Among the many celebrations of May is Mother’s Day. I am always conscious that for some, Mother’s Day is one of the most painful days of the year. It stands as a reminder of the loss of mother or child. For women who have yearned for children that were never born, the day symbolizes empty arms and lost hopes. Mothers mourn children lost to death or broken relationships. Children grieve a childhood they never had and the mother who could not be a mother to them. A day that is to be a day of joy becomes instead a day of being left out of the celebration.
So it is with mixed feelings that I have always approached Mother’s Day. I found it refreshing to learn why the day was set aside. Anna Jarvis, a United Methodist Laywoman, is credited with creating the day in 1907. She was inspired by her mother Anna Reeves Jarvis who organized “Mother’s Work Day Clubs” in the 1850’s. Clubs were established to provide medicine for the poor, inspect milk that children would drink, provide nursing care for the sick and shelters for children with tuberculosis. The elder Anna believed that she could best live out her faith in God by loving those in need around her.
Even in the midst of strained relationships caused by the Civil War, the Mother’s Clubs,in her West Virginia community, continued to care for poor children and nurse the sick . Not only did they continue the work, these compassionate women decided to nurse soldiers from both sides of the war. Following the war, Anna Reeves Jarvis struggled to mend the divisions between families left from the years of battle. She began a peacemaker organization, “Mothers’ Friendship Days” which brought together families across the Mason-Dixon Line, healing wounds of separation.
One can understand why the younger Anna wanted to do something that would honor her mother’s memory. She concluded that she could best do that, by carrying on the work of faith that the elder Anna had begun. The first “Mother’s Day” was organized in 1907, encouraging all women to take on the task of loving the poor, reaching out to children, working for peace and caring for the sick . . . and to do that with a mother’s love
Perhaps the best way to honor the day is to give of ourselves to those causes that represent the day to us, be it cancer research, a group that works through the grief of losing a child, investing in children through mentoring programs, visiting an elderly friend, being a peacemaker in your home and community, or any of many other ways that speak to your heart.
Wherever you find yourself this Mother’s Day, whether in the midst of celebration or wishing the day would simply be erased from our calendar, know that God’s love for you is like a mother’s, for God says, “As a mother comforts her child, so I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13a.
Deane Poslethwaite’s hymn, “The Care the Eagle Gives her Young” beautifully captures that love.
“The care the eagle gives her young, safe in her lofty nest,
is like the tender love of God for us made manifest.