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Surviving Mother’s Day

Surviving Mother’s Day

There are moments in life that make wallowing in self-pity pretty inviting. I get at least one a year, on the second Sunday in May.

My mother died when I was 12 years old (cue the looks of pity and little cooing noises from those just finding out). That she died when I was young seems to make my life slightly more tragic in others’ eyes, but to me, it doesn’t matter if your mother dies when you’re 12 or 65, you’ve lost your mother just the same. Each year I remember her in different ways; the anniversary of her death often passes calmly, as does her birthday. My sister and I call each other and reminisce a bit, but usually no tears. Until the last few years, Mother’s Day was no different from these other days. Sometimes I’d even make a point of contacting those who had been motherly in her absence to thank them for all they did for me.

But in my mid-20s, something changed, and I’ve yet to figure it out. While working with the youth at church to help them prepare a special Mother’s Day evening meal for their moms, it suddenly hit me that I was the only one there who didn’t have a living mom somewhere, either at the dinner or in another state. I found myself leaving the church kitchen to find a place to hide. I let my husband know what was going on, and we tackled it later, once we were home. But each year now I hold a certain amount of Mother’s Day dread.

Sunday morning, bright and early, we called my husband’s mother to wish her a happy one. An hour later I walked into our church to see beautiful long-stemmed red roses surrounding the altar, in honor and memory of mothers. I hadn’t bought one for two reasons: one, denial that the day was approaching, and two, my mom liked the daffodils, lilies and irises growing in her garden better than cut and destined-to-die flowers.

I wished last week’s lead singer, the only mom in our group, a happy Mother’s Day. Our guitarist knows the day is hard for me, and I know that next month on Father’s Day, he gets his tough one, so we commiserated for a couple of minutes. We sang, and our pastor preached on being “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12. In Sunday school we discussed the fifth commandment, honoring thy father and mother. Afterward, our youth minister Cathy sent me home with a still-warm quiche left over from the Mother’s Day brunch—which I gratefully received, even more grateful that I’d had no part in the event, and exchanged a knowing look with Cathy because she and I are in the same motherless boat.

Time for distractions! Eat one-quarter of the quiche for lunch. Fold some laundry with my husband. Play with the dogs while my husband calls his grandmother on this special day (I don’t have one of those, either). Listen as he makes a second call to my mom-in-law, to see how she liked her gift. Suck it up and make the call to my dad; wind up telling my stepmother a too-syrupy happy what-day-it-is, then chit-chatting a while because he’s out running an errand. Meet up with another couple for dinner; both of us girls are motherless, but at least my father hasn’t gone all hermit on me and refused to communicate like hers has. Stuff ourselves full of Lebanese cuisine (politely but quickly declining the Mother’s Day special on the menu). Back to our house for more doggy antics, and a call back from my dad. No mention of what-day-it-is, though in some other years I’ve been known to wish him a happy one (“After all, it wouldn’t have been possible without you!”). Go out for ice cream, as if we haven’t had enough food. Watch a Penn & Teller DVD, then bid our friends farewell for the evening.

Ah, nearly bedtime. All ready and lounging in the bed, my husband decides to do a little channel surfing. He lands upon a mutual favorite, the Discovery Channel, in the middle of a documentary about a wolf pack introduced into the wild. Before the pack takes off into the forest, they come back and say goodbye to the human friends who raised them and helped them become independent. That’s it. The trigger for the Mother’s Day cry. My husband, God bless him, had forgotten this could happen, but he’s really good about providing quiet support while I handle it. Eventually the wolves make their home in Idaho, other wolves thrive when they are reintroduced into Yellowstone, I quit crying, all’s right with the world, and we turn out the lights.

And I lie there in the dark, remembering the children’s sermon that morning from Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you …” Eventually, I fall asleep in the arms of my heavenly Parent, one more Mother’s Day behind me.

[Amy Forbus is a communicator and worship leader living in Carrollton, Texas. She and her husband are proud puppy-parents of a German Shepherd mutt, Cub, and an Australian Cattle Dog, Angus.]


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