Filed under: Bible, Christianity, God, Grace, Mother's Day, Religion, Spirituality, thoughts, writing
Mother’s day gives us all the opportunity to take a break and reminisce about those special people in our lives. Although I don’t need a special excuse to let my mind travel back and remember, sometimes I allow myself to get so busy that there is no room in there for anything except the worries and fears of tomorrow. So, here are a few memories that come to mind.
My first memory is one of the few time of year that my Great-grandmother would join us at Rosemont Alliance Church was on mother’s day. She was a member of a Missionary Baptist church much closer to her house, but she had become too frail to travel there on Sunday’s. The parishioners at that church made sure that Mary received a bulletin and a tape of the sermon weekly. So, on holiday’s we would drive to her small trailer on the crushed gravel road. As we went to the front door I could hear Twiggy, her small brown dog warning her of our presence. When that metal door opened my great grandmother was in her Sunday finest and ready for worship.
As we sat in the pew and as the sermon went on my pride swelled. I could feel the envy of the other kids in the church. This all came to a head when the pastor started asking his annual Mother’s day questions. I waited past the youngest, the one with the youngest child until he asked for the oldest mother in the congregation. Like clockwork one hundred heads turned in our direction.
“Mary Merritt, are you out there?” Pastor Leastman said putting his hand over his eyes and scanning the congregation.
Mary would timidly raise her hand.
“Mary is one hundred and one years old this year” he would say with just the right amount of emphasis. The congregation would start to applaud as Pastor Leastman walked down the isle to bestow upon her a rose and a present wrapped in red paper.
My second memory involves my own mother. It is a simple memory of her reclining deeply into the lime green couch in our basement. As she sat her fingers and hands were furiously moving. This was because for hours she would crochet. It was usually from small thread and in my eyes an impossibly small needle that she would create intricate patterns out of the thread making doilies, starched baskets and tablecloths. These were the wares she sold at craft markets and fairs to help our family make ends meet.
This always made me that much more proud as a young child when I made something in our class for mother’s day. All the god’s eyes, the plaster casts of my hands and even the branch that I cut and nailed to a small scrap of board in which I drew a face with the words “I love you” in a blue pen I knew were valued. Each of these trinkets are cherished by my mother because they were done with my own hands.
The final memory is of two of my cousins from that strange and mysterious land of Western Nebraska. They lived on a ranch with cattle, horses and pickup trucks. They wore Wranglers jeans, big metal belt buckles, well-worn boots and cowboy hats with ancient sweat stains imprinting the circumference of those felt hats. When I was around them I couldn’t shake the impression that our day-to-day experiences were dramatically different. Yet, there was something else that was different about them. Throughout the years my mother made sure that every holiday, birthday, special occasion and mother’s day they received a special present from our family.
When I was old enough my mother related their sad story. While my mother was pregnant with me her sister was driving her grandmother and children along one of the abundant gravel roads filling rural Nebraska. At some point she lost control throwing everyone from the vehicle. One cousin, the infant, was relatively unharmed and the other had a badly shattered foot. My great-grandmother was killed instantly while my aunt was unconscious for a while before she too died. I truly believed that I could feel the loss that their death left in those who remained. Holidays and special occasions dredged up their sense of loss. We did not see them at many of the great family gatherings.
Mere memories? Perhaps. It is my unswerving conviction that our true beliefs, perceptions, conclusions or interpretations cannot be separated from our personal experiences. They are intricately woven together and inseperable. Some think that we must be objective when observing and evaluating things such as faith and practice. I believe entirely the opposite. I think that it is impossible for us to separate ourselves from the sum total of the things we have seen, touched, smelled and perceived.
This is why I believe that a holiday like mother’s day can be simultaneously filled with the most rapturous feelings of gratitude and the most intense emotions of loss. If we strive to be honest and inclusive we must acknowledge other’s pain. So, from my experiences there are many this day that grieve the loss of children and mothers. There are those unable to conceive or who excitement was replaced with sadness. Some family members have always been absent, others left suddenly while others we have seen slowly and painfully drift away from us. Some found themselves in the midst of impossible situations with a sibling or parent, tragic situations when the bonds of familial relationships strained and cracked. On this day we honor your loss and grieve with you.
Yet, this is foremost a day of celebration. We recognize all types of mothers whose presence has made a paramount impact on our children. We are told that a child’s earliest formation of God is given to them from their mother. God, to them, is like a loving and protective mother. Fortunately, this is not merely a developmental stage, it is also a Biblical reality. This compelling image of God is repeated in the Old Testament and is also expressed by Jesus.
Our experiences with mom affect many of our most important aspects in life. Mom influences how we relate to our children, how we relate to others, how we view God and how we view the world can. Let us celebrate and begin to understand the central role that motherhood has in our lives. Then we can be both sensitive and celebrate every aspect of Mom and what it means to be a mother.
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