I look forward to Mother’s Day. My life brims with beautiful mothers: my own, my mother-in-law, my two sisters, and my sister-in-law. Though my four children never have managed to plan a breakfast in bed, they are not stingy with homemade cards and hugs. When I stirred my youngest awake this morning, she said, before even opening her eyes, “Is today Mother’s Day?” That’s how eager she is to watch me open the brown paper-wrapped craft she brought home yesterday from preschool.
But I remember other Mother’s Days. I remember Sundays when the annual recognition of all the moms in the church congregation brought me nothing but pain. I wanted what they had. Desperately.
Having a mother and being a mother are blessings, which means they open us right up to both great joy and great pain. It seems a fitting thing to remember this week.
I am grateful to my friend and fellow writer Sharon McKeeman for sharing her story of grief and Joy with us.
When I was young, I tucked my dolls into bed safely each night. When I was young, I drew haphazard flowers on construction paper for my mom on Mother’s Day. Life was simple and sweet, and I trusted that it would always remain so.
I didn’t know then that I would hold a son stillborn on his due-date. I didn’t know I would caress his perfect but lifeless body before the nurses took him from me. In those moments, life shattered desolate. I returned home from the hospital to my two young sons, and somehow, we celebrated Thanksgiving a few weeks later. My heart had stopped right in its tracks, but the North Carolina sun kept shining, and the rhythm of ordinary and holidays continued. I offered thanks around our turkey-laden dinner table, and I wrapped presents for my children at Christmas. Grief is a long road, but as the chill of the winter months turned to warm spring, I felt my soul begin to revive. Then one day I woke up, and it was Mother’s Day. How could I survive this?
I was afraid I would come untethered, scared that I might just float away. Shame, despair, and heartache were so very close that day, but miraculously Christ was closer. The One who made me and holds my son, wrapped His arms tight around me and carried me through that day. This didn’t numb the pain, but as my two living children kissed my tear streaked cheeks, I lived the truth that, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 NIV) A mother just barely healing from sprinkling her son’s ashes in the sea, I was comforted. I can’t explain it other than I called out to Christ because I didn’t know how else to survive, and He surrounded me. He held me and didn’t let go.
I wish I could say that since then I have tucked my children into bed safe each night. Thankfully a healthy pregnancy followed the loss of my son on his due-date, but I lost another child when his heart stopped beating at sixteen weeks and another when her heart never began to beat. Even though I held three living children, Mother’s Day become a joke, a time to endure. Even as I collected hand drawn cards and red roses, my soul sank. While around me spring was bursting with life, my heart began to feel as dead as my womb. Despair and distrust of my heavenly Father grew until a friend reminded me that a weeping Jesus is always near.
Jesus entered this mess with us. He suffered and wept; He weeps with us still.
I came to rest in that truth.
I held three children, and I mourned three children. My arms were full, and my arms were empty. Through it all my Maker held me. When I was too weak, too consumed by grief, to hold on, God surrounded and carried me.
This spring an unexpected bloom has unfurled. After I held death within my body three times, a pregnancy blossomed into a healthy daughter who is filling my arms and heart. After all these years of mourning, we have named her Joy. Our family holds her close and breathes thanksgiving, but I know this happiness is just a step in our journey. There will be more storms, more barren months. The greatest gift comes in knowing that joy was not found alone in this precious little one, but in discovering that Christ weeps with me, and my Maker holds me so carefully that no tragedy can tear me from His embrace.
For every woman with empty arms and an aching heart in this season, I pray that she will feel a weeping Jesus near and comforting her. I pray that a miraculous joy will well up within, defy earthly pain, and speak heaven straight to her soul.
There is an everlasting spring yet to come, and even as these bodies of dust often fail us, its whispers take root in our hearts.
Sharon is a homeschooling mama to three sons and a daughter. She is a Midwestern girl at heart who now lives with her family on the sunny beaches of Southern California, where they enjoy reading together and playing in the surf. She is an author, educator, speaker, and photographer who shares more of her story as @sharonmckeeman on Instagram and at www.sharonmckeeman.com where you will find her blog, Writing in the Dust, as well as her newsletter, Mourning into Joy, which is filled with encouragement and resources for grieving mamas.
Thank you for including me in this.
On May 7 we celebrated “family day” with numerous guests in our home. This is the day a judge in Ethiopia said yes to us becoming parents. That was five years ago. Bek is a thriving 11 year old.
I recall those past Sunday’s when on mother’s day a flower was handed to moms. I received my first flower while in Ethiopia. I know I cried.
Knowing Beks history as I do I am overflowing with thankfulness and more tears. There is so much sadness in this world. It’s not my job to rescue the world but God in his mercy gave me this child. I would love to tell you how it all happened. God’s hand is all over it.
I know it’s a special day for moms but I can’t help but want to share it with my son.
What a beautiful story, so thankful for all the mamas who bravely love
Thank you for this. As a pastor for almost 30 years, I’d hand out the red and white carnations, even after medical menopause took my ability away. In other churches, more white than red were given out as more mothers were in heaven than not. And then, there was the parish who brought them all up and gave them to me.
Now I am married with grandchildren that my spouse brought into my life. And it’s different…it’s really different
Thank you for sharing Sharon’s story.
God has blessed me with five children (all grown now), but He chose to take three to heaven before the end of my first trimester of pregnancy. When the miscarriages (still don’t care for that term) happened I was deeply saddened and felt the loss but never really owned it or truly grieved until going to a memorial service for a friend’s grandchild who was stillborn. Oh, how I cried on my husbands shoulder (really heedless of being in a funeral) that day! Thankfully a counselor helped me work through my grief.
Truly we do not walk alone. Sharon’s comment: “Jesus entered this mess with us. He suffered and wept. He weeps with us still.”
I don’t know if it can be any better said than that.
Hugs and prayers to all women reading this who have lost little ones.
Thank you, Katie, for sharing your story. It speaks so powerfully of the depth and reality of this kind of loss. It is a loss that we do not always know how to acknowledge in our culture, but how good it is to remember that Jesus sees and knows and cares deeply.