They are going to spend the weekend with his mother, his sweet, funny, classy mother. She can tell a story like no one else; she can put together a tray of treats that prove irresistible to all comers. She dresses with verve and style; she is a gift-giver extraordinaire.
And a wonderful mom.
And a wonderful grandma. (And they have, all of them, waited so long for the miracle of this baby.)
But the news from the doctor this week was shocking; instead of being conquered (again) the cancer has spread,–spread quickly to organs and bones, and time and its quality are uneasily unknown now.
So they trek, the three young grownups, the one little guy, to see a very special mom on a Mother’s Day they fear will be her last.
It ain’t always a Hallmark card, this holiday–this whole Mother’s Day thing.
So there is a wife whose husband’s mom is recently gone; her red-eyed children miss their grandma. It is a hard holiday to celebrate with a loss so raw.
So there is a mother, aging and alone, who wonders if anyone will call or visit.
So there is another mother, separated from her son by miles and illness–HIS illness. She waits to hear about the progress of the therapy. This illness is insidious, but right now, they can entertain hope.
So there is a young woman with empty arms. She feels like she is the only person who remembers the baby she lost to miscarriage six months ago. She is tired of the advice to move on, try again. She needs to grieve the first loss.
So there is a mom, newly sober, who is at the foot of the mountainous fight to get her children back. She will not see them this Mother’s Day. She has no idea how long it will take until she can see them every day–or if she has the stamina for the long slog ahead.
And there are grandmas being moms again to another generation, and aunties raising siblings’ kids, and there are moms who have been gifted with an adopted miracle. There are stepmoms and step-grandmoms. There are men who fill the mother’s role, and there are caring friends who regularly step in to mentor.
We talk about motherhood and apple pie, but pictures of ‘mom’ can be very, very different.
And there are lucky mothers who will stay in bed and be served clumsy breakfasts on wobbling trays this Mother’s Day–toast too dark, too light, or too buttery; bowls of cereal whose milk slops over the edge. A dandelion in an olive oil bottle. A Snickers bar, maybe, on the side.
The moms will eat those funny breakfasts with gusto, and maybe laugh about it later with the dad, hungrily sneaking handsful of Doritos out of sight of their happy kids, who are so satisfied with their ultimate surprise.
There are mothers who will have all their progeny around them at church, proud grandmas surrounded by two generations of shining smiling faces.
There will be festive dinners served at home around big, crowded tables, or at fancy restaurants so Mama doesn’t have to cook.
There will be flowers and sweets and books and jewelry; there will be little chins sunk into Gran’s arm as she reads a heart-felt card.
There will be joy. There SHOULD be joy.
The kid could shine, fill all the world’s definitions of successful, grow up and meet a loving, faithful mate, have children and be happy.
The kid could stumble, fall, and cause serious worry; then that kid, drawing on all that good stuff inside, could right herself and move on, wiser and stronger and ready to cope.
The kid could be disabled. (And what if other children hurt or mock her? And what if he never has a friend?)
The kid, after a perfectly normal, happy childhood, could have a mental illness.
The kid could discover he has the disease of addiction.
The kid could wind up hating the mama. (What if I do everything so wrong?)
The kid…oh, my God: the kid could die.
And I could die, die while that tender, forming person still needs me. I could die before my work is done.
So MANY things could happen. How is it that we ever dare?
There are faces at the window, waiting sadly. There are faces turned to family, filled with light. There are wise souls, wisdom earned by letting go of old expectations and building others. There is deep grief because what has been is so very good and so very, very difficult to watch recede.
It is Mother’s Day weekend, and there has been the daring, take-a-chance, I-know-I-am-up-to-this plunge: we will go forward, it says. We will go on. Even if the vision we move toward has nothing to do with a Hallmark family scene…well. We will forge ahead.
A prayer, a candle, a flower on an established grave: we celebrate the ones we’ve lost. A cake, a scarf, a bouquet, a pin: we cherish the time together. And if we wish that things were different, well then. Then it’s time to make a plan, take a step, emerge from the cocoon, work to fulfill the new, emerging vision. To, maybe, pray.
Our work may be lopsided and uneven. And it could be our job to bring our children’s hidden gifts to light. To demand that the rest of the world see and recognize those gifts. It could be our job to step back and let the story unfold without our interference. It may be our job to open our hands and, hardly able to watch, let them stumble on.
Our work may be that of helping to re-build. And, oh, it may be our work to grieve.
Mother’s Day: a celebration of meaning and daring, of the will to go on, of a million different ways to do things right. And maybe, of a million ways to go back and do things over.
Whatever your scenario, may your celebration be rich and warm and filled with meaning. And, however far away–far in terms of feeling and heart and time on earth– may your loved ones live close in your heart.