05/09/2014 11:37 am ET Updated Jul 09, 2014

Appreciating a Mother's Love

Every year, we have one day to do what most of us should do every day: appreciating our mother's love and reciprocate unconditionally.

While Mother's Day is largely an exercise in commercialism, the sentiment behind it does allow us to reflect on the ways our moms have shaped us. My mom has had an incredible impact in shaping me, even in ways I still try to understand today.

My mom's story mirrors those of many young women from the Indian subcontinent who came to the country in the 1970s. She came to the United States as a 21-year-old, freshly married to my dad (who already lived in the country). Within two years, she had me.

Her creativity made her a prolific artist, and she could draw and paint things from memory. My uncle likes to tell the story of how, when my mother was pregnant with me, she would sketch pictures of babies. When I was born, I apparently bore a striking a resemblance to those sketches. My mom loved to draw pictures of deities, and I used to always ask her to draw me pictures of deities such as Hanuman, Ram, and Krishna, which she used to do with meticulous detail.

Through my mother, I inherited creativity, sensitivity and a deep-seeded spirituality that shaped me into a Hindu-American man. While my dad's passion helped guide my progressive activism, my mom's introspective nature shaped my belief in looking at the big picture of things. My mom, while cautious, embodied the idea of positive reinforcement. She always believed that I could achieve what I wanted to, and encouraged my career as a journalist (it was -- and still is -- pretty rare for South Asian Americans to pursue journalism as a first-choice profession) and later, as an academic.

There were times I wanted my mom to be more of a feminist and push for things she wanted. I always was uncomfortable with patriarchal notions of marriage and domestic life, but my mom always had one goal: raising her children with strong cultural values and emotional grounding. My younger siblings and I grew up knowing that we always had unconditional love waiting at home -- no matter how far from home we went.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she looked inward, meditating daily and finding inspiration from books about sages such as Ramana Maharshi and Shirdi Sai Baba. Her spiritual journey after the diagnosis profoundly changed the way I viewed my own practice of Hinduism. She shaped me from a ritualistic Hindu to a more spiritual one, often meditating with me as we both looked for ways to channel our inner strength. Even as her body deteriorated, she still believed that seva -- service to others -- mattered more than her own health.

It's been four years since my mom left her physical form, and not a day goes by when I don't miss her with every ounce of my being. There are days I spend minutes -- sometimes seemingly longer -- just daydreaming about what it would be like to have her back for just one day. As I performed her rites earlier this week (some Hindus perform annual rites to honor their relatives based on the lunar calendar), I couldn't help but wish that I would be able to show my mother how much I appreciate her. Sometimes, it's the things you wish you could say that overshadow what you actually said. It's why I still say, "Amma, I love you," every time I see her photo or one of her paintings.

This Sunday, make sure you do what you can to honor your mothers (or those who fill that maternal role in your life), and strive to make that appreciation a daily part of your lives. While I wish I still had that opportunity, I am blessed to have enjoyed her unconditional love for as long as I did.

Happy Mother's Day.