This was the most challenging Mother’s Day of my life. On the happier end of things, it was my wife’s first Mother’s Day and a long overdue day of appreciation for her, one I wanted to spend dedicated to recognizing everything she does for Tripp and myself. However, it was also my first Mother’s Day without my mom, who passed away a month and a half ago after a three-year battle with cancer.
I really didn’t know how I would feel about, much less manage, the polar opposite emotions of the day. I knew that I should focus on my wife (it’s absolutely what my mother would want me to do), but I felt a strong pull to mourn my mother. After all, when she ran out of treatment options, she told me she was not afraid of death, but she was sad about all the times she would miss out on. Here was a great example! Mom had wanted nothing more in life than to have all her children around her expressing our love for her. While our feelings for her have not changed with her passing, she would not be here to experience them. It was yet another loss! It felt noble and right to spend the day in remembrance of my mother. I felt I would be honoring her by spending the day grieving her.
But, how would that make my wife feel? She certainly misses my mother, but our child is only eight-and-a-half months old and this is the first time she gets to celebrate Mother’s Day. She’ll get to celebrate them the rest of her life, but the first one had to be special, and I didn’t want to make it memorable for all the wrong reasons. What was I to do?
As the day approached, I had a thought pop into my head. I began to think about where my mom is now. Revelations 21:4 says that in the New Jerusalem, God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” As much as we all loved my mother, there was no way we could love her as perfectly as God. I wished I could say I never caused my mom pain, sorrow, or tears, but I am directly responsible for countless. (Buried in a dump somewhere, there are many shattered vases and decorative plates from my childhood indoor sports failures that can attest.) So, as much as my mother loved me, it didn’t come without a few bumps, and even the best I had to offer was nothing in comparison to God’s love.
But was she with God? Only He knows the hearts of His people, but in those final weeks and months, I heard my mom call on His name when the pain attacked, I witnessed the prayers of the faithful over her, and I saw her expression change when we read her the Word. I feel as confidently about my mother loving God as I can say I feel about any other human being. And if she does love Him and ask His forgiveness as I suspect, then, as Jesus tells even the criminal being justifiably crucified by his side, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
So, when I put all this together, I realized that while my mom would be missing Mother’s Day with her family for the first time, she would actually be having the best Mother’s Day of her life. Being with God in Heaven was better than every Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter, and birthday during her entire life combined. A second of her joy in front of God’s glory would surely out-measure the accumulation of all the joy she experienced in all her days on Earth. Recognizing this truth led me to an undeniable conclusion. My desire to mourn this Mother’s Day was for me, not for my mother.
There was nothing noble or selfless in devoting the day to mourning her. It would not honor her, but would be a means to feel closer to her since she’s gone; a way of staying in the past because the future without her feels too cold.
And there was nothing wrong with that.
The truth is that I still grieve my mother even though I know how happy she is in the presence of God. I mourn her because I miss her. I grieve because I have lost so much in her passing – not just the opportunity to be with her, but to see my children grow up with her, to have her teach me how to raise them, to have her guide me through life. I cry because I love her.
But, I also love my wife, and it would honor my mother to give my wife the day she deserved. So, we decided to take flowers to my mother’s grave in the morning, and after we had spent that time recognizing her, we would spend the rest of the day focused on my wife. As we were preparing to leave for the cemetery, the beautiful song “Be Not Afraid” came into my head. It was one of my mother’s favorites and it had subtly begun playing in mind to comfort me through several difficult times since my mother passed. At the cemetery, I played the song and placed a rose on the freshly laid sod of her grave.
After we spent our time at the cemetery, we left, and I resolved to make the rest of the day about my wife. It didn’t go perfectly, and I can’t say my mind and heart didn’t wander throughout the day, particularly when the opera-trained singer at our church sang “Ave Maria” during communion. But, we did honor my mom by honoring the woman who brought one of her precious grandchildren into the world. And, whenever I felt the temptation to lose myself in the grief, I remembered where my mother was. She was having the best Mother’s Day of her life, and that encouraged me to have a better one myself.