Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

After Eight Mother’s Days Without Her, I Appreciate My Mom More Than Ever

Being a long-distance daughter has taught me valuable lessons about the essence of motherhood.
Carolina Avendano
Carolina is a Canada-based writer and journalist who enjoys learning and sharing information about how to lead a meaningful life. She is passionate about traditional culture, handmade crafts, the connection between humans and nature, and human rights.
Published: May 10, 2024
Liliana Duque poses for a picture with her daughter Carolina Avendano in 1998 (left photo) and in 2015. (Courtesy of Carolina Avendano)

Mother’s Day always reminds me of how hard it was to wake up for school when I was little. The 5 a.m. sky is dark in my hometown, Bogotá, Colombia, and it was always accompanied by cold winds that blew in through the shingles of our childhood home. 

My mother came into my room with a poncho in her hands. As soon as she turned on the light, she began to sing me a sweet and cheerful song. My efforts to sit up were rewarded with hugs and kisses. Knowing that direct contact with the breeze would trigger my allergy to the cold, she bundled me up in the poncho and slowly led me to the bathroom for a shower. 

Memories like these became even more precious after my sister and I came to Canada with my father in 2016. I was 17 and she was 20, and we didn’t know how long we would stay, or when we would see our mother again.

It has been eight years since we last saw our mother. We applied three times for a visa for her to visit Canada, but each time we were denied. We read each refusal letter from the embassy with tears in our eyes, longing to be reunited but not knowing how long it would take.

Although there has been plenty of heartache, being a long-distance daughter has taught me valuable lessons. 

1. Mothers are the heart of a home

Liliana Duque (center) poses for a picture with her daughters Carolina Avendano (right) and Camila Avendano (left) in 2016. (Courtesy of Carolina Avendano)

My parents got divorced when I was seven. My sister and I spent time with my mom and my dad separately.

When we spent time with my mom, everything had a structure. She would wake up at the same time every day, go to the kitchen, and cook while listening to the radio. Wherever she was, there was music and a gentle soul willing to listen to anyone who came to her.

In Canada, I lived alone for some time, and now I live with my dad. While I remember the kitchens of my childhood as happy places, now they are silent and lonely places that I visit merely for the need to feed myself. Memorable instances of cooking with family and friends are limited to a few special occasions.

When I recall how magical it was to have my mother around, I feel like the sense of warmth and belonging that makes a house a home is largely due to our mothers. 

I realize that such an environment was a reflection of what my mom carried within. She was always overflowing with love, and she cares deeply for others. If I want to recreate that feeling, even for the little family my dad and I make, I must first change myself. If I can be nearly as caring and nurturing as my mom, I am confident that one day I will be a good mother. 

2. Mothers are loyal listeners

During my high school days in Colombia, I remember coming home in low spirits, saddened after learning that my classmates were talking behind my back. My mom would patiently listen until I felt relieved, even if it meant delaying dinner time. 

When I arrived in Canada, that didn’t change. She was always there, ready to answer my messages or take my calls. But, like many teenagers, I took her for granted. The cultural changes were distracting, and telling my mother every detail of my day over the phone seemed exhausting and unnecessary.

Over time, our phone calls and text messages became brief. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I realized how precious it is to have someone willing to listen. During those uncertain times of lockdown, I found myself living alone and feeling isolated. I developed an eating disorder and became thinner and thinner.  

We were both suffering from the same isolation and loneliness on opposite sides of the continent. In such unusual circumstances, we felt connected again. I began to open up to her, as I used to do when I was little. She, in turn, poured her heart out to me. I was happy I could be there for her. 

Now, whenever we need someone to talk to, we think of each other. I feel grateful and blessed to have my mother in my life, even from afar. 

3. Mothers are the most honest critics, for our own good

I recently sent a photo to my mom, showing her an outfit I was proud of. She said she loved how my hair has grown so long, and that my suit jacket and pants looked very elegant. She also said that my shoes looked “awful.”

In my mind, those shoes looked good and stylish, and I had paid a high price for them. But try as I might to convince my mother that the photo didn’t do the shoes justice, I came to see what she meant. The shoes, indeed, looked worn out and downgraded the outfit. 

Mothers always want the best for us, even if their frank comments may momentarily hurt our feelings. 

4. Self-sacrifice is their gentle way of saying “I love you”

Liliana Duque poses for a picture with her daughters Carolina Avendano (bottom) and Camila Avendano (left). Carolina was about six months old. (Courtesy of Carolina Avendano)

When we lived with my mother, she would get up at 3:30 a.m. to prepare the day’s food before she left for work. A freshly made breakfast – usually arepas – would always await me when I got out of the shower, and my school snacks were neatly packed and ready for me to take when the school bus arrived. 

She also left nutritious afternoon snacks for when my sister and I got home from school, so we wouldn’t go hungry before she came home from work. Maybe she spoiled us, but I only realized it after I had to do it all by myself in Canada. 

But her sacrifices went beyond sleeping less and working hard. When my parents divorced, my mother preferred not to look for another partner, for fear that bringing a new man home would place her daughters in danger when it was her turn to stay with us. Seeing heart-breaking cases of ill-intentioned men on the news, she did not want to take the risk. 

Although she dreads the thought of spending old age alone, she chose to remain single until my sister and I grew old enough  — even though finding a partner would become more difficult with time. Since then, her admirable sacrifice has inspired me. 

5. There’s no such thing as being “too busy”

My mother raised me to be a dedicated student. I gave my all to my studies and often sacrificed time spent with my loved ones, especially my mother. But she never complained. She wanted me to succeed.

As responsibilities piled up in my last year of high school, we spent less time together. I was too busy to accompany her grocery shopping, help her cook or go for walks. We both believed it was a temporary sacrifice, and planned to make up for it when I graduated.

Shortly after graduating, however, my father suggested that Canada would be a better place for my sister and me. Within months, my sister and I were on a plane. All the mother-daughter plans I had postponed never happened. If I had known I wouldn’t see my mother again for years, I would have made time for her. 

Carolina Avendano (left) talks with her mother Liliana through video call in 2024. (Courtesy of Carolina Avendano)

This Mother’s Day will be different

But this story has a happy ending, because this Mother’s Day will be the last one without her. Thanks to a new immigration pathway opened by Canada last year, my mother has been granted permanent residency and will be moving here at the end of the month.

Seeing her again will be like a dream. I will hold her soft, aged hands and contemplate her beauty, realizing that much of who my sister and I are today is because of her.