To families everywhere who celebrate this day with memories too personal and too precious for outsiders to share. We all have a mother and everyone’s memories are unique to them alone. We have a day set aside to honor those who not only gave us life, but taught us how to live it. I stand in deep appreciation to those women. Not just “traditional” mothers, but birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers raising grandchildren, step-mothers, stand-in mothers, “second-mothers”, and anyone else who rises to the occasion when the need arises. We revere motherhood, as well we should. No one sacrifices more than a mother who loves her child.
Yet, there is a dark side to this day. Mother’s Day is not always butterflies and flowers. Sometimes it is a painful reminder of what never was. This blog is dedicated to all those who cannot embrace beautiful memories of the one who brought them into this world. When birth is just biology and not a sacrifice of love, that child struggles forever to make sense of it all.
This reminiscence was written by a member of a Shelter From the Storm group I facilitated in 2001. It is posted for you with permission by the author, who wishes to remain anonymous.
LONGING FOR MY MOTHER’S LOVE
April 17, 2001
Oh, how I long for my mother’s love; the one that I see so clearly in my mind. How she picked me up as an infant and held me close to her saying, “welcome to the world my child. I am so glad God gave you to me to care for, to love, to teach, and to help you grow. Welcome to the world my child and I love you so. I may not be able to protect you from all harm’s way, but I will do my best and teach you how to protect yourself. I will show you how to care for yourself and others and how to love God most of all.”
As a young child I would come running into her arms and she would swoop me up and swing me around. My mom was the best mom in the world. She was a beautiful mom. I knew she loved me so. She told me all the time. She showed me with her eyes and her loving gentle touches on my face and arms. Her hugs were warm, gentle and loving. I loved to snuggle next to her, as she would read to me or let me watch her sew. She would lift me up to see things that were too high for me to enjoy. She would set me in her lap and talk to me and tell me how special I was and how much she and God loved me.
As I grew older she was always there to teach me new things like how to tie my shoes, to read, to write. She enjoyed me being around her and always smiled as if she was glad to see me. She was encouraging when I needed it and inspired me to always do my best, yet accepting me for what I did. She loved me unconditionally as much as a human can. But always reminded me that where she was not able to, God was. In my teen years she knew just how much to be there and when to let me go. I always knew she was there in a moment if I called to her. We had fun together and enjoyed shopping, and cooking, and doing special things together.
Life passes by to quickly for it was off to college and then the wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, one a princess would be proud of. But the best part was that you did it all just as I wanted and you loved my husband-to-be. You treated him with the same love and kindness and acceptance I had been shown my whole life long. I hated we moved away so far for I missed you by my side. But your love was always inside me and allowed me to show that love to my husband and children. You were a wonderful grandmother to them. Loving them for the individuals they were, sharing your wisdom and knowledge with me and always giving your hugs and kisses to them. They would sit in your lap, lavished by your hugs and kisses and I was reminded of the days you held me and comforted me so for love or when I needed it. You were so proud of them and always praised me for being a good mom to them. I had a good teacher you know.
Life is too short and death took you too soon, for I grieve for you and long for those days of old. But there is a truth and paradox to this story I’ve told. For in many ways you really died long before I knew you, for the mother I long for is the mother of my mind. The one I see so clearly, the one I hold inside is the one I miss so much; the one that is in my mind. You always made fun of me and scolded me for my make believe and fantasy world as a child but, you see, that is where you lived, dear sweet mother of mine. For if I had to live in reality this is not what I would have seen. To see you as it really was is so painful to remember. I know that deep inside somewhere there are good things to remember of you, and I am told that someday those things will come back to me. But first I have to remember the reality and be honest with myself and speak the reality of what really was. For it is what never was that I grieve for so today.
I don’t remember words of love, comfort, and acceptance. I don’t remember hugs and kisses and snuggling close to you. I don’t remember being told you were glad I was born and was yours. I don’t remember sitting in your lap and being read to and listened to and watch you sew. I don’t remember being told that God loves me and that He would protect me when you couldn’t be there for me. I don’t remember you loving or caring for yourself or showing me how to care for others and myself. I only remember criticism and harsh words not being able to live up to your expectations or do all you asked. But I never quit trying for if I could just be good enough and do good enough then you would love me like the mother of my mind. I don’t remember hugs and kisses and I was so scared to get close to you. For all I remember is the hitting and yelling and screaming and the words you would lash out at me. Telling me how bad I was, how it was my fault, how stupid I was, why couldn’t I do it right, how evil I was, that you were going to punish me and God would punish me more.
It didn’t take me long to learn to see and hear myself saying that for the mother of my mind would never do that and I wanted you to be her so bad. I was so afraid to get close to you but I wanted to so much. Just to feel your touch and hold my hand and hug me, please one time. For the memories in my mind were fading fast I had to keep going away to keep them near. Then you would yell at me for not paying attention, but that wasn’t really you, for the mother of my mind would not yell and scream and tell me such things. I wanted to be so near, please hold me mother dear. But when you got close it was not hugs and loving touches you showered me with. It was hits with your hand or switches or spoon, or whatever was near. But that was not “My mother’ for my mother of my mind loved me and would not hurt me. So soon I became the bad mother, I am the one who did bad and had to punish myself. I never saw it was my mother. It was some woman who had to punish me for my wrong doing. I never could clean good enough, do school work good enough, anything to make you love me. So I would start to punish myself long before you.
