Once a year we give mothers a well-deserved day of recognition and appreciation. And of course one day is not nearly enough, because without our mothers we quite literally would not be here! On the second Sunday of each May, there will be flowers, breakfasts in bed, and a whole lot of reservations for dinner. I remember giving my mother a simple handcrafted gift one Mother’s Day, and though it had obviously been my father’s woodworking that produced the item, no one seemed to care. I’m guessing it will be a similar routine this year; our three-month-old daughter, Inga, will probably not travel to CVS to buy my wife a card. Mother’s Day is a team effort.
But while our daughter is only three months, we first marked Mother’s Day last year. Though it would be hard to call the day a celebration. After our son, James, was stillborn at 34 weeks in the fall of 2015, Mother’s Day was incredibly difficult.
You may not know that in recent years there has been an effort to commemorate International Bereaved Mother’s Day, this day falling on the first Sunday in May. Carly Marie, an Australian woman whose son Christian was stillborn, established the day as a “temporary movement” to ensure all mothers are “loved, supported and recognized.” Part of her reasoning relates to the origin of Mother’s Day itself. Ann Jarvis, in whose honor Mother’s Day was established in America, gave birth to around eleven children, with only four surviving into adulthood. The original mother of Mother’s Day was herself bereaved.
In many churches it’s common for mothers to be recognized during Sunday worship on Mother’s Day. Congregations may give a single rose or a bouquet of flowers as mothers rightly receive appreciation for all of their incredibly important and often overlooked work. Yet as a pastor I have never felt comfortable giving such recognition, because I know Mother’s Day is complicated for so many. There are of course mothers who have lost children—to miscarriage and stillbirths—as well as to accident and illness. There are those struggling with infertility. Still others who long for children have not found the right partner or desired means of welcoming a child into their life. To say nothing of so many men and women who have a difficult relationship with, or are even estranged from, their own mother. Honoring maternal love can be painful for those who did not receive such love during their childhood.
There are certainly more “days” than ever that we observe. Every movement, every cause, seems to have a day on the calendar. Most days have multiple “observances.” That’s one reason I like that this day is a “temporary movement.” It’s something to emphasize until all mothers are rightly recognized and thanked on Mother’s Day.
For 34 weeks our son James knew nothing but happiness — kicking and hiccuping in his mother’s womb as he enjoyed going on hikes, hearing the sound of her voice, and being surrounded by her love. I can’t imagine a more loving mother in need of recognition. I am so incredibly grateful for the wonderful mother my wife Carolyn has been and continues to be to both our children.
This Mother’s Day, if you know a woman who has lost a child, wish her a “Happy Mother’s Day.” Your words may be met with a few tears, and it almost certainly won’t be a quick, throwaway greeting. But after we lost our son James the most loving, appreciated thing our friends and family could say to us was “Happy Mother’s Day,” or “Happy Father’s Day.” I think most people were afraid to say it. But on that day, it was all we wanted to hear.
Published in May 2017 in The Wilbraham-Hampden Times.