Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Cherishes Memories

For a mother who has lost a child, it is undoubtedly one of the worst days of the year. Your child is no longer here to celebrate with you. While most celebrate the joys of parenthood, grieving parents often feel a special anguish. In particular, the mother who has lost her only child may believe she is no longer a mother since her only child has died. Because your child died does not take away that title from you. Rest assured that although your child may not be here on earth with you, you will always be a mother and you should celebrate this holiday as you would if your child were alive.

I recently read a brief history of Mother’s Day as well as getting information on the two women who created it, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis. Here is some background information.

Julia Ward Howe, writer of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was the first to conceptualize the first North American Mother’s Day in the late 1800’s. Julia was distraught by the death of so many sons of so many mothers during the War, she called for a mother’s day celebrating peace and motherhood. This lasted approximately 10 years.

It planted the seed for Anna Jarvis to establish the first official Mother’s Day celebration in 1908. Anna never married or had children of her own. She devoted herself to establishing a national Mother’s Day as a way of honoring her beloved mother who died during that time. In Anna’s view, her mother deserved a memorial because she had lived selflessly and endured considerable suffering…seven of her eleven children had died in early childhood. According to historians, Anna’s mother mourned the deaths of her children throughout her life.

Anna insisted that the holiday always fall on a Sunday so that it would retain its spiritual moorings. Because of her efforts, President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 finally proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Although Anna couldn’t prevent the new holiday from quickly becoming a marketing phenomenon, she did try. Speaking out against the mire of commercialization that threatened to engulf Mother’s Day, Anna attempted to preserve her creation as a true holy day, a time for solemn reflection and prayer. She was arrested and landed in jail at times. As with most holidays during the year: Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, sometimes we forget the true meaning behind them and Anna didn’t want that to happen. When she died 40 countries were celebrating Mother’s Day and now it has spread throughout the world, albeit very commercialized.

Mother’s Day was borne of a daughter’s grief and love. More importantly, it was intended as a tribute to a bereaved mother…a brave woman who lost multiple children, but who managed to live with an abiding kindness and generosity toward others. There are many women today who continue to have meaningful lives in the face of unthinkable loss.

Mother’s Day symbolizes both the joy and the vulnerability inherent in parenthood. From the moment a child is born, hope and the possibility of tragedy go hand in hand. Anna’s mother understood the fragility of life.

For Anna, Mother’s Day was a time for quiet reflection and the sharing of cherished memories. I believe that is what the day means to all bereaved parents. Happy Mother’s Day to all.

In your gathering of memories,
invite your courage
to remember


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