I didn’t know, when I got up this morning, that today was going to hurt… But it did. And I didn’t know it would be hard to get through, but it was. I had no idea I was going to cry, but I wept. More than once, I wept.
My son is alive and well, but nonetheless gone. Every time I saw a mother today at work getting a flower and being told Happy Mother’s Day, another piece of me was chipped away.
I don’t know at what point a mother begins to feel like someone’s mother, or when that really sinks in. When my son was born, the nurses laid him on my chest. It was barely a moment before he was whisked away to NICU. I wish I could say that I had this overwhelming feeling of love and wonder at the tiny wrinkled thing I’d just been given, but I was tired. I was in pain. I didn’t feel like a mom in that moment.
The times I truly felt like a mother, like his mother, were the times he ran to me. Whether to give me a present or because he was scared or tired or angry, it was me he came to with outstretched arms. And I received him. I held him. I comforted him. I gave him what he needed. That was when I felt like mom.
This year, he won’t run off of the school bus to bring a Mother’s Day card he made for me. There won’t be any dandelions plucked from the backyard and made into a messy bouquet to put in a vase. I won’t get any hugs or kisses. Still, I am Mom.
I won’t get to be mom today. Tonight, I won’t get to cook him dinner or help him get a bath. I won’t get to help him pick out his pajamas or read him a story. I won’t get to tell him I love him to the moon and back. He won’t reply that he loves me to the last star and back. And I don’t know if or when I will ever get to see him again to tell him how much I love him. But I’m still Mom.
If my son skins his knees today, someone else will be bandaging him up. If he wakes up tonight from a bad dream, he won’t be running to my room for comfort. If he gets picked on by a bully at school, the teachers won’t call me. If there’s an emergency, I won’t be notified. Still, I’m mom.
One day, he’s going to like a girl. He’s going to have a lot of questions, and I won’t get to answer them. He’s going to take a driving test, and I won’t be in the passenger’s seat to gasp and stomp on a nonexistent brake. He’s going to graduate high school and pursue college, and I won’t be there to guide him along the way. Still, I’m mom.
I remember reading the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” while I was pregnant, and feeling like whatever happened, I could face it. I read a dozen books and did an astronomical amount of research into pregnancy and child development. I was only 17, but I believed in the power of knowledge. But none of the knowledge I acquired was even a little useful in preparing me for the moment I really, truly felt like a mom. It was the moment my son was ripped away from me, with no warning and no preparation.
Many mothers in the animal kingdom will become distressed when they realize their babies are missing. They will whine, cry, howl, stomp their feet, flap their wings, and even attack in an effort to find their baby. That was me. I felt like an animal, with a mothering instinct I couldn’t control, scouring every corner and crevice trying to find my baby. When I found him, I couldn’t get him back. Poachers had come in and stolen him. And I was left to grieve.
People say grief and sadness will get easier. Time heals, right? Not exactly. I kept holding onto lies and calling it hope. I believed there was no way he could be gone forever, so I disguised my denial to look like faith. In the end, hope and faith caved under the weight of reality. And that was the point when, in the depths of my soul and through every nook of my heart and being, I felt like a mom. Because only a mother’s heart could shatter into that many pieces and hurt that badly. I’ve been through a lot of hurts in my life, some deep hurts, but non that ever cut me as deeply as the moment it truly hit me that my son was gone. That agony can’t even be described. It hurt, and still hurts so bad that I didn’t know — and still don’t know — how to go on. I didn’t know how to survive. I’m not even talking about suicide when I say it hurts too much to keep going. I mean that I have felt my heart physically break, and I thought I would literally die of a broken heart. I’ve had days when I simply could. Not. Go. On.
Grief in its simplest form is a very weird, very intense sensation. You can’t grieve something unless whatever it is you’ve lost was a part of your life, or a part of you; who and what you are. So even the simplest definition of grief is complex. When someone says, “I’m grieving,” what they’re really saying is, “I lost a piece of what defined me.” And the deeper that piece is imbedded into your being, the deeper the wound will be when it is cut out and cruelly ripped away. I don’t want to put some crazy twist on doctrine here, or go into some left field theology… But I do believe, without question, that this is the reason why mothers love so much, why they grieve, why they feel things so strongly, and why they are so quick to go straight for the throat of danger when it comes after her children. It is because she carried that child within her. Their heart, their eyes, their fingers and toes, grew INSIDE of her. Who that child would grow up to be, the DNA code that would determine that child’s character and personality, was formed within the womb of their mother.
When that mother brings her baby home for the first time, that same little baby she carried for nine months inside of her and labored for hours and hours and hours to bring into this world, she undoubtedly heard what we all say to new moms. “She looks just like you!” “He has your eyes.” “Congratulations, mom.” And we gawk over the baby and how precious it is.
Still, she is Mom.
When that baby wakes up crying five or ten times in the middle of the night, she will be mom. When that child feels his first broken heart, she will be mom. When he falls, or he’s sad, or he’s lost or scared, she will be mom.
If that child is torn out of her arms, she will be mom. If that child dies, she will be mom. And she will always be mom, for the same reason God will always be God: He carried us. He loved us. He loved us enough to die for us. He cared for us. When we are scared, or hurt, or broken, we call out to Him. In the midst of our pain, we hold onto our hearts the way our children hold onto their skinned knees and say, “It hurts! Please, make it better!”
And the Lord, in His perfect glory and goodness, will always love us. Even when we walk away, or when the world steals us, or the enemy tries to overtake us… Whether we believe it or not… Whether we know Him or not… He is still Dad. Forever and always. Because we are a part of Him, made in His image, and His children are pieces of Himself. You weren’t born out of a star that exploded in the universe. The Lord, our Father, our Daddy… He made us. He carried us. He loves us. And nothing will steal His Fatherhood, because we are told that nothing will pluck us out of His hand.
Hug your children. Pray over them. For the love of God, hold them tight, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But if you are a grieving mother this Mother’s Day, whether you’ve lost your child to death or to the circumstances of life, you need to know something. If we are made in His image, mothers are a reflection of His unfathomable love. You were looked upon with such love and such favor, you became bearers of new life. You became a mother. Our understanding of how much God loves us is barely a drop among oceans, but He chose you to display His love in a way we could understand. And we can also know, beyond any doubt, that if we love the Lord, all things will work for our good. And whether in this life or the next, we can rejoice that one day, our children will return to us. Because we are mom.
We will always be mom.