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  • Writer's pictureZibby Wilder

Mother's Day, My Mom, & Maria Chabot

This is my first Mother’s Day without a mother. 22 days ago, she was taken from me by the brutal, unforgiving, and stealthy killer that has touched nearly all of us in some way–cancer.

My mom, Helene Wilder, was an amazing artist, a committed friend, a playful sister, a joyful grandma, and a loving mom to me, my brother, my sister-in-law, and many members of our extended chosen family.

Above all, she was my person, my best friend, my supporter, my superstar. Actually, she was so much more than any of these, but I don’t have the words to relay my feelings. “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow,” wrote Maya Angelou. I could never hope to craft any better.

My mom, Helene Wilder, and me with our arms around eachother at the white place new mexico

Me and my mom at Plaza Blanca, "The White Place"

I was lucky to have had two years of time with my mom after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March of 2022. Though we both had to endure some massive changes– leaving our beloved Santa Fe, moving across the country, losing beloved pets, starting new jobs, acclimating to new communities in places neither of us ever imagined living in, one thing that was a constant for us was Maria.

I have written about how my mom introduced me to Maria Chabot–or, at least, the idea of her. My mom and Maria were family and friends. Maria admired my mom’s art and because she was a “real artist” she was the only person in our family Maria would talk to. My mom loved Maria, quirks and all. Though Maria would never meet me, my mom for years encouraged me to get to know her. When doing so in person proved impossible, I started researching her. The more I got to know, the more I felt this need in me to tell her story. My mom cheered me along the entire way.

My biggest regret right now is not finishing my book in time for my mom to read it. As I polished off chapters, I printed them out for her to read. I delivered eight finished chapters to her and it was so fun to get a text or call saying, “Maria was such an amazing writer” or “I never knew this about Maria!” or “Zibby, this part is really boring”. Sadly, I got caught up in the anticipatory grief of losing my person, and writing about Maria took a far backseat to spending time with my mom. 

Though Maria was committed to her mom, she did not enjoy the kind of relationship I did with mine. I have been very lucky to have held someone, and been held by someone, so closely. 

So, in honor of my mom, this Mother’s Day will mark the day I begin writing Maria's story again. My mom painted until just a few weeks before cancer took her; I will take up with words where her brush left off. 

self portrait painted by helene wilder

The only self portrait my mom ever made. Painted on her 50th birthday, gifted to me on mine.

Eight chapters down, six to go! I got this, mama!!!!!

And...give your mom and extra hug today, for me.

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