With the sanctuary lights up and the pastor in the pulpit, they stand. They tower above me like a forest. A forest of women. I am small. An unimportant insect. Applause breaks out.
It isn’t for me. It has never been for me.
This is perhaps the most difficult moment of Mother’s Day. It is the deafening sound of a silent scream – I am not a mother! A nice alternative would be to be seated beside my own mother. To applaud for her. But she is dead. Dead. It is the loudest unspoken word in the church.
Mother’s Day is one of those days we get through somehow. How do we manage without our mothers? Perhaps we bask in the appreciation of our children. But what if we are childless?
I stood up in the church one Mother’s Day. Seated along the fringe of the sanctuary this time, away from friends, I felt inconspicuous. I felt raw. I stood for the beloved dog I’d lost only days before. He’d been like my child for 15 years. I grieved him as a mother for a child. I missed the earthy smell of his fir. I missed the sound of his breath.
On that Mother’s Day, I was a grieving mother. A mother of an angel in heaven.
As another Mother’s Day approached, I passed the greeting card aisle. I cringed. Unqualified – that’s how I felt. What was I supposed to do with Mother’s Day? I wasn’t a mother. I wasn’t a daughter – or I was, but not in the way I had been or that others were. Not anymore.
On this Mother’s Day, my heart is fixed on two youngins in our lives. I lost my mother as an adult, but they lost their mother last year. This will be their first without her on the planet. I am focused on how they might feel about Mother’s Day. In a small way, I will help them honor their grandmother, who is raising them. And by not ignoring that this may be a difficult day for them, I am helping them (I hope) walk through their grief.
And that’s what we do without our mothers – and perhaps, without children – on Mother’s Day. We walk through our grief as we did the tender days, weeks and months immediately after our loss. We find individual ways to mourn and to cope. We may skip church and avoid the greeting card aisle. We may pour our attention onto children – ours, or someone else’s.
No matter what our age when we lost our mother or how much time has passed since her death, it’s important we know we aren’t alone in our grief. Today, I want you to know you are not alone. Today, I symbolically stand for you.
What strategy have you used or might you use this Mother’s Day to cope?
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