Saturday, May 7, 2016

An Unraveled Hem - A Tribute to Mothers Who Have Been Left Behind For Now

Mother's Day.  My children are all alive and live under my roof.  I talk to my mom every Wednesday on the phone, have a stepmom who loves me like her own, and live two doors down from my mother-in-law, whom I adore.  I don't think I've ever been more grateful for these richly layered blessings, and on this Mother's Day, in particular. 

Over the past year and a half, working as a hospital chaplain, I've had a most privileged view of motherhood.   There has been more good than bad, but the good is expected and the bad is really bad.  Really bad, in that it is really hard to make sense of and impossible to forget.  In the world, there are probably more children losing mothers to old age than mothers losing children of all ages, but not in my world.

Only a mother knows that an 11-week old fetus can be born with hands that look like they're folded in prayer, and that this same child who lived secretly within her will largely remain a secret.  Others carry their children into labor along with their dreams for them, only to never hear them cry.  Even once.

Some have their children long enough to see them grow into successful college students, marry, or become parents of young children and then...they're gone.  How can God take them now?  Just when...

As proposed by a meditation whose source I can't recall, I agree that whenever possible "What now?" is a much more fruitful question than "Why?!".  Stack all of the good things that can come from the death of a child (or anyone we love) as high as the stars, and it will likely still be too short to satisfy our why.  So, what now? 

Children are always on the brink of starting something new.  Elementary school, middle school, high school, military service, college, being married, having babies, a new career, retirement, grandchildren...

Every day is a "just when" day when you're a mother.  That's who we are.  We anticipate the good things that lie ahead for our children, as we should.

These women who have lost children, young and old, come home with me.  They show up in my tears when I tuck my children in at night and stand invisibly near our table during mealtime prayer.  Psychological jargon will tell you this has a name.  Transference.  Wikipedia defines it as "a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another."

Yes.  Maybe.  Maybe it is unconscious in the beginning, but not for long.  I carry these mothers with me consciously and intentionally.  They are my heroes.  They make me a better mother and help me to stay present.  They remind me that when I am not overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood, I will grieve the absence of them.  These women are honest (yet, great actresses, too), courageous, generous, and humble.  They know their limitations, which they feel poignantly.  They are the greatest proof that living when you'd rather die is not only possible, but beautiful - and empowers others for whom living may be hard, too - whatever the reasons.

These women do not belong to me, but I want to keep them close and hold on to the hem of their garment.  I want to feel the flow of strength they cannot feel, but that I can see, so vividly.  I'm not sure, but I think everyone can.  You may be one of these women and wondering why strangers keep pulling on your clothes.  If not, you undoubtedly know one.

If you can, please join me in saying,

"Thank you, Moms, for letting us remain near you and for your example.  Sorry about the hem.  You should probably find a good seamstress, 'cause we're not turning loose any time soon..

For you, we eagerly await the day that you are with your children who have gone before you, and all will be well in your world once again.  May God continue to grant you grace sufficient for the moment, as we continually and unfailingly see Him doing, in you.  Happy Mother's Day."