Mother's Day. There's no getting around it. It's a hard day for many people. It's difficult for those who have lost their mothers, and for those whose mothers were absent, abusive, or otherwise not great parents. It's difficult for those who have lost children, including those who have had miscarriages and carry a grief that others may not know about. It's hard for those who are far from family and long to celebrate their mothers and grandmothers. It's also very hard for those of us who long to be mothers, but for various reasons are not. That leaves me struggling with what to do with this day. Should I hole up in my house, making calls to my various mother-figures while otherwise pretending the day doesn't exist? Should I put on a brave face and act like I don't care?
This is the third year in a row in which I approach Mother's Day with the desperate prayer in my heart that next year I'll be able to celebrate, that it will be my last year not being a mother. It's easy to want to hide. All week, store displays, radio ads, television, and of course, other people have reminded me that this day is coming. I'm forced to celebrate the wonderful, selfless, giving people that mothers are, and I struggle with wanting to scream that not all mothers are selfless and giving, that many childless women (and men) are selfless too, that this binary way of looking at procreation hurts us all. So do I stay at home, angry at society for perpetuating this myth of the perfect mother whom all women should aspire to be?
It's easy to want to stay away. Many infertile women avoid church on days like today, when we know we'll end up watching our more fertile counterparts be feted while we wipe tears from our eyes. However, I chose to go. I chose to not give up meeting with my brothers and sisters, both because I know my heart needs community, and I know that community needs me. As hard as it is, as painful as it may be, the church and society need to see me too, to know that there are other kinds of women around who have needs and deserve to be supported and honoured too, even if it's not on this day. If I choose to stay away and hide my pain from them, how then can I complain that they aren't there alongside me?
So I went. I did church on Mother's Day. There were tears, and I had to leave for a few minutes, and it hurt, but I was glad. (The sermon had a Jane Austen reference too, so there was that!) As hard as it is to be a non-mother on Mother's Day, today has also been a day of joy, in which I have been so blessed by others who have seen and loved me in my pain. It's been a hard day, but a beautiful day, and I am glad I took part.
This past week marked the end of my study of the life of Moses, which we began in September. I am especially mindful of what a long and difficult journey he and the Israelites had. I was reminded this week of how when Jews celebrate the Passover, they end with the phrase, "Next year in Jerusalem," which in the darkest and and most difficult days expressed the hope of the Promised Land, the return. It is hard to find light and hope when you're traveling through the desert, and it's easy to feel it especially dark on days like today, but to my friends in this hard journey, I say, "Next year in Jerusalem." I hope that this is the last year in the dark for you and me, but if not, I wish you hope for the journey.