I have traveled six trips around the calendar since my son died. That’s “celebrating” six Mother’s Days without him. This Sunday will be my seventh Mother’s Day without Matt. Seven. I had seven children. I HAVE seven children. Oh, how my grateful heart aches. Grateful for these six children that remain. Grateful for sixteen precious years with my Mateo. It isn’t easy offering a sacrifice of praise, I can tell you that. But I refuse to give death one more thing. I refuse to become bitter.
Yet Mother’s Day is a paradox for the bereaved. Grief and gratitude often swirl in the heart like oil and water –seemingly incompatible. Sorrow weighs like oil, heavy and thick. But gratitude, like water, brings refreshment and life. How do we, who grieve, swallow these two when we feel as if our throats are closed? These holidays become like crushed red- hot peppers, burning the throat and tongue as we gulp down this, oh, so painful day. We fear we will choke on this recipe of life without our beloved.
The delicate blend of grief and gratitude is a learned skill. Grief, too much in the beginning, overpowers. However, as we learn to sprinkle gratitude on this mixed bag of holidays, the bitterness slowly dissipates. Slices of thankfulness tossed in become sweet reprieves to the distaste of this day. Gratefulness for the moments, however short, we had with our precious loved one becomes the sweet sauce that flavors this horrible dish of loss. Slowly we find that gratitude and grief can indeed coexist on this plate of sorrow. They sit at the table, not as enemies, but as teachers to us. We learn much from both.
This seventh Mother’s Day without my son has taught me that I can, indeed, survive. It reminds me that I have much to be thankful for. It reminds me that I am still a mother even if my child has died. Death does not get to take away the gift of motherhood, for once we become a mother, we are always a mother. Death can steal my child, but it can never steal my love. On Mother’s Day, and every holiday, our grief will burn a little hotter, but love is the bucket of water that pours out, rushing over the flames. This Mother’s Day, I will grieve. But I will also love, and with a fierce love, I will remember that I am loved fiercely. I am loved every second of every day, and love will see me through every second of these days which rotate around this blue planet of ours.
Our God is a God who loved us to death. He loved us with all of His life. Every breath. He loved us then, and He loves us now. He never stops loving. And neither will we.
The gentlest of Mother’s Day to you, friends. May your love multiply. May it abound and overwhelm. You are loved.
(Posted to the Grievingwithhope Facebook page)