Mother's Day in Times of Sorrow

HAPPY Mother's Day? For some, not so much. Mother's Day is an 'in your face' holiday to those who are childless or motherless. 

One Mother's Day your beloved is here and the next Mother's Day they are not. How do you celebrate Mother's Day when your mother isn't present to enjoy her presence? 

Wednesday evenings I gather with a group of women walking through grief and five out of seven of them are struggling to reorient their lives without their mother alive to add wisdom, value, love and a frame of reference. How do you plan family gatherings when the one who did the planning and hosting is no longer there? Are you still a daughter though you don't have a mother?

My mother is still living. I can still send her a card and call her on the phone. However, I have experienced the loss of a child prior to birth, as well as the premature death of a child. 

May 1989 (28 yrs ago) our home bustled with activity as we were in the excitement of raising a family and a newborn church simultaneously. Never had life been more full of joy and scurry! Love and laughter. Friends and fun. Hectic and hilarious! 

With four growing children ages 7, 5, 3 and a baby a few months shy of 2 yrs, life was full! Full of diapers and wipes, outbursts of silliness and tears. Full of cheerios and spilt milk. Raisins, hot dogs, applesauce and mac & cheese. Laundry and lessons. Housework and homework. 

With a growing church,  our schedule was full of small groups, Bible studies, friendships, meetings and setting up and tearing down. 

Growing up the oldest of five kids, living in the community of hustle and bustle was my normal. And I thrived on it. It was my normal and I loved it. I chose it. 

But the weekend after Mother's Day everything changed. 

It was the last Mother's Day our 21 month old baby girl, Megan celebrated here with us.

Celebrating Mother's Day after loss is different. 

As is every other celebration: Mother's Day, my husband's birthday (May 18th), graduation, Memorial Day, I remember and miss her presence here. Each year I contemplate and imagine.  What would she look like? what would she be doing? Would she be married? Would she have children?

Awareness of my loss enhances my sensitivity to others' experiences of loss. 

One Mother's Day at Indian Creek we found a young woman dissolved into tears in a closed stall of the women's bathroom. Her desire to have a child unrealized. Another Mother's Day a woman crumbled behind the old Welcome Center and we prayed fervently for the blessing of a baby.

How can you celebrate blessings of the womb when your womb hasn't yet been blessed?

My oldest daughter, married 10 years and director of an international non-profit organization, hears her biological clock ticking. She's been busy traveling and re-establishing an international ministry and relationships. A couple of years ago she was ready to settle down and figure out how to still do her job AND start a family. 

Unfortunately, she learned that starting a family isn't as easy as deciding it's time. Her body did not cooperate and still isn't cooperating. 

Why? I don't know. She doesn't know. And we've asked God.

Repeatedly.

So she doesn't usually attend church on Mother's Day. It's too hard! 

I get it! Our youngest daughter died on a Sunday morning. Like the Psalmist David after the death of his baby, I was compelled to go and worship God. Where else would I go? I turned to God in times of joy and celebration. I run to Him desperately in times of sorrow.

David, the man after God's own heart did! 

I cry out to God without holding back.
    Oh, that God would listen to me!
When I was in deep trouble,
    I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, pleading,
    but my soul was not comforted.
I think of God, and I moan,
    overwhelmed with longing for His help. 

You don’t let me sleep.
    I am too distressed even to pray!
I think of the good old days,
    long since ended,
when my nights were filled with joyful songs. 
    I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
Has the Lord rejected me forever?
    Will He never again be kind to me?
Is His unfailing love gone forever?
    Have His promises permanently failed?
— Psalm 77:1-8

God is faithful. He is constant. He is the God of all comfort. I will cling to Him at all times, perhaps in times of grief even more tightly!

I am learning you can't heal what you don't acknowledge. You can't experience the joy without walking THROUGH the sorrow.

Great joy can remain in the midst of despair. We grieve but not as those without hope. Then, after all the lamenting, the second half of Psalms chapter 77, David invites us to remember what great things God has already done in our lives.

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
— (vs. 11, 14)

I'm finding comfort. Healing. And hope! God is a help! He IS hope! He is life! He is love!  Life is full of both joy and sorrow and BOTH are worth celebrating! 

Worth celebrating everyday, especially Mother's Day!