Happy(?) Mother’s Day
I used to think Mother’s Day was a holiday for everyone. After all, we all have (or had) moms. Easy enough. When I saw that people were sad, I assumed they just weren’t focusing on the good things. Sure, I thought, my friend’s mom isn’t here with us anymore, but she can still celebrate. She has memories. Why wouldn’t she want to be a part of this heartwarming, happy day?
Oh, how I did not get it.
And oh, how much I hate that I do now.
It’s funny — this wasn’t a big holiday for us. I’d get Mom a card. Maybe a gift, if I happened to think of something. We didn’t always get together. I guess once I had kids of my own, it became more about being with them and allowing them to celebrate.
But now, as I face my third Mother’s Day without my mom, I’m faltering again.
I don’t know how to celebrate my mom without falling into the abyss of missing her.
I don’t know how to let my kids celebrate me without feeling an extreme lack — a sharp jab into my side, an ice pick puncture with each thought — because my own mom’s not here anymore. And because I worry that maybe I’m not enough for my kids. That I can’t give them everything they need. That I can’t be all that they want. Or, worse, maybe they don’t want what I have to offer.
And I know I’m not alone. There are women who mourn today, feeling the loss of a child they barely knew or a little life they’ve never been able to grow. Women who are acutely aware of the missing other half — the one they haven’t met or the one they’ve lost, the one who would or did transform her from half of a couple into (possibly) a parent. Women who feel that they must be unworthy, because they didn’t have a mom who evoked these pastel-colored, flowery memories. Or because their kids don’t feel that way about them.
So how do we get through this day? How do we address the hodgepodge of disparate emotions all around? How do we know who needs a silly smile reflected back at them and who needs a quiet, wordless embrace?
So just walk gently today. Don’t assume everyone feels happy. Be free with kind touches, genuine smiles, words of affection. Give thanks for what you have, and ask God to fill the empty places left behind by loss.
Notice, as the moms are honored, the woman still sitting on the church pew, sad because she can’t stand up among the other women. Watch faces for the person who can’t maintain a smile when the heartwarming poems are read, because maybe they’re lonely or hurting or can’t figure out how to forgive the mother who damaged them. Pay attention to someone who’s spending the day alone, and consider inviting them along. If everyone around you seems happy and content, by all means, join in the celebration, and lift your voice in gratitude to God.
But if you’re the one who’s hurting, know you’re not alone. Allow God to turn your feelings upside down (because, really, His upside-down-ness is one of my favorite things about Him). We don’t have to hide from sadness or feelings of inadequacy. We don’t have to pretend to be happy if we’re not. We just have to open ourselves up to the One who can heal, the One who will comfort, the One who makes the broken places whole again. He’s the One who can see past the facades. He’s the One with the eternal perspective. He celebrates with us, grieves with us. He nurtures us, forms us, rejoices in us. He never gives up. He stays close and He never lets go.
But the really amazing thing? His arms are large enough to do more than just hold you and me. As He wraps around you today, remember that He is also holding close our moms, our grandmothers, our aunts and sisters and friends and babies, encircling us all in the same embrace. He reaches beyond space and time, outside of the bounds of this physical world into the radiating light of heaven, and holds us all tight. Gathers us in together. Bridges the impossible gaps between us and those we long to see again. We may not be able to see it, but He’s there. She’s there (whoever you’ve lost and are thinking of on this day), right there with you. God’s embrace doesn’t falter or fail. Because she’s with Him, and we’re with Him, we are all, somehow, together again.
And because of this, in His phenomenal way, God transforms this day, which could easily be filled with sorrow and regret and mourning — into something different. Something better. Something more. Something that, even if it may not make you want to buy a Hallmark card, is worth experiencing. Worthy of gratitude. Filled with healing. Bursting with light.
Because of this unfathomable grace, He makes it possible for me to say to you, with all love and sincerity and compassion and hope and tenderness, that today, I will celebrate.
Happy Mother’s Day. May you find in this day — in Him — all that you need. Amen.