It wasn’t long after my mother died that I was shopping in a sweet little boutique in May. A salesperson approached me and asked if I needed any help. No, thank you, I replied. I was just browsing.
A couple of minutes later, she came back and commented on the item I was looking at. That is a perfect Mother’s Day Gift!
I smiled in acknowledgment and turned back to my shopping. I reminded myself that she didn’t know Mamma had died, and I told myself not to let it ruin my day. But she wouldn’t let up. She kept talking about Mother’s Day and how they have so many options for gifts and how thrilled my own mother would be with this or that.
Friends, I hate to admit this, but I lost patience and blurted out ungraciously: I don’t have a mother; it would behoove you to consider that not everyone is celebrating like you are!!
Her face fell in embarrassment, and I rushed out before she could apologize for being thoughtless or before I could apologize for my unkind outburst and general jerkiness.
For years, Mother’s Day was a reminder to me of the absence of a mother in my life. So I focused on special mother figures—the friend I lived with for a season who taught me to cook and sew and who made my wedding dress. My sisters, Erin and Caitlin, who exemplified motherhood to me (and still do!). My Aunt Vicki, who always made space for me in her life when I needed her. And, of course, my grandmother. It wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I started noticing all the women around me who were living the opposite of my story: instead of being motherless, they were childless.
I’ve been a mama for 4 short years, and in that time, my eyes have been opened to the childless mamas around me. The mamas whose children are with Jesus, the mamas who are struggling with infertility, the mamas who never got to hold their babies in their arms, the mamas whose children are in another country waiting to be brought home, the mamas who don’t have husbands to help conceive the children they dream about, the mamas whose children are estranged, mamas who dream about having children someday but are forced to wait.
If you are one of these mamas, please know my heart aches with you. Deeply. To the point in which I have to pray to be joyful with my own littles on Mother’s Day. The burden you carry is tremendously heavy, and I want to be able to carry it for you. I want to love you well and in ways that soothe and encourage your hurting hearts.
If you are one of these mamas, I also want to thank you. I want to thank you for your mother’s heart. I want to thank you for the love you cultivate for your children, the love you don’t allow to wither, the love that you so tenderly nurture so that it continues to grow and grow and grow.
And thank you for loving my children despite your pain. Thank you for sacrificing to reach out and pursue and engage our babies. Thank you for being their substitute grandmothers and aunts. Thank you for correcting them and teaching them.
Thank you for helping in the nursery at church, for teaching Sunday school and at school. Thank you for babysitting on a Friday night and making my littles laugh and laugh. Thank you for praying for our children and asking about them. Thank you for bending down to talk to them, for taking them seriously, for truly caring about what’s on their little hearts. Thank you for celebrating them and telling me that they are smart and adorable and special.
Thank you for mothering my children. I couldn’t do it without you.
Thank you for hugging and kissing them, bringing them under your own wings, even though I know you wish your own babies were safe in your arms. Thank you for not letting me raise them on my own, but coming up alongside me and supporting me, encouraging me, helping me. Thank you for lavishing my children with your mama’s love.
Thank you for this love, for teaching me how life-changing spiritual mamas are and how much we all need them.
Please know that your efforts don’t go unnoticed—I see you asking Von about his cajon playing and asking Ann the name of her doll. I understand the sacrifice of giving up your Wednesday mornings to babysit the Bible study babies. I know the hard work of shepherding them on Sunday mornings as you teach them scripture. I appreciate your grace and patience when they are shy and hide in my skirt instead of interacting with you, even though you’ve known them forever. And I can imagine the quiet, invisible grief you suffer behind closed doors.
Thank you for mothering my children. They are blessed to be the recipients of your glorious, giant mama’s heart. And I am blessed to have you by my side; I need you, and so do my babies.
To love my children when your own arms are empty is one of the most courageous things I can imagine. You are a gift from God.
As we celebrate mothers on Sunday and you bravely attend church and witness the festivities around you that you long to be a part of, remember that you are not forgotten. That even though you don’t have a child gifting you with a macaroni necklace, you have the love of children you’ve nurtured and the gratitude of their mamas’ and the guarantee that your love has made eternal impacts.
God sees your hurting heart, he catches your tears. You are not alone in your grief—he holds you closely, himself knowing the loss of a child. He designed your heart to love passionately, and he celebrates how selflessly you love. I do, too.
Happy Mother’s Day to the women who mother others’ children with grace and joy, who pour into them and invest spiritually. We are grateful for your generous, selfless hearts. You are a gift to us all, a sweetness unlike any other.
Who are the spiritual mothers in your life or the lives of your children? How can you celebrate them this Sunday? What can you do to communicate to hurting mamas that you see them and notice their pain and stand with them?