It hit me last Sunday that Mother’s Day was coming and this would be my first with one less child. My son, P.J., died on September 19, 2018 at the age of 26. If I’d talked to someone like me a year ago I’d have said “It’s just another day. Don’t let it bring you down.” Mother’s Day aside, if I’d talked to someone like me a year ago, I’d have said “Don’t dwell in your grief. Focus on happy memories and press on.” I would’ve meant well, but my words would have come from an ignorant heart.
Since my husband was battling cancer at the time of my son’s death, I had a distraction. So the first few holidays came and went with only a few tears shed here and there. But then my husband got the “all clear” in late February. He is cancer free! Praise God! At the moment we got that news, it was as if I had awaken from a six month coma. Unfortunately, it was also as if someone had said to me “And by the way, while you were in that coma, your child died.” And then it happened. I started the true grieving process.
These last few months I have been a mess, and since I’m the one known for my positivity and strength, I feel like a failure. I’ve been functioning in a fog, trying to keep everyone else from worrying about me but also barely being able to get the minimum things done. Recently a friend called me “super woman.” But grief is my kryptonite… making it more difficult to stand. I feel weak, but grief is not the opposite of strength, just as fear is not the opposite of courage. Courage is pushing through even though you’re terrified at times. Strength is moving forward even though you are grieving a terrible loss.
It’s just past midnight as I write this. It’s Mother’s Day. I haven’t turned into a pumpkin and I am not any sadder than I was yesterday. Today will be different. It will be another first without P.J., but another day to be thankful that the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Everyone has those moments in life when they question the value they bring to the world in general and especially their families who love them. If you’re a mom, you’ve almost certainly had that experience. I know I have on more than one occasion. My most recent such moment was last Sunday. Everything was fine until I had a disagreement with our youngest son. He’s almost seventeen, so you’d think that’d be a regular occurrence in our home, but that’s not so with Josh. He is a different type of child, worldly in so many ways and sheltered in so many others, but very logic-driven and confident… such a contrast to our oldest son, P.J., who has lived the last ten years of his twenty-three so far dealing with one internal struggle after another and fighting many physical battles as a result (click to read more about P.J.’s Journey).
Author Howard W. Hunter once wrote: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” But what if we screw it up? Surely all mothers feel this way at one time or another. I think about some of my closest friends and our conversations about this very thing… we’ve all had so many worries and concerns. I think of how blessed their children are to have them, and I suddenly realize, I don’t know a single mom who has not struggled in some way.
- Blessed are the moms who work fulltime and still manage to attend every baseball and soccer game in which their kids play.
- Blessed are the moms who labor over dance costumes and make cupcakes for the 4th grade bake sale.
- Blessed are the moms who sit at the kitchen table for three hours every night helping with homework.
- Blessed are the moms who agonize over bullying, teasing, and self-esteem issues their children are facing.
- Blessed are the moms who give their children the freedom to make mistakes so they will learn the truth.
- Blessed are the moms who play dad as well, filling in the gaps left by an absentee father.
- Blessed are the moms who feed their children through tubes and sleep in chairs in the PICU.
- Blessed are the moms who look at the child who has just declared himself an atheist and simply say “Well God still believes in you, and so do I.”
- Blessed are the moms who never give up… who continue to care, pray for, and love the children who have detached themselves in some way.
- Blessed are the moms who cry at the drop of a pin because they’re so exhausted and overwhelmed with life.
- Blessed are the moms who have to revive their own child or call 9-1-1 after a drug overdose.
- Blessed are the moms who place flowers on the graves of their children and never stop grieving.
- Blessed are the moms who do their best and give it their all.
- Blessed are the moms who struggle.
There I was last Sunday, following the disagreement with Josh, and wondering if perhaps I should have accepted my infertility as a cross to bear. (That’s what one Pastor told me I should do when I asked him what the church believed about fertility treatments… that and the cost involved with the in vitro fertilization process is what convinced us to seek adoption as an alternative.) In retrospect, I wondered if by adopting I had meddled with God’s plan… Clearly anyone would have made a better mother to these boys than I, right?
The next night after things settled down, we sat and talked with Josh and it was all good. I was thankful I had allowed time for prayer between the disagreement and the resolution… a smart move on my part. A sense of peace came over me. I suddenly realized these things… the disagreement, the follow-up, the adoption of both our sons, were all part of God’s plan… not a diversion from it. No matter what happens with their respective futures, God has given me an opportunity to make a mark on our sons’ lives one way or another. The difficulties we’ve encountered, all of us moms, do not define the value we have added to our children. God has entrusted us with these precious souls and all He’s asked is that we do our best. Blessed are the moms who struggle.