A few years ago, I preached a sermon entitled, “A Word for the Motherless.” I spoke from first-hand experience about Mother’s Day not being the joyous flowers and brunch kinda day for everyone. You see, I only had my biological mother in my life for 11 years. And, most of those 11 years, I watched her live as an abused woman until the day I witnessed her abuser finally take her life. Yes, my mother was murdered in front of me. As a result, I’ve always had strong feelings against the Mother’s Day season. After mom was murdered, my siblings and I lived with our maternal grandparents. When I was growing up, it wasn’t as common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren as it is today.
I have such fond memories of my grandmother staying up late night after everyone was in bed, eating buttermilk and cornbread and watching Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”. We laughed and talked about girl stuff …and other stuff I have never shared with anyone. Those are forever our little secrets. The memories are tucked away in my heart and when I pull them out, it’s like finding money in a purse you haven’t used in a long time. Sadly, those nights and conversations didn’t last very long. Muuh, as she was affectionately called, passed in her sleep just four years after mom passed. That was the summer of my freshman year in high school. After Muuh passed, I asked God what was I supposed to do as the eldest of my four siblings? More importantly, who was going to be a mother to us? Me? How could I be a mother already? I was only 14. At that moment, I declared I would NEVER have children! I didn’t want any child to experience the trauma I’d experienced in my 14 years of life.
Fast forward seven years: College, love, marriage…and as the song goes, “Seasons change, people change”. Well, my seasons had definitely changed and before I knew it, I was the mother of three beautiful children. Once again, I found myself asking God, who was going to teach me how to be a mother? Yet, when I looked closely, I found that while my biological mom was taken when I was 11, God had strategically placed a number of wonderful women in my path to mother me and to teach me how to mother. Like Mrs. Arnold. Mrs. Arnold was my BFF’s mom. She was the first person to validate the horrific tragedies I’d experienced. She took me in, loved me, taught me about life, how to be a lady, to always strive toward excellence, and of course, to love God, do good and give back to others. One of the most valuable lessons she taught me was to acknowledge that we always have a choice. She encouraged me to choose to forgive and find the love in every situation, even tragedy. She taught me that in forgiveness, I would find love and in love, I would find peace. And in peace, I would find joy. But it all begins with a choice.
As we approach Mother’s Day 2014 in the ever-changing, ever-evolving seasons of life, I find myself facing familiar fears and anxiety surrounding the “big” day. 2013 was a tragic year for me. I suffered many significant losses beginning with my “sister,” Lynne. It was Lynne with whom I would actually experience “on the job” training of being a mother. Together we had seven children and two husbands. There were good seasons and seasons that challenged us. We took long walks, talked to God and to each other about how to be good mothers. We were partners in mothering. Lynne’s greatest joy was being a mother. Her passion was infectious. Family gatherings were the best. There was always lots and lots of love, food, fun and games. Sadly, Lynne passed one year ago and though this is the second Mother’s Day without my dear friend and sister, this year the loss has a greater impact.
In December 2013, I faced the worst tragedy a mother could imagine. My youngest son, Tre’ Alexander, was murdered. I have suffered many losses throughout my lifetime, but the loss of a child is truly the worst thing ever.
So I face this Mother’s Day struggling to find my joy. But I also face this season holding tightly to the lessons taught to me by Mrs. Arnold. I have a choice. I am choosing to find my joy! At the moment, I find comfort in Mary, the mother of Jesus. As I reflect on Mary, I can’t help but resonate with the juxtaposition of joy and pain she must have felt holding onto the beautiful memories of her son while watching him take his last breath. My son was just hitting his stride and beginning to walk into his purpose when his life was taken. I was proud of the young man he was becoming.
Through the tears, my comfort comes from knowing there was a greater purpose in Jesus’ crucifixion and Mary’s agony. There was the resurrection that brings new life. I don’t know the end of my story, but I find comfort believing there is a greater purpose for my loss. I pray for those mothers in agony to know there is a greater purpose for their pain. There are children without biological mothers. I want them to know God has given them surrogate mothers. Embrace that gift. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a choice. I am still on my way to joy, but for now, I have peace.
To the motherless, may “mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” (Jude 1:2)