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Holding Mother’s Day Lightly

I was holding our newest grandson in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when the nurse told our daughter, “You just might have him home in time for Mother’s Day.”  Katie took a deep I’m-on-board-with-whatever-this motherhood-holds breath and responded, “That would be my great desire, but I will hold it lightly.”

Mother’s Day should be a universal celebration since though not all are mothers, all HAVE mothers.  But far from it!  Such a close relationship coupled with intense desires of many to become parents leaves a seemingly infinite number of emotional minefields on the way to this second Sunday of May.

There are endless ways to be disappointed.  The child who forgets to call, the gift picked up on the way out of 7-11, the crowds at restaurants.

But Mother’s Day can strike an even more bitter note. With the single mom shouldering the family burdens leaving little energy to enjoy the day.  With the single dad who has no one to honor.  Or the children left motherless by abandonment due to drugs or alcohol.  The single girl navigating unfamiliar waters because she chose life.  The empty-nesters.  The widowers.  The widows.

It can hit with heart-squeezing pain at the most unexpected and inconvenient times.  I don’t mind laughing out loud in the card aisle, but being blindsided by the realization that I no longer have a mother to pick out a card for makes me want to run out of the store and sob.  Mother’s Day with loss is hard to celebrate.

We were the speakers at a Marriage Weekend for another church in another state.  All was going well until Sunday morning when we got the news that one couple left during the night.  They had received a call in dark hours that their adult daughter was found dead.  Mother’s Day with lost or wayward children can strike the heart with unbearable pain leaving our minds in a scramble of emotions. Honoring precious lives lost, praying for those seemingly out of reach, realizing God is sitting with you grieving can make this day a touchstone to release emotion.  To peel away another layer of sadness.  To find peace in circumstances that we cannot change.

This year in our extended family, motherhood has had its extreme ups and downs.  We’ve shared in a nephew and his wife’s heartbreak of infertility and a failed adoption.  We rejoiced with them at the sudden gift of an adopted baby boy, followed by the news of her pregnancy.  Unexpectedly expecting!  A Mother’s Day fraught with opportunity for despair suddenly turned joyous.

Yesterday I read, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she is gone.”  It made me want to hug my family hard!  But I struggled to remember my own mother reaching out to hug me.  “Touch” was not her Love Language.  Then I reminded myself.  Of all the work I’ve done to accept her as she was, not as I wished she was.  Of all the work grieving the parts of our relationship that weren’t all I wanted them to be.  Accepting the parts where I fell short of making it better.  Thanking God for all she did give me – life itself for starters!  Thanking Him for the later years of her life when she accepted my hugs and kisses.  Glad I’ve learned to lean into the pain to process and to find my way back to joy.

Ultimately, the sure way to celebrate this day is to hold lightly all those things we cannot control and follow Christ in the best way we can.  In doing so, we will, as it says in Proverbs 23: 25 -“Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”  For mothers, being a woman who fears the Lord (Proverbs 31:30) – trusting Him in ALL circumstances – will ultimately lead to peace and praise.

That little grandson is not coming home for Mother’s Day.  It’s okay.  God willing, he will soon.  Because God is good and we trust Him, we can hold it lightly.

-Mary O’Connor

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