A Bittersweet Mother's Day

In the US, we will celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday. It seems only fitting that my May blog post should in some way commemorate this special day. I contemplated writing about it from both a daughter’s perspective, and a mother’s, but somehow neither felt quite right. In truth, this year I’m a bit unsettled as the day approaches.

An old friend buried her oldest child last week. He was twenty-three. A handsome, smart, kind and generous, twenty-three. It’s difficult to imagine a young man loved more by his family and friends. He was blessed to be born into a wonderful family, to a selfless mother who put family, friends, and faith at the center of her world. A world where nothing was more important than her children.

I imagine my friend placing a loving hand gently over her expanding belly each day her child was cocooned safely inside. And I imagine her with a big smile on her face, and one in her heart, while she held her hand over the taut skin, waiting for a small kick or a tiny ripple. I didn’t know her then, but I’m sure that’s just how it was. She loved her son fiercely, and she still does.

On Sunday everyone will tip-toe around her, some will act like it’s just another day, and still others will pretend that her oldest child never existed. They’ll rationalize their behavior as something they’re doing to protect her feelings, but they’ll be doing it for themselves. And who can blame them, because the thought of losing a child pains us beyond words.

There are so many questions, and so few answers, none that are satisfactory. None that even come close. But one thing is certain: she didn’t bury her motherly love with her child. She might not be able to hold him in her arms again, but she holds him in her heart. Just as I’m sure every mother who has lost a child, forever holds them in her heart.

So on Sunday, if someone close to you has faced this unthinkable tragedy, it doesn’t matter how long ago, summon your courage, and I’ll summon mine. Let's mark the day, not by forgetting, but by remembering. Maybe the traditional happy Mother’s Day greeting is inappropriate, but surely we can all find a few warm words or some small act to help her smile through her tears.