Mother’s Day was always my most treasured holiday, ever since I was pregnant with my first and our Pastor announced our big news from the pulpit for the first time on Mothers Day, 1994. I was in a red dress and heels and beaming. A child. Mine. I had never known such pure and thorough joy as I did then. Yet I never once contemplated what it may be like for others.
I would dress my boys all up in their little shirts and ties for church on Mother’s Day. I was never more grateful for my life than on that day. All I ever wanted, my wonderful life was right there in those three boys who drew looks and smiles on a dressy Sunday morning, and their handsome Dad. No, someone like me never crossed my mind then. I was too starry-eyed about what I had to consider a Mother who was suffering such a pain as child loss. It wasn’t intentional.
I just didn’t know.
I’m on the other side of Mother’s Day now. I am that person I didn’t give a thought to before. Today I’d like to give all of us a thought. There are so many. If ever there is a day for child loss literacy, it’s on Mothers Day. The day originally set aside to honor bereaved Mothers. There is no Mother more in need of love, understanding and acknowledgment than one who lives through this day year after year without one of her children.
I come from a family of celebrator’s. I loved that about us. We celebrated each other and occasions with fanfare! Birthdays, straight-A report cards, musical accomplishments, the end of a school year and of course, Mothers and Fathers. We were home-made card makers, I loved that about us too. I remember painstakingly sketching out and coloring in flowers and writing “poems” for my Mom and my Grandmothers. I realize now how very cherished those words from the heart were. Priceless treasures. He was an enthusiastic and wonderful card maker. He was quiet and not one to gush, but when it came to his home-made cards, he bore his heart and there are no words to describe the ache in my soul for every occasion that passes without one of his cards. His swirly penmanship and big exclamation points.
The other side of Mother’s Day is one with no more home-made cards, or flower seedlings in hand-decorated cups from our child. Many of us will sift through boxes and look for ones from years past to try and feel our child’s love more freshly again. We’ll trace the pen marks their hand made, kiss the paper their hand once touched and try to feel their arms wrapping around our waist again. We long for the days we’d have to dash out of work to make the Mothers Day Celebration at their school. Some days it seems more like a dream than what was once our life.
There will be parks full of family picnics and restaurants dressed in fresh flowers for fancy Mother’s Day brunches and dinners. The air will echo with children’s excited voices. Moms with their Moms and Grandmothers with their Grandchildren. Piles of crumpled wrapping paper will cover tables. Boxes of jewelry, framed photos of kids with trophies and bouquets of flowers will be carried home, swelling the heart of it’s lucky recipient.
On the other side of the park a Mom is leaning against her child’s grave. It’s her 5th Mother’s Day without her child, but it’s no different. Her eyes are closed and she is remembering her last real Mother’s Day, the one that was all laughter and love, not like today. Her hands still quiver on days like this and she tries to hear his voice and see his smile as clearly as her mind will allow. She is also carrying flowers but they aren’t for her. The only thing she’ll be carrying home are tear-soaked tissues and the thoughtless weeds that have wiggled up through the gravel. Her heart is swollen in pain. She avoids both restaurants and church on this day as it is just too hard to witness what should be her life, but isn’t.
At the end of the day, love-adorned Moms will kiss their children goodnight with an extra long hug and thank them for the wonderful day. For the kisses, the cards and the seedling flowers in hand-decorated cups. They’ll peek in on them one more time, smiling at their quiet faces before going to bed themselves. Thank you Lord, I love them so, they’ll say as they kiss the tops of their sleeping heads.
On the other side of town a love-adorned Mom kisses her children goodnight too. It’s been a bitter-sweet day of gratefulness sheathed in sorrow. Her heart is getting heavier as the day darkens. She hugs them a little too tight and for a little too long and they protest. But she can’t help it. She wishes she could hold them forever because she knows. She only gets to kiss 2 of her children again tonight. She goes to his room last. She stands still for awhile looking around at everything, untouched since that day. His space, his things. Everything but him. She lays her head on his pillow wishing to the heavens it were his cheek she were touching and his heart she felt beating instead of her own. His pillow has been soaked so many times with her tears, it’s lost his scent.
Thank you Lord, for this child, she’ll say. I would rather have gazed on his face and known his precious life for this short time than never at all. He is part of me, he changed me. I will never be the same because he lived and loved me.
Because I know how deeply and desperately I have loved this child, I know how deeply and desperately you love us. I know how endless and voracious my love for this child STILL is and will ALWAYS be, so I know how endless and voracious your love for us will always be too. It’s without end, as you are.
Hold me Lord, like I would’ve held him. Tell me he’s OK like I would’ve told him.
My greatest sorrow is also my greatest love and I thank you regardless!
Thank you for making me his Mother, God. I would not trade being his Mother for anything in the world! Ever.
On this Mothers Day, hold all of your broken-hearted Mothers close to you, Lord. Help us to remember that somebody else knows this pain. You know this pain.
Remind us we are not alone.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. -Isaiah 43:2
So sad, so depressing you may say. Yes, it is, but a 100% accurate depiction of the life of a bereaved Mother nonetheless. Our grief illiterate and grief intolerant culture will ignore, deny and dismiss, adding loneliness and misunderstanding to her pain. The only way she will get the love, support and comfort she needs on days like Mothers Day is if more people understand. Please share.
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