Belated Mother’s Day Thoughts
May 15, 2006
This morning my children gave me a card for Mother’s Day. The outside of the card said, we were going to get you the best present of all for Mother’s Day. On the inside of the card it read, but you already have us. Oh how they laughed at this. And oh how I laughed when I reminded my husband that Father’s Day comes after Mother’s Day for a reason.
A few weeks ago we went on a field trip to an old cemetery. It was cool, in a morbid kind of way. It is an historic site with most of the graves from the late 1700’s to mid1800’s, families who lived in the area where I now live. The older kids were listening to a presentation about the people who were buried there and interesting facts that were known about them and their lives.
People now aren’t buried with their entire families often anymore. We have all spread out to different parts of the world. I know my inlaws were talking about the cemetery being filled and so when my sister in law died my mother-in-law bought a plot so she could be buried right next to her.
My father in law wants to be cremated and have his urn of ashes placed inside my mother in law’s coffin when she dies. We all agreed. Though I did point out that he may not be as keen on the idea should she die first. And it could pose some difficulties finding someone to cremate him while he is still alive, but we’re still willing to try.
I walked around holding my youngest son. Mostly I was holding him because when the woman had said to be respectful, quiet, and not to touch the gravestones because they were fragile, he thought she said, Scream like a wild banshee and run at the gravestones full force, slamming into them with your body like you are linebacker.
As I walked through I found myself overwhelmed. I don’t often go to cemeteries… Thinking about the people. Real people, who lived near me, had real lives, loves, and children. And there were so many children who died so young.
That is where my eyes go first to the dates of birth and death. My eyes are drawn to the tiny headstones where the ages are measured in months and days.
Two brothers, roughly the age of my oldest two sons, both died when they fell into a frozen lake and drowned.
And then a few years later their sister.
I often think I would not be able to go on if something happened to one of my children. How did they?
I think about how difficult it must have been to carve out an existence in a place where I find the winter weather unbearable and we have central heating, polar fleece, and indoor plumbing. How many times I have I wrung my hands while my children were sick waiting for the tylenol to give them some relief, or for the anitbiotics to wipe out whatever it is. And my God how did people survive without modern dentistry? I would be toothless.
Since I have had children, I can no longer look at all the flags displayed for Memorial Day and not think of my sons. While I used to see the flags at cemeteries and see old men, I now see boys who are closer in age to my sons than I wish to acknowledge.
My one year old reached out his chubby hand to grab the flag of a soldier that died during the Civil War, I think of my six sons, each one precious to me. All those small American flags blowing in the wind next to their gravestones have a gut wrenching effect on me.
I think of another mother who gave birth, rocked her baby, kissed his fuzzy warm head. I think like a mother who must have rejoiced when her son first began walking, told her a joke, and picked her the heads off of flowers. This is how becoming a mother has changed me. While I didn’t like to hear stories of children who were hurt before I had children of my own, now suddenly every child that I hear about who has been murdered, abused, hurt, has the face of one of my children. I am haunted by these kind of stories.
I paused with my son in front of a set of tiny little grave markers. All of them babies from one family. None of them lived to be more than 3 yrs old. They were someone’s baby. Someone who sat here in this exact spot, just like us 150 years ago, yet they were mourning their child. It’s too much. I hugged Miles tight and the look he gave me said, “Did you take your medication, woman?”. I say to him, “They were loved, just like I love you.” And I cry big fat tears. And Miles headbutts me.
I think back on our busy morning, punctuated by me yelling too much. Me snapping at my children. Me exasperated by their annoying yet age appropriate questions. And I feel guilty for all that I take for granted.
It’s too much. Sometimes being a mother is too much. And the card is right, I do already have the best present of all.
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