For 7 years, I put Joey’s shoes at the door, no matter where we lived, east coast or west. These shoes of gator colors, his favorite. I pretended one day he would come back home from school, a swim meet or a camping trip.

I know. I was insane.

Until one day, David saw the shoes. “Are these for me?”

He put them on. They fit perfectly.

I almost blurted out no, but I didn’t, as they looked nice on him.

We went hiking that day. I kept asking David be careful with his shoes.

“Don’t kick up dirt!”

“Stay away from the dog poop!” I screamed. I was nervous.

“Mom, relax. These aren’t new.”

“They’re Joey’s shoes.” I finally told him.

“Oh, I will be careful!” Then he kept walking.

On the way back before we jumped into car, David walked toward a pond. “Need to wash off the mud at the bottom of my shoes!” Then he came back with a big smile. He lifted up one leg, “Look, mom, clean again!”

Suddenly, I felt a glimmer of joy in my heart. The same pair of shoes, but not empty. The same pair of shoes, but worn for a hike after 7 years. The same pair of shoes, a life unfulfilled, but a journey continued…I feel grateful beyond words.

Today, on a Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to the moms who wear the same shoes as me, the ugly pair of shoes. Some days the shoes hurt so bad as I trek through the unimaginable. I want to throw them away. Yet I can’t. I continue to wear them. But these shoes have given me the strength to face anything. After years of wearing them, they become part of me. I still hold the hope that one day I could appreciate those shoes, the link to my child, and didn’t feel so much pain. I have my son to thank for that hope. Being his mom is the best gift I’ve ever been given.

Even death can’t take that away.

Happy Mother’s Day.