It’s a familiar Facebook post shared by my aunt, but the sentiment is genuine so it is worth sharing:
Every year my kids ask me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I’d give them my real answer to their question, “What do I want for Mother’s Day?”
I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your future kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, and your dreams. I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me. Hearing you laugh is music to me.
I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work. Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want you to spend your money making a better life for you and your family; I have the things I need.
I want to see you happy and healthy. When you ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I say “nothing” because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. YOU! I want you.
The importance of giving the gift of your time is emphasized by the grief of the mothers who have lost a child and for the daughters (even if they are adults) who’ve lost their mother; particularly if the loss was sudden and unexpected.
I have several friends who’ve lost their only child who speak of an unholy, unbearable pain that initially ripped them apart, but with time has transitioned into a chronic, lifetime ache. Two of them describe the disorienting thought that came to them in the deepest, darkest hours of the night, “Who am I now without my child?” One of them expresses dismay that there isn’t even a name for a mother who has lost her child. She commented that when her husband died from cancer she was a widow, “but what am I now?” One author suggests we borrow a word from Sanskrit. Saying “widow” in this language means “empty” or “vilomah” means “against a natural order”. Certainly having your child precede you in death is against the natural order. A mother should not have to bury her child; there is nothing natural in doing so.
The other friend is ten years’ out from the death of her son, her only child. Occasionally she laments that she will not have him coming to her doorstep on Mother’s Day with several kids in tow bringing cards and flowers. Since her son died at age nineteen, she will “never have grandchildren.” She’s learned to fill her life with young people by helping international students from the university whose own families are thousands of miles away or perhaps even deceased; these students appreciate her “mothering.” As she goes through her box of handmade cards made in school all those years ago, she is affirmed that she “is still Michael’s mother….always has been and always will be…”
Another friend, whose mother died of breast cancer when she was in high school, shared “even when you witness your mother ‘melting’ before your very eyes nothing can prepare you for the amount of immediate pain you feel when your mother actually dies.” Up until that moment and in all the days ahead you simply cannot imagine a life without her in it.
She often is reminded of her mother even in small, every day ordinary events. But Mother’s Day, in particular, reminds her most that her mother is gone and that she is an orphan. Deep, unbearable pain results from witnessing others celebrating this day. It’s a day to show gratitude for the woman who brought you into this world, but after she’s gone it can feel as if the day’s only purpose is to remind you of your loss.
To this friend, the hardest part of this annual reminder of her mother’s death was the realization that her mother will miss everything. She missed the wedding, the birth of the first grandchild, and confirmation. Sometimes she feels resentful of this day where others are filled with love, comfort and happiness while she was cheated into learning how to cope with difficult emotions and to heal a wound so deep, that it is difficult to find strength. Over time you heal in more ways than you could ever imagine.
What brings real comfort in a place of deep suffering? Statements such as “I believe God will bring healing” or “I’ll pray that this will all come to an end” fall short of offering real comfort. They do bring a partial truth that our suffering is God’s concern and affirm our support as they heal and move toward better circumstances. In the Bible, Paul offers the best message of hope to those who are grieving, even when the grief reoccurs year after year as we remember the loss of our mother or child. Paul believes that Christ has risen to eternal life, and so one day we too will raise to eternal life. If we believe in resurrection hope, we will speak that hope into the lives of others. One of the most crucial times for us to share this truth is when we are walking alongside someone who is suffering and struggling to see this hope for themselves. And what better person is there to share such hope than one who has been comforted and strengthened by it through their own season of suffering? It is from the comfort we find in knowing that Jesus has risen and will raise us too that we are able to truly comfort others.
To all of those who have lost a mother, child or loved one, know this: They are not lost, and you are not motherless or childless. Celebrate this day even more so than before, for both her and you. Rejoice in their life, their light and your fondest memories of them.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians: 1:3