In Nicaragua where I grew up, my church would hand mothers a rose when they walked through the door on Mother’s Day. I always felt a bit uncomfortable with the concept of choosing a red rose if your mother was living or a white rose if she had passed. I never wanted to be that woman walking in with the white rose. It felt worse than the scarlet letter in my opinion. The white rose that yelled: Look at me, my mother is dead! That’s bluntly what it felt like. But when you lose your mother at the ripe age of 11 before you even know what a menstrual cycle is all about, you don’t know how to grieve, so you learn to stuff those emotions that make you fidgety. And boy can I beat you at the stuffing.
I didn’t become a mother until I was 30, when the time came for my husband Rob to hold my left leg and my stepmother Dana to hold my right. After 40 minutes of pushing, my strong-willed yet tender hearted boy Nash, ripped right into my life, literally and figuratively. For 19 years I had lived without my mother, who now resides in Heaven, so Mother’s Days were just another day in my life. No Big Deal. See, in high school I almost wished I had a mom who scolded me for getting home too late! I never got to call her like other girls did when they were away in college. I didn’t get to go shopping with her or take her out to lunch to do girly-things. I went to a formal dance once at 15 and my friend said, “You’re not wearing panty-hose with that dress? Didn’t your mother ever teach you etiquette?” Ice pick to my heart. I always wondered what it would feel like to hear her voice? Warm? Encouraging? Happy? She wasn’t there at high school nor college graduation nor my wedding day. So you stuff and move on. On Mother’s Days I would cope by calling my father and thanking him for being the best mom-and-dad a daughter could ever have. And he was. He did his best. Not perfect. But his best was enough for me to learn to fly with just one wing and not see myself as crippled by it. The problem is that later I would forget to call him on Father’s Day, oops! He didn’t like that.
When my son nursed those first few days as a newborn and I cried at the pain, I suddenly understood my mother in the flesh in a way I never had before. I finally understood the sacrificial pain at giving life. And all of a sudden, she felt skin-closer, not just far away in heaven. Just then I came to understand how much my mother deeply loved me. Looking down at my son feeding, I felt this deep, warm love for him bubbling up from within my heart that I never had felt before towards anyone. God said: What you’re feeling right now? That’s how much your mom loved you. That’s how it feels when I love you, too. But I love you even more than that. I think about those nights with the moon rays streaming through the window as my only companion for the 3:00am nursing feed. I felt hugged by both Heaven and mom. I’ll never be able to explain it in words. It became an unexpected gift in this season of life. It makes me smile that God would speak like this.
So now on Mother’s Day I cope with my loss, which will always be with me, by filling my cup with my son’s kisses, fingerprint drawings, hugs and butterfly kisses. God has redeemed my loss through my relationship with my son like nothing ever has. But I gotta be honest with you. I still fidget at church on those days, wanting the *celebratory* day to be over with quickly. This Mother’s Day weekend I’m going to a show called, Listen to Your Mother taking place in Little Rock, ONLY BECAUSE SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS are speaking and sharing their stories, otherwise I probably wouldn’t. God has a way of bringing out what’s hidden in your heart in the midst of community. And I thank God for the community He has surrounded me with at Fellowship North for such a time as this, when I’m letting my heart be found by Him, and grief and joy can both co-exist without crippling me. I embrace both because it reminds me this world is not my home. I will be fully complete when I get to Heaven, where my mom is waiting for me with a glass of red Rioja wine and my Nicaraguan abuela is rocking my nephew Obed Sebastián next to her in her black rocking chair.