Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's Still Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day.

Don't cringe. Don't tiptoe around it. It's still Mother's Day for me and all the other mothers who have lost our children, whether they were stillborn, died as infants, died as children or young people and whether or not they were our only children.

Happy Mother's Day.

Last year I expressed this sentiment to a friend who had lost her only child and my husband thought it had been a slip of the tongue for me. Perhaps, instead, it was a presentiment for me, knowing what should be said. While we didn't dwell on it at the time, I think she was glad to have her motherhood acknowledged. Last Sunday she brought me a gift of a necklace with the Bible verse that brought her peace on it. She wanted me to know she knew today would be difficult.

Happy Mother's Day.

Those singular days in the year set aside to express things we should express year round have never really impressed me. Perhaps I'm a cynic, but Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and even Grandparent's Day have never had a lot of meaning. If you can't manage to be a good sweetheart, child or grandchild, expressing love and appreciation at least occasionally, the other 364 days of the year, then there's not much point. That means I sometimes pull off a card or a meal, mainly because it's expected, but it's not a big day personally and I've never had high expectations.

In fact, I've always felt like the hoopla of the days does more to point out the things we lack than the things we have. Valentine's Day always felt like so much more of a big deal when I didn't have a significant other than when I did. Celebrating how wonderful Mom, Dad, or grandparents are highlights their absence or makes people who have a less than wonderful branch in their family tree more aware of what they are missing.

For those who have had wonderful mothers to remember and miss, today may be bittersweet. There will be warm, happy memories tinged by loss and perhaps smiles through tears as they celebrate the day for other mothers in their lives, or perhaps gather with siblings to remember Mom. The day will be different and perhaps even difficult, but it will still be Mother's Day.

There's no question that children who have lost their mother's still celebrate the day, perhaps with a white flower on their Sunday best, but it's a different matter when it comes to mothers who have lost their children. I think the world looks at us as though we'd like to forget the day, and, even if it's painful, I don't think that's the case.

Today will be hard for a lot of grieving mothers I've met over the last five months. As we gather with family, there will be a child missing. As we open cards, there won't be one from a son or daughter. When the phone rings, it won't be that absent child calling to say they are sorry they aren't part of the celebration, or that they mailed their card too late. There will be a hole in the day, just as there has been a hole in our lives for some time now. The family gatherings, cards and calls will make it more apparent, but it is still Mother's Day.

I don't expect to feel those pangs. Last year my family got together for Mother's Day. The three Es were being dedicated at church and my parents went by to pick up Ethan so he could be part of the gathering. He was just beginning his slide back into drug use in the cycle of addiction he never escaped. While he'd been clean and happy a few weeks earlier for his birthday, that wasn't the case by Mother's Day. In typical, narcissistic, addict fashion, he told them when they arrived at his apartment that he wasn't going and had made other plans. He didn't call to wish me a good day. It was not the first or last of our family gatherings that he had simply skipped at the last moment. There's a big part of me already used to his absence, even though I crave his presence.

I've already had Mother's Day without my son. Addiction took him long before it claimed his life.

So I also acknowledge the other mothers I know who will spend today like I spent Mother's Day a year ago, missing one who could have been there, and who may not even bother to call or send a card, because those things don't have anything to do with getting high and enjoying that place in their heads where they live. I know how you'll spend today and even if they go through the motions, you'll spend today missing the child you would have had without addiction and clinging to the moment, to the hope of change just as I once did.

Whatever the pain we may feel, whatever its cause, today is still Mother's Day for us all.

Whether we are mothers, or simply have or had mothers, Mother's Day has meaning.

Whether we are surrounded by the wonderful noise and chaos of little children, the changed dynamics of a grownup family, or an empty house where the memory of our child lives in a bedroom down the hall or a photo on the wall or perhaps just in a flutter we felt in our womb that was never realized as a child in our arms, today is our day.

It may hurt, but I think we still want to hear Happy Mother's Day, because ignoring it is, in a sense, ignoring our pain and our joy and all that we went through. It is ignoring the existence of the child we loved, whether we never really knew them or knew them for years. I don't think any of us want to pretend our child never happened, even if we cry because they aren't with us today.

So don't tiptoe around the grieving mothers in your life. It's Mother's Day and we're still mothers. Help us celebrate our memories instead of our losses.

Happy Mother's Day.

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