National Foster Care Month.
ALS Awareness Month.
International Bereaved Mother’s Day.
It’s May. All of these calendar happenings have me remembering, which doesn’t take much, because May is a month of memories anyways.
And under the weight of this quarantine, the remembering of that season and the reality of this current one have me in a whole new mixed up place of ache and crazy.
ALS came crashing into my life two Mays ago, when it almost took my mother-in-law away from us and gave her its diagnosis and battle since.
We received our license to foster two Mays ago as well, 45 minutes before life threatening hemorrhaging hit my body and we had to, again, postpone our fostering plans.
I remember Mother’s Day those two Mays ago, sitting in church crying through the service. My husband was in NY by his mom’s ICU bed. I was still going through the miscarriage of our baby. I had no idea some of the worst was yet to come in that storm season.
It’s hard being in church on Mother’s Day. I kind of flinch to type that, but it’s true. Honestly, it’s hard for many to be in church (or anywhere really) on Mother’s Day. If you’ve lost your mom, or are losing your mom, or have lost a child at any point, there is pain there. And it’s hard to be any place with those pain points on any day, but then Mother’s Day comes and it is such a trigger. And church can be a place where we feel pressure to ignore triggers. I hope that this will change, as I believe it is changing, and we can all find church to be an even sweeter place when it’s filled with our ache and tears.
I remember when that service ended, a lady sitting next to me who was visiting reached out to me, and I shared some of the reasons for my pain. She offered me sincere compassion and handed me $20 so I wouldn’t have to cook dinner.
It can be uncomfortable to show your hurt in church, but women like that remind me why it’s so important to have that community (and it turns out she was the pastor’s mama! So there’s that awesomeness too).
This Mother’s Day will have some unique areas of hard in it across our world, as so many are quarantined and can’t get together with their mothers. And I absolutely reel for those who have lost moms or children during this recent pandemic. The complications of going through loss during this specific season just seem like a horrific level of salt in wounds. I’m in an online Christian community group for mamas who have lost babies. The updates keep coming in… and I catch myself when reading through the list of April’s lost ones clenching my teeth. Anger that babies are being born blue and at such time as this. Why, Lord.
For many, having to stay home this Mother’s Day is a gift. Not having to say “no” to invitations or accept them with braced hearts is a gift. Not being able to go anywhere and endure the awkward comments, fought-back tears, and sights of others’ wholeness is a gift. This Mother’s Day, many are relieved to hide at home.
Pressure’s off, tissues are out, and all the complicated tangle of thoughts and emotions will possibly have space and time to be wrestled with.
There’s a Mother’s Day solely dedicated to this pain. This last Sunday was International Bereaved Mother’s Day. It’s fitting and it’s honoring and it’s appropriate that this day exists. But for whatever reason, the day comes and goes without the same impact other days of remembrance have on me. How do I divide up my children on different Mother’s Days? One day to honor the two in heaven and another day to celebrate the ones here? That feels crass. It’s the traditional Mother’s Day that I find myself grieving through while strangely simultaneously rejoicing. On Mother’s Day, I remember all my children, who have all made me a mom, and that remembering can bring heartache and gratitude and pain and joy.
If you are hurting this Mother’s Day and relieved to be able to hide, I tell you this: It’s okay. It’s okay to be glad that you can stay home. It’s okay to be thankful that you can watch church online in sweat pants and wet eyes and a runny nose. It’s okay to tune in to a sermon from days gone by and not even have to recognize that it’s Mother’s Day. It’s okay to go about the whole day like it’s just any other day (because I mean really, who even knows what day it is anymore anyways, right?). And if you have other children here or other reasons to still celebrate the day, embrace the art of balancing the sorrow and the joy.
I look back at that May two years ago and I glance around at my life now. My mother-in-law is still battling ALS but still with us and it’s an indescribable treasure to wish her another happy Mother’s Day. I see my foster daughter, who we finally were able to receive a few months after that May storm season, and I’m so glad she’s here with us, and for the second Mother’s Day in a row too. I hold her and think about how she doesn’t even know her bio mom passed away several months ago. She doesn’t know how desperately we want to adopt her. She doesn’t know these things, but she smiles at me and calls me “mama” and this is beauty and pain and Mother’s Day is messy and gorgeous, all at the same time. It’s amazing what God can bring us through and bring us to. And yet wounds remain.
He’s in that too.
There’s a picture I have that’s one of my favorites, from when my mama-in-law and my foster girl met for the first time. I took a picture of their hands together so it would be Facebook-sharable. I look at it and I am reminded of this: ALS and fostering are both painful yet priceless reminders of the gift of more time. I am so thankful this Mother’s Day to have more time with them. I ache at the hurt in their processes. And I wish I had more time with my two babies who are already in heaven. This Mother’s Day I will hurt and I will celebrate, because life is gifts and gutting.
Wherever you are this Mother’s Day, know that God is there too, with you in love just as you are. He hurts with you and invites you to hide in Him.