A Mother’s Day Reality Check

What will you say?

Echo Storytelling

The jarringly memorable 1965 short story Everything that Rises Must Converge by American writer Flannery O’Connor contrasts the tedious subtleties of filial ingratitude with the bluntness of parental death. It’s an unhappy tale, but to Samantha Reynolds, who founded Vancouver-based Echo Storytelling agency in 1999, it’s an unfortunately common one as well. “So many people whose stories we tell have lost their moms, and there’s been this pattern I hear of people regretting not saying the things they wished they’d said,” she explains. “It’s this realization they have when it’s too late.”

To encourage people to open up about their feelings for their mothers, Reynolds spearheaded the creation of a Mother’s Day 2016 video (titled and hashtagged What Will You Say?) for which a total of 30 participants, aged three to 83, sat before a camera answering the kind of questions usually reserved for a therapist’s couch. The results are surprising: “What was common in all the interviews was how close to the surface all that emotion lived,” says Reynolds. “There was a woman in the video who realized she had never told her mom that she loved her—and then she did it right there.”

Watching a stranger say the words “I love you, mom” for the first time in her life is an odd bit of voyeurism—it raises questions you don’t usually ask of others, or of yourself. For instance: do you like your mother objectively, as a person? Does something seem perilous about having feelings in front of each other? “I think maybe by acknowledging how deeply we love somebody like a parent, we’re opening ourselves up for the inevitable deeper hurt for when that parent dies,” says Reynolds. It’s challenging to reconcile motherhood with mortality—in life, their absence seems implausible. Reynolds also hopes the project will help those who have already lost their mothers feel more included in the holiday. “Is Mother’s Day only an opportunity to send somebody flowers, or is it also an opportunity to reflect on the mom maybe we’ve lost but who’s still a huge part of who we are? … We wanted to shine a spotlight on moms that have passed on, too.”

Echo’s video encourages us to frankly examine our relationships in a way we rarely dare to, providing a valuable alternative to the sugary Hallmark-ism often used to vault over Mother’s Day with minimal effort. The best Mother’s Day gift available may, in fact, be an earnest sentiment shared. “You’re so hard on yourself as a mom,” adds Reynolds. “The thought that my kids might dig a little deeper one day to share with me what I might have done that they’re grateful for would be all the gift I’d ever need.”

Watch Echo’s video below: