‘A phone call or a card, a visit if you’re out and about but, please, no presents,’ I tell my family when the letterbox is once again cluttered with glossy brochures persuading readers to buy anything from fabulous jewellery to flimsy underwear. Or on a more practical note, Mum would really appreciate a rice cooker, a set of shiny saucepans or something as exciting as a can opener! Of course, we are told that it’s the thought that counts so a can opener may well say it all!
My greatest pleasure arises from those out-of-town phone calls, often late in the evening.
‘Hi Mum! Had a nice day? Been thinking about you!’ We chat about their day and about grandchildren and how involved they are in enjoying life. I share the news with Bill and we allow ourselves a moment or two of quiet pleasure in their achievements.
Motherhood is very hard work, demanding, stressful and very tiring, but it holds a uniqueness that raises it above every other vocation.
Motherhood is a sacrament
Even the most lowly of female creatures is gifted with those special qualities needed to nurture their young. The dedication of a little sparrow hen protecting and warming precious eggs in her snug nest; a mother cat suckling her kittens; a ewe with her new-born lamb is so wonderful that I hold my breath. So much more, then, is the awe that fills me when I see the love on the face of a young mother feeding her baby.
On Mothers’ Day this year I spent a few moments reflecting on all the mothers who are part of who I am. Foremost, my own mother who struggled through the Depression years, then the 1939-1945 War, with little money and the constant worry of my father’s ill-health as she loved and cared for me and my brothers. I thought of her mother, a young woman from Shetland who settled in Nelson with her husband and raised seven children. And my paternal grandmother who raised her family of five after losing two in infancy before emigrating from Scotland; and her mother, whom of course I never knew, who bore 14 children and died of cancer when she was 44. They all had a deep faith and trust in God that through their hardships he was with them. They passed on to their children their values of kindness, hospitality, compassion, honesty and belief in the precious bonds of family.
At Mass on Mothers’ Day I was reminded of Mary the mother of Jesus by a hymn we sang to honour her. I recalled how in the 1950s as young mothers we were exhