Celebrate music and Mother’s Day in this special service with extra musical celebrations and special guests!
Over the years, ministers are called upon to preach on Mother’s Day—the second Sunday in May—many times. I have read many testimonies and tributes. It seems to me that what we learn from our mothers is
· who we are,
· what sort of family we’re part of,
· what is expected of us, and
· the immediate consequences that follow should we not keep it all
straight in our minds
and family foremost among our loyalties.
From my mother: value of being a trouper
love of books
from her mother-in-law: value of roots/heritage
from her mom: the value of showing up full-heartedly
Julie Kasdorf learned from her mother… (the chalice lighting poem Eric read) about bringing fruit salad or cake or basically one’s care to neighbors who were mourning or in need of comfort.
The feminine instinct, we’re told and want to believe, is kindly and nutritive. Julia Ward Howe and her husband Samuel Gridley Howe were of the social and professional literati. After meeting President Lincoln she was persuaded to write new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body,” which she did: the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It became one of the most successful battle songs of all time—which grieved Julia greatly. After the war she dedicated her life to promoting peaceful activities and alternatives to war.
* * *
Mothering/parenting is not a simple matter of taking care of the immediate needs of another. It starts out that way, but it also involves giving children enough faith to try making it on their own, and then letting go. Every person has a special character and fate—qualities of soul—that must be encouraged even at the risk of losing ordinary assurances of safety and normality. This is never easy, but it is necessary for the mental health of both children and their parents. In Aisha’s reading we hear the grief of those whose connection to motherhood is complex and filled with pain. Jenny, reading from Florida Scott-Maxwell, shares another of a mother’s griefs: the pain of letting one’s children go their own way, when it makes not much sense to oneself.
The experience of motherhood is actually bigger than just moms. I was a single Dad from the time my daughter was 21 months old. From the time she was 33 months, her mother and I always maintained joint custody, and Meredith was bi-coastal for a while, and always pretty mobile. (I don’t know what Susan and I would have done had there been a pandemic!). By the time she was in seventh grade she stayed with me for school, and then for college, too.
I’m a father, but I like the André Lorde poem we selected and that Aisha will read as this morning’s Closing Words. I like her words because they remind me of my particular beautiful child, Meredith, herself now a mother twice over, and who was born “one morning just before spring” and who has ever since has been
“one thread within running hours
You, flowing through selves
This morning we celebrate the complex, beautiful experience of motherhood. Let us bless mothers everywhere that they might be their best, most nutritive selves and kind to their own and other children everywhere. May it be ever so. Amen.
What I Learned from my Mother by Julie Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
The Measure of My Day by Florida Scott Maxwell
A mother’s love for her children, even her inability to let them be, is because she is under a painful law that the life that passed through her must be brought to fruition. Even when she swallows it whole she is only acting like any frightened mother cat eating its young to keep it safe. It is not easy to give closeness and freedom, safety plus danger.
No matter how old a mother is she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. It could not be otherwise for she is impelled to know that the seeds of value sown in her have been winnowed. She never outgrows the burden of love, and to the end she carries the weight of hope for those she bore. Oddly, very oddly, she is forever surprised and even faintly wronged that her sons and daughters are just people, for many mothers hope and half expect that their newborn child will make the world better, will somehow be a redeemer. Perhaps they are right, and they can believe that the rare quality they glimpsed in the child is active in the burdened adult.
May Means Mother’s Day by Katie Lee Crane
May means Mother’s Day. I’m going to trust Hallmark and daddies and six year-olds and grown-up kids who are mommies themselves to honor the mothers among us as they deserve to be honored—with brass bands, flags flying, breakfast in bed (and kitchens cleaned up afterwards). I wish for those mothers a memorable day full of love and laughter.
Sadly, I don’t trust Hallmark to remember the feelings of the women who don’t fit Mother’s Day in quite the same wonderful way. There are no cards on the rack for the women who gave up children for adoption, never to see them again. No cards for the women who face the painful and difficult choice to end a pregnancy. No cards for women who desperately want to conceive and bear children and cannot. No cards for women who have lost children of any age or for the women whose children have abandoned them in anger. There is little consolation for them on a day so full of “motherhood.”
Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around I wish there were just a little less hype about traditional motherhood, and a little more acknowledgement of not-so-traditional “mothers” in our midst—people who come in all colors, shapes, sizes, genders and ages. And more than anything, I wish there were a lot more empathy
for those who suffer because, as mothers are being honored, they don’t fit in in quite the same wonderful way.
Let us honor them all on this day. Women who conceived. Women who bore. Women who reared. Women who lost. Women who let go. Women who made different choices. And people of any gender who mother. Happy day. May each of you know your worth to all of us.
Now That I Am Forever with Child by Audre Lorde
How the days went
while you were blooming within me
I remember each upon each—
the swelling changed planes of my body
and how you first fluttered, then jumped
and I thought it was my heart.
How the days wound down
and the turning of winter
I recall, with you growing heavy
against the wind. I thought
now her hands
are formed, and her hair
has started to curl
now her teeth are done
now she sneezes.
Then the seed opened
I bore you one morning just before spring
My head rang like a fiery piston
my legs were towers between which
A new world was passing.
I can only distinguish
one thread within running hours
You, flowing through selves