Becoming a mother for the first time is a wonderful rite of passage. Once you have looked into the eyes of your first child, you know without a shadow of a doubt that you will never be the same person again. It has been said that there is no stronger love in this world than the love a mother feels for her children. She cries for them, she worries about them and without a moment’s hesitation she would die for them.
The American fiction author N. K. Jemisin says “in a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.” Last week my friend’s six-year-old son presented her with a delightful painting he had made of her. At the top of the page he had written: “If I could change one thing about my mom I would change nothing about my mom because she is perfect.” What a wonderful gift for her to keep forever and what a testament to his love for her.
Given the magnitude of this bond between a mother and her child, it is not surprising that a special day be set aside each year on which to celebrate it. Falling on the second Sunday of May in many countries around the world Mothers Day honours mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
This Sunday 12 May, millions of Mothers will be spoiled with gifts and presented with special cards (the best being the ones handmade by your child with love) and enjoy being treated as a ‘queen for a day’. For most mothers it is a day of great joy and happiness as she revels in the love of her children.
But on this and every other Mothers Day let’s also remember the millions of mothers around the world whose hearts are breaking. Bereaved mothers who have lost a beloved child or who are grieving for the loss they know they still have to face and wondering if this will be the last time they will ever get to share a Mothers Day with their child. Mothers for whom the unimaginable has happened or is happening and they know there is nothing that they can do to prevent it. They cannot lay down their life for their child, no matter how willing they are to do so.
Let’s take a moment out of our celebrations this Mothers Day to stop and say a quiet prayer for those mothers. To honour each one of them and to tell them that their pain is acknowledged and that the dedication and sacrifices they have made and continue to make for their children does not go unnoticed.
The most thought provoking article I have ever read about the reality of living with a child with a degenerative and life limiting condition is one written for this Mothers Day by Maria Kefalas. With great insight and honesty, she describes the true meaning of motherhood when you know your child will not live to fulfil all the dreams you have for him or her. Despite the hand that has been dealt to this amazing mother, she still looks for ways in which she can “harvest this pain for wisdom.”
She reminds all mothers to cherish each moment they have with their children. To put down their phones and tear themselves away from other distractions when their children need their attention. Read books, go for walks, eat ice cream and appreciate every normal stage of development that your child passes through.
She also gives excellent advice on what to say to mothers who have lost a child or who anticipate this loss. Don’t say words like, “I don’t know how you cope. I would not be able to cope with what you are going through.” She explains that this is not a choice any mother would make. She copes because she has no choice. She writes, “If you want to say something nice to me, tell me: ‘You are a really good mom.’”
Her parting words of advice: “So, this Mother’s Day, please try to see your children the way I do: beautiful, healthy, and filled with promise. Remind yourselves of the mothers who will never get to do so many things you hardly notice, like take a walk, get a kiss, give their child a bear hug, sing a song, or play with a toy. Be mindful of how fragile this all is, and don’t let the fear of uncertainty immobilise you. Let it lead you to love your children with clarity and joy and profound gratitude.”