Hallmark Cards doesn’t make a Mother’s Day card for some mothers who I believe deserve special recognition and celebration. Most of the commercials we see on TV for Mother’s Day show the stereotypical happy home of Mother, Father, and children. They’re in a restaurant, or they surprise Mom with breakfast in bed, the usual delightful displays of respect. The child makes a drawing or handprint or clay object as their gifts of love as thanks for the unconditional love they receive in return.
But what about the single mothers, where either divorce or death removes the father from the daily lives of their families? In the case of divorce, children develop different relationships with each parent, and in a perfect world, there’s positive communication and reinforcement between mothers and fathers “for the sake of the children.” That attitude is a gift, but it requires ignoring your personal painful memories, for the sake of your children.
Our family just celebrated our first full year in our new funeral center. As I reflected on some of the services we’ve held here this year. Especially do I remember four truly special mothers who’ve walked through our doors this year. In each case, a young adult was the responsible party for making the arrangements for their father, who’d died.
Young women and men have sat in my office, when there’s been no pre-plan. Even though their mom had not been married to their father in many years, the mom was the only one who could supply information about the father as a young man, about their early life together, some of the best days together, before their children were born, with stories they’d never heard before. They shared comforting memories that helped the children heal and get through the arrangements. How else would children know details of father’s parents’ names, high school graduation, other important facts?
These mothers, to a person, are women of such grace that I just wanted to lift them up to you this week, in the midst of all that goes along in celebrating moms in the “traditional Hallmark” sense. A mother’s love for her children is limitless. It’s up to all of us whose mother is still here to thank her for her extraordinary unconditional love this Mother’s Day, and beyond.
Think back to when you first recognized how special your mom was. Maybe it was after being around some of your classmates’ mothers in school and seeing that extra mile that your mom went to make sure you got to school on time, with your homework done, and all your books in your backpack. Other memories might be the time you informed her that you needed six dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale…tomorrow. Your mom came through.
Then there was the time you were ready to give up on something you’d been working hard to attain. It could be you could just never reach or meet some goal you had set. Every time you tried, you failed. You were ready to give up. But your mom saw you struggling and said the one sentence, or gave you the one look of encouragement that said, “I believe in you.” And that was all it took to make you get back up and try one more time.
If you dreamed of being a ballerina, there was your mom prepared to take you to and from your dance lessons. Maybe your mom, like mine, never missed a soccer game I had and was quick to encourage and last to point out when I made a mistake. Unconditional love—that’s what a mom supplies in extra measure every day when you’re growing up.
Mothers are verbal, and they let everyone know when you have done something good. When we’re young we often get embarrassed when our moms make a very big fuss over us. Or at least I’ve been guilty of an eye roll when I got a lot of credit for something that I didn’t think was very exceptional. But, as an adult, on reflection, I really felt good when Mom was proud. I think that’s something we’ve all felt like from our childhood–Moms were our very first advocates.
This past year, I’ve been so impressed by four very special mothers, as just one group of people to single out. When their former husband’s life ended, for them personally it’s been a reminder that something they once held dear together has ended—again. Yet, they’re the only ones with the “institutional knowledge” about a man whose children are either barely grown or not even grown, to be able to speak to from experience, by hearing stories from their dad about his days growing up. It’s up to them to fill in the gaps of information and in each case, they’ve come through with such kindness and tender words and it brought such comfort to their children to have them “right here” with us in the discussion as decisions were being made.
You’d never realize the importance of all that information, unless you’ve been through an experience of an unexpected early death. Do you know what elementary school your dad attended, what countries he’d served our country in, in what branch of military service? You may not know what sports he played in high school, if you grew up with a dad who was pretty quiet or kept his accomplishments to himself. But as I’ve seen it over and over, mothers have been willing and able to fill in all the blanks for their children.
And, in a different perspective, we also can’t forget the “second mothers” that are gifted to some individuals as “their special people to love.” There are aunts, grandmothers, and family friends who come in to some of our lives and enrich our childhood simply by being there for us. They are “family of the soul,” and “mothers of the heart” to some of us, and again, they’re gifts to be remembered on this Mother’s Day. There’s no rule that says you can only acknowledge one person on this special day.
Now, not every parent-child relationship is perfect and things can happen to find people at odds with parents. That’s life, too. If there is estrangement between you and your mother, and someone else has been there for you, maybe consider remembering that person you felt close to, like a mother. Let them know you’re thinking of them on this day. Hallmark even makes cards for the “second mom” and “just like a mother to me” categories. You have to search the stores—early. Friendly warning: do not wait until the last minute or you will wind up stuck with the Charlie Brown and Snoopy cards appropriate for ages 4+ to send.
This Mother’s Day, May 13th, no matter whether it’s a phone call, a card, a letter, or an in-person visit, don’t let the day go by unnoted. Maybe you will have another 40 years with your mother, or it could be 14 years, or it could be 4 years. Every Mother’s Day is a chance to say, “I love you, thank you, there’s no one else like you in this world.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!