CaringBridge Founder: Hug Your Mom Every Chance You Get

In a four-generation photo, I am holding my oldest son, on the day of his baptism. My Grandmother, Bessie, is at left, and my Mom, Bonnie, is at right.

My Mom, Bonnie, has been gone since 2001. She didn’t get to see any of my three boys graduate from high school, or college. I miss her all the time, and today I am thinking about how she would have been first on the dance floor at the wedding of my oldest son a few years ago. It makes me smile.

I Wanted More Time With My Mom

Breast cancer, followed by liver cancer, swept Mom away long before I was ready to let her go. I wasn’t done memorizing the sound of her voice, or all the funny things she used to say. I wanted more time to ask about her childhood, her career, her marriage.

And, oh, she would have loved that Super Bowl LII was in Minnesota. The only thing that would have made it better was if the Green Bay Packers had played.

I Had the Honor of a Long Goodbye

But as the primary family caregiver for Mom in her final years, I had the honor of a long goodbye. I had a chance to really connect with Mom, as did many of my friends.

They still talk about how she “lifted them up,” even as her own strength diminished. Being Mom’s caregiver was among the most magnificent gifts of my life.

My Mom, Bonnie with my nephew Andy, in June 1987

Not to say there weren’t moments. As a retired nurse, Mom preferred giving care to being cared for. My hospital corners left much to be desired, as did the overall running of my household at the time.

Picture this: I was working full time, on top of checking homework, writing checks, cooking dinner, packing lunches, folding laundry and driving soccer, baseball, track and football carpools. (It was those young years, when my boys were trying out everything!)

Mom often rode shotgun in the minivan, among the muddy shoes and sports equipment, so I could get her to doctor appointments, the pharmacy and the bank.

I Was Daughter and Caregiver

So many years later, I saw myself in the mirror, first with publication of the seminal report, Caregiving in the United States, 2015, by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. Turns out the profile of a typical family caregiver, among the 43.5 million Americans who identify as “caregivers,” looked just like—me.

During the years I supported Mom, I was just inside the margins of being a 39-year-old woman, working full time, and taking care of a 68-year-old female relative who needed ongoing assistance for a long-term physical condition.

My Mom, Bonnie, on the dance floor at a family wedding

Yep, I fit that particular demographic. But from my seat as founder of CaringBridge, where a website is created every 8 minutes—often by caregivers, on behalf of patients—I see no “typical profile.”

Wives support husbands, parents support children, siblings, grandparents, cousins, in-laws, friends and neighbors take care of each other.

Caregiving is a Gift

Since I launched CaringBridge in 1997,  I have observed countless combinations of caregiving. And the only theme that runs through, and true, is that caregiving is a gift.

Sometimes the gift is obscured, especially when you’re heads-down counting out pills, paying bills and wondering how you will survive the day.

The Sun Shone on Both of Us

But the gift peeks through. An image sticks with me, still sharp after all these years: While my two oldest boys were in school, Mom and I would take Jake, my toddler, to the playground. Mom and I would sit side-by-side on a bench, my arm around her.

We smiled and laughed at Jake doing all the fun stuff 3 year olds do. I will never forget how it felt to be so close to my Mom, as the sun shone on both of us.

Whether you are a daughter, son, mom, dad, sibling, or caregiver, in any fashion, I wish for you, at some point in your life, a gift of love like this. It is what life is about.

Sona Mehring founded CaringBridge in 1997. She is also the author of the book Hope Conquers All.

  • Jean Jena Guenther

    Sonia, So Wonderful to hear your experience with your Mom Bonnie!
    THANK YOU for founding Caring Bridge 22 years ago! It has helped me feel close
    to many loved ones at a distance, and now I’m using it for myself, post TBI, at 68.
    God Bless us all.

  • Kathy Harding

    Your story is beautiful… Happy Mother’s Day to you and God Bless you for all you have done for others! Caringbridge is a wonderful legacy!

  • Sharon Berry

    Sona…this is so very special! Much appreciation for your forever commitment to CaringBridge!

  • Ayesha

    Nice story Sona . Great tribute….

  • Betsy Kubicek

    It makes me smile to picture you & Bonnie sitting on that bench. Loved her & love you! Happy Mother’s Day my friend! ????

  • Pat Callens

    Thank you for sharing this Sona…what a beautiful tribute to your Mom! I was with my Mom the last 2 weeks of her life and I feel honored to have been with her those last days. Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Sharon Berry

    Thank you Sona For this beautiful tribute to your mother and mothers everywhere! You created a beautiful gift for the world with CaringBridge!

  • filiz mainekaela

    wow, a nice story

  • Gerri Olivieri

    Thank you for this uplifting story.

  • davidwilliamslack

    I can only find this space to tell my immediate family, namley Eric and Daniel how incredibly honored you have lifted my soul and spirit of healing in such a positive field as caring bridge has been for my direct process of healthy healing. I am in awe of your gifts and how you honor me so well . No words come to mind but love and thank you! For our friendship and brother-hod! I’m in awe and honored! Thank you! For all you do to hold my hands! In warmth of tears that are free- flowing and grateful to you both!

  • Penny

    Sona , I agree with you.

    Please everyone, Hug your Mom every chance you get.

  • Sheila Storm

    Hi Sona,

    I did not know you started this. My former boss from Rochester told me about this after my husband fell 3 stories back in 2008. I believe the prayers from all the connected people made a big difference in his recovery. Lovely memories of your Mom. As you were able, we had time to say goodbye to my mom in late 2015. God bless you for the love and support you gave your Mom and I wish you a blessed Mother’s Day.

  • ardi ireton

    So beautiful and yes don’t regret having that time with Michael and being able to have those talks and say good bye

  • ardi Iretin

    So beautiful and yes I would not have had it any other way being able to care for Michael and be able to have a long goodbye. Boy did we always have a fun time camping with Aunt Bonnie????

  • Nicole Rood

    Just Beautiful!!! I loved my sweet Bonnie.. she was always just full of smiles and laughter ????

  • Nancy Johnson

    Very nice! Miss her too!!

  • Sharon Berry

    Beautiful tribute Sona! Thanks for sharing!