It would soon be Mother’s Day again, and I was dreading it. I wasn’t dreading the day for myself, but for my children who had lost their mother Cindy and two-year-old sister Katie after a traffic accident. Every Mother’s Day after my wife’s death had been shear torture for my family as in church services the congregation took out time from worship to honor the mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers attending the service.
I didn’t begrudge the families that special time honoring their mothers, but each Mother’s Day ceremony was just another reminder of the tremendous losses my family endured. I knew it was a painful flashback to my wife’s sudden and tragic death. But I still had my mother at the time, and I could only imagine how painful it was for my son and daughter as they watched a carefully crafted, loving collage of photos of other mothers and their children. To make it worse, the barrage of pictures had a soundtrack of “sappy” music meant to evoke an emotional response. My gut response was to grab my children and exit the church sanctuary, flee into the parking lot, load up the car and head for the shelter of our home, but I didn’t. I just endured the experience.
Some Mother’s Days my family had just stayed at home to avoid the experience. I was tempted to play hooky from church again, but one Sunday before Mother’s Day something in me told me that I needed to let the church leadership know how I and my children felt on Mother’s Day without our family’s mother. Surely there were others who had lost their mother and felt the same way. Maybe we could honor mothers in a different way that was less distressing for those mourning the loss of a mother.
I saw the minister walking to his office after the service, and I knew what I had to do. I stopped him and asked if I could request a favor. “This Sunday could we do something special for those who don’t have their mothers with them anymore?” I asked.
The minister’s softened as he said, “Well, I don’t know, Larry. Let me talk with the staff and see what we can do.” The minister knew our story because he had spoken at Cindy and Katie’s double funeral
I walked away feeling relieved that I had let someone know how I felt. Maybe things would change, and maybe they wouldn’t. At least I had made my needs known.
On Mother’s Day much to my dismay the traditional college of pictures of mothers and children and the “sappy” music began. I have to admit that I was disappointed. The usual painful feelings and the hurt for my children returned. Maybe I had not given the minister and the church staff enough lead time to make a change in how we observed Mother’s Day. The pictures and the music seemed to go on forever.
Then the pictures and music stopped. Before my family could get seated, the minister stepped up to the pulpit and said, “Now I would like to ask all those of you who no longer have your mother with you in this life to please stand as we say a prayer over you.”
“Dear Father God,” the minister said as we and others around the sanctuary remained standing. “We thank you for the blessings of mothers in our lives. At this time though we pray a special blessing and care for those standing now who no longer have their mothers in their lives…..”
As I began to cry, my knees buckled, but I made an extra special effort to remain standing in honor of my children’s mother and my wife. I looked over as my children’s heads were bowed in prayer.
The minister continued, “Be with them today and watch over them. Let them remember the wonderful gifts that their loving, sacrificing mothers have given them. Fill their hearts with gratitude for their mother as they review the special memories of their mother’s life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
That was the best Mother’s Day I had experienced in a long time.
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.
Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.
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