief among all the things I learned is this: You get people once. Yes, you get to know people for a certain duration of time, whether that’s five minutes or fifty years, but even the people who stick with you for a lifetime are only there for that one lifetime. Fifty, sixty, seventy years is a blink of an eye in our vast universe. Fifteen years is fucking short. You get people once.

Despite having my mother with me for the first fifteen years of my life, I feel like I had one moment with her. One chance to learn how her smile lifted the wrinkles around her eyes, how the veins ran across her thin hands, what her voice sounded like, and what her favorite foods were. How much more could I learn with one more chance?

So my advice to all of you on Mother’s Day is not to do something extra-special, you don’t have to worship people, you don’t have to feel obligated to do something commercial because of a clearly commercialized holiday, but on this and every other day you get be present with your moms. Be present with everyone who you love every chance you get. Take them in like you will never get another chance to learn how their laugh sounds. How they part their hair. Where they pause in their sentences. What they are afraid of. Just be present to all of it because one day your time to learn about and be present with that human being will be up.

Now, this isn’t a guilt trip. If you don’t talk to your mother or father for the sake of your own sanity, don’t do it. Don’t give yourself to people who don’t fill you up. There’s no reason to stay present to a situation where the bullshit out-ways the benefit.

There’s also no reason that this shouldn’t apply to the families we’ve chosen for ourselves. My mother was my introduction to strong, bad-ass mothers. I have met many more since she passed and I am grateful for every one of them. Goddesses in blue jeans. Women with shit to do and people to care for. I will be doing my best to be present to them this weekend because God knows they deserve it.

Be there for your people. Soak up everything that you can. Enjoy each other. This universe is huge and I think that when we get someone good handed to us–by blood or by circumstance–we best pay attention to that person.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Much Love,