But I could escape back to fantasy land where the mother of my mind was. She would love me and hug me and hold me so dear. I would sit and rock myself trying to feel what it would feel like. But it could not penetrate the numbness as hard as I would try. I would play with my dolls and love them and hug them, and then hit myself and scratch myself and try to hurt myself so that I wouldn’t feel the pain from you. But then one day you took my dolls away, you told me I was too old. Ten-year-olds don’t play with dolls. That’s OK mom. I have my fantasy world and I have lots of babies remember, 72, I told you so, and I loved them all. I would hold them and rock them and cuddle them and tell them how much I loved them.
I don’t remember running into your arms and being swooped up. I don’t remember seeing kind gentle eyes that told me how much you loved me. I don’t remember you telling me how God loved me so. For I was always running away from you to the mother of my mind. For she was the one who loved me so and would keep me from harm. I remember your eyes, how mean they would get and how the anger would spill out like a volcano. I didn’t know what I did wrong, but I knew I must have done something really bad for with a vengeance the words would lash out and the spankings and I kept saying, “I promise I will do better. I promise. Please stop.” But like other things in my life stop meant nothing. So I vowed I would do it right. I would make it perfect. If I was good enough you would love me like the mother of my mind.
As my teen years came and there was so much inside I wanted to share with you, the mother of my mind wasn’t really enough anymore. I could not connect with a God of love that my friends told me of. I was in so much pain, but I could not show it. “No, hush, don’t say a word –remember the family’s name, you don’t tell family secrets.” I saw you and dad drink each night your sorrows away. It seemed to numb you both from what life had thrown your way. So I turned to the bottle so easily within my reach. It didn’t take much to finish numbing the pain away, for I still lived in my fantasy world and the bottle just took off the edge. When more was needed, I could obtain it for there were other homes and places I could calm myself. But never to go too far and be out of control, for hush, remember the family name. Oh, how I screamed out for someone to hear. But it all fell on deaf ears and eyes and so lived on what became my reality of me being the bad person and the mother of my mind.
Marriage soon came; how I wanted mine to be different. I tried so hard but like the child it didn’t matter. It was never good enough. For the pattern that was set inside was an impossible one to obtain. And with the expectations so high and reality knocking at the door it seems I failed at every attempt to be the wife and mother I had in my mind. For the harder I tried, things looked OK from the outside but inside the turmoil remained. The mother of my mind grew dim for I became the mother of reality. I can’t hold on to the mother of the mind much more. Numbing helps one cope; when you can’t control the numbness then help it along some more. Drinking was a way to numb. Then pills took their toll. As I watched this women dying and not being honest with herself I watched a part of me die too and the mother of my mind. For when she died in my arms how I wanted her to stay. Please stay until you become the mother of my mind. It was so painful to watch you slip away in pain. I know it wasn’t just physical pain, I could see it in your eyes. If only we could try again. But wait, she doesn’t have to die. I can bring forth the mother of my mind. For she will never die – she will always be my mother in my mind.
If only I had known many years ago, how I would pass on my mother of my mind to my children who have their own. For as hard as I have tried to be to them the mother of my mind, they too feel cheated from the love they wanted. My wounds too deep to not let the hurt keep a wall between us. If I had only known that the reality mom I was becoming was only slightly better than mine. For the deep pain inside kept me from really becoming the mother of my mind. But even though the step was small, a step was made closer to becoming the mother of my mind. I can not change the past and what my mother was. I can not change my children’s experience and the mother I was. I can only love them now and be more real to them and see my mother of reality and put to rest the mother of my mind. I can never have what wasn’t, I can never go back again, but I don’t have to let the mother of my mind keep me from reality.
Although it is painful to see and feel and I know I have just begun, but it is a journey I must take, a road I must go down. I’m sorry, mother of my mind. It is time for you to die. I must face reality and grieve what wasn’t there. I am sorry, mother of reality, that we didn’t share the love, a longing for my mother’s love and in turn a daughter’s love that I wanted to give. I pray for healing for us both, I pray that you are at peace. I am OK, and I hope the same for you. I pray for healing for my kids and that soon this fantasy world will be gone so that I may live in reality and be there for them. I am so fortunate for God has blessed me with special spiritual sisters to show me what I missed. He has blessed me with people to help me along the way. He has blessed me with angels here on earth to walk the journey and give me strength and encouragement. I am sure in time when the healing is done; I will remember the love that you, my reality mother had for me, for I know it was the best you could give. I treasure the times I remember; the good times with you, my real mother and not the mother of my mind. For in the passing of her (the mother of my mind) I am free to become what God intended me to be. I love you Mom!