Reflecting on Mother’s Day

For anyone who is a regular reader or who knows a fair bit of my story, you know that Mother’s Day has historically not been my favorite day.  For instance, my post Perspective Matters from around this time last May touches on this topic.  If you want more on why historically Mother’s Day hasn’t been the greatest, you can read that post.

Road Trip Picnic with Mom and Grandma McGrew

But, this year is different.  This year May has been a month of joy and of anticipation.  Maybe it’s the joy of upcoming graduation. Maybe it’s learning gratitude as I learn to take some risks and live. Maybe it’s anticipation of adoption. Either way, I’m not in the same place that I’ve been other years.

This year is probably the first time in about ten or more years that I’ve gone to church on Mother’s Day.  And it was a profoundly healing experience for me.  By some accident (or providence — you can choose), I got asked to do announcements, and I totally could have said “no.”  And as I talked with staff before actually giving announcements, I could have opted out.  But, the little voice in my head urged me this might actually be good for me to do it this year.

Just because I’ve experienced loss doesn’t mean I am unable to celebrate with others.  I choose to both honor the grief I walked through and to celebrate the wonderful moms in my life this year; it’s a tension, and I choose to embrace it.  I choose something other than hiding in bitterness.  At this point in my journey (at least this week), this is a choice I can make freely.  And after last year’s post, I’m so extremely thankful for being able to do that this year!

As I look around in my life, I see so many amazing moms that are worth celebrating.  I’m grateful for their presence in my life, and for the opportunity to watch the way they nurture their kiddos and their community.

I think it’s awesome to celebrate Mother’s Day, and to encourage and honor the amazing women in our lives who inspire us. Who challenge us. Who make us think. Who laugh with us and who teach us how to laugh at ourselves.  Who cry with us and keep boxes of Kleenex handy for such an occasion.  Who nurture us and wrap us up in warm, strong hugs.  Who dream dreams for us. Who hope for us when our hope seems lost. Who call us out on our temper tantrums and childishness.  Who teach us to play and to look for the beauty around us.

At the same time I celebrate the amazing women and moms I know, I recognize that others also grieve on Mother’s Day.  Some are in my camp, either unable to have children or having lost their mother.  Some have moms who have wounded them beyond what I can even imagine. Some moms have lost children. That’s just a sampling of the pain people carry on Mother’s Day.

Having to celebrate with those who celebrate, while the pain they’ve experienced goes ignored, is like gasoline on top of a fire.  So, for those who find themselves grieving on Mother’s Day, I wanted them to know they’re not ignored; their stories matter, and their pain matters.  They are not alone.  

We can grieve with them, even as we celebrate others.   Church isn’t just about supporting the happy, but also comforting the brokenhearted.  We need both to be healthy!

And as I spoke in church, I had one of those awkward moments where a phrase came out of my mouth that surprised me as I mentioned standing in solidarity with those who don’t experience Mother’s Day as a happy day.  It wasn’t something I planned to say.  It wasn’t in what I wrote as a draft for announcements.  It wasn’t something I said as I practiced what I would say.  It just slipped out.  And I had a panicked inner monologue of “Where the HECK did that come from? Oh well. Can’t take it back.  Just keep going. Keep going.” Thankfully, I remembered the rest of the announcements without needing my cheat sheet; mostly I felt mortified for saying a phrase that doesn’t normally come out of my mouth.

Mom and I at the beach

That inward dialogue turned out to be a theme for the day.  How did church suddenly feel like home for me on Mother’s Day instead of an experience to be feared and dreaded? How is it that my infertility became a sealed up battle scar instead of a gaping wound?  I know it’s part of me, but this week it’s not the only thing on my mind.  How is it that this week I can think of good things about my mother rather than the sadness that she’s not here with me? What a tremendous gift!

Where did this peace and joy come from? Doesn’t matter.  Just enjoy it.  Just say thank you!  Keep going.

The rest of the day I waited for the pang of grief to show up.  And you know what?  It never did.  This was the first Mother’s Day in the last 20+ years that was just a great day.

I found myself grateful for my mom, my grandmas and my mother-in-law. Oddly enough, there wasn’t sadness with the recollection, just thankfulness.

I was blessed with a fabulous and beautiful mom, even if I only got to know her for a short time.  And I’m excited this summer to have time to go through the treasure trove of papers and letters she left behind.  That’ll be an adventure in getting to know my mom in a different way than I did as a kid, and I’m thankful that all this randomness was still there as we cleaned out my dad’s house last fall.

Grandma McGrew, my siblings, and baby me

My Grandma McGrew died a few years ago, and I’m grateful for her as well.  I remember summers at their lake house fishing and riding in the boat, and swimming in their pool.  She and Grandpa took my cousins and me to Disney World and Disney Land. She and Grandpa took in folks in trouble and let them move in while they got back on their feet, and I appreciate their legacy of hospitality and welcoming others.

Meme and Papa

This Mother’s Day, I am grateful for my Meme, who is still with us.  She’s a relentless cheerleader who bursts with pride in all her kids’, grandkids’, and great-grandkids’ accomplishments.  She pursues us and keeps us all up-to-date on each others’ lives and events. She relishes each new addition to the family — including our spouses.  When she met my husband for the first time, she announced that he’s number 37; I don’t think he’ll ever forget that. She prays and prays and prays for us.  Whatever else happens in my life (and whether I believe it about myself), I know my Meme thinks I’m amazing.

J and M ca. 2009

I even found myself thanking God for my mother-in-law.  She raised J to be an incredible man; I can’t imagine life without him. I’m amazed at the way she welcomes her ESL students into her home and life; she seeks to deeply know them and cares deeply about their struggles in navigating life in America.  She’s an adventurer, who wanders the globe to far off places.

This year my cup is full.  So many people to be grateful for.  So much hope for the journey ahead.  My perspective this May is so totally different than last May, and it’s been just about time for that!  I didn’t feel the change happening; it wasn’t overnight.  It just happened gradually. Little by little.  Thank God for working even as I couldn’t see it or at times sense it.

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