Mother’s Day is a funny day of motions for me. Not funny, “Ha Ha” but funny “Weird.” The first Mother’s Day I spent without my mom was in 1997. She’d been dead less than a month and Charlie and I headed to Talladega for the race. Guess where the furthest place is from any Mother’s Day I had ever known. Go ahead. A NASCAR race. It was loud and hot and dirty and nothing like the corsage wearing, church attending, going out to lunch days I knew but was exactly what I needed.
I don’t remember what I did the next year but I do remember 1999. We were newly married, new in town, and new to our church. Chuck had to travel and I don’t remember why. I assume work but who knows, really? Anyway, I was fresh off surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. My hormones were still very unstable but I woke up and felt brave. I got dressed and went to church on my own. The whole “motherless daughter” thing was just settling into my identity and now I was wearing “childless mother” right next to it. In hindsight I should have stayed home in my pj’s and drank coffee and watched old movies. Hindsight lets you see all kinds of sense though.
I drove myself to church, walked in the front door and sat down on an aisle seat near the back. It wasn’t long before an usher leaned into my ear and asked, “Are you alone?” In the 2 seconds in took me to process the question I was touched, thinking he was offering some sort of consolation. As soon as I answered him with a gentle smile he said,”I’m going to need you to move then. This family wants to sit together.” He waved his hand in a Price Is Right showcase style, revealing a mom, her husband, and six kids. Of course they needed the entire row so I moved.
A little unnerved, I settled in a few rows up, scooting in towards the wall. I swear to you I’m not lying when an usher, a different one who I’m certain had no idea that I’d already been asked to move, suggested I move a row back so that a “full family” could sit in my row. I picked up my purse and left. I didn’t go back for several months.
I know that neither of those men meant any harm. I feel certain of that. But it hurt and was not what I needed that day.
I have two gorgeous kids now who are complete and total miracles but Mother’s Day still rubs places in my heart that need a bit of a sanding. The day sucks without my mom, even after all these years, and celebrating myself seems awkward. If it’s not my birthday. Celebrating myself if it’s not my birthday feels awkward. I totally celebrate me on my birthday. And the whole of my birth month. But Mother’s Day? I struggle with the party on that day.
There are so many women who have influenced and blessed my life and not been my mom. I could list teacher’s and coworkers and friends who are all women and all amazing blessings in my life. I want to celebrate all of them on Mother’s Day. I want to make the day a celebration of life and helpful people. A celebration of a mother’s love that comes from anyone who’s ever been mothered and wants to pass along the love. I encourage you to do the same.
And be sensitive. There will probably be someone like me in your church this Sunday. Someone who thinks the day, as a whole, sucks. Someone who woke up and decided to be brave though. Someone who decided to walk in the doors. They may hold their head high or they may try to slink in unnoticed. Notice them. Hug them. Tell them you care. Saying nothing is never good so say something. And don’t ask them to give up their seat.
Call the woman, the one who isn’t your mom but helped you in some motherly way, and tell her you appreciate her. Tell her you are grateful for the influence she has on your life.
And hug your kids tight. There is someone who is longing for what you have and they think it may never happen. They can’t imagine how it’s ever going to work out for them. Appreciate the miracles you have already been given and pray for that woman who is aching for the same.
And if it’s you who, like I was that day, that thinks maybe staying in your pj’s and drinking coffee sounds like a better idea than facing a church full of corsage wearing, going out to lunch after women….do it. Celebrate not just being alive but thriving and healing. I am proof.