My mother died on Mother's Day, so at the same time I celebrate and call up with deep gratitude the memory of my mother, I also feel a frisson of grief.
Since Mother's Day is celebrated, in the U.S., on the second Sunday in May, the specific date moves around. While the actual date my mother died is May 12, I think of her death twice--on Mother's Day. . .and again on May 12.
I am certainly not alone. Obviously, there are my siblings--my brother and my sister. We all experienced the same event, and therefore have the same thoughts--recalling our mother on Mother's Day AND recalling her death.
But more than that--I had a co-worker who had gone through the exact same loss. I was working at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The two of us were executive assistants to the Secretary of Health. This woman was particularly close to her mother--more than a mother/ daughter relationship. More like best friends. The mother lived in the Washington, D.C. area, and had driven to central Pennsylvania to visit with her daughter on Mother's Day. She then drove back south to D.C. On the way, for inexplicable reasons, she crossed the center line on a four-lane highway (without center barriers) and crashed head long into an on-coming car. She was killed outright, as was the mother in the other car. On Mother's Day. At the time, I was so struck with the sad irony of losing your mother on Mother's Day.
I recall reading a book, some years ago, by Robert Fulghum. He is a minister, and wrote--in his book It Was On Fire When I Lay Down on It--about the conundrum of preaching year after year on Mother's Day. Part of his dilemma arose from the fact that he is not a mother--so how to preach about the wonderfulness of being a mother. But beyond that, he pointed out that not everyone has a wonderful mother. So, he posed some hypothetical questions. Here's the toughest one:
" How many of you find Mother's Day painful, especially when it involves thoughts and memories of such matters as adoption, abortion, divorce, suicide, rejection, alcoholism, alienation, abuse, incest, sorrow, loss, and words like stepmother, mother-in-law, and unspeakable obscene references to motherhood?" (p. 100)
Well, you can imagine the reaction he got. He said the congregation got very quiet; he also looked out and saw the pain. Also, predictably perhaps, he was attacked as members left the service--by at least one person: "Shame, shame, shame for spoiling this day."
I find that anecdote searing in its honesty. Not everyone has (or had) a wonderful mother. For people who were abused by mothers, what does Mother's Day mean to them? For women who are failing as mothers, what do they feel?
But, this day--I rejoice to have been blessed with having a wonderful mother. My memories are the source of joy for me--even sufficient joy to take away the sting for its also being the anniversary of her death.
And, as I wrote last year--beyond my mother as mother, I am also blessed to have had other marvelous nurturing women in my life--my stepmother, my aunts, and my mother-in-law. Nothing complicated about that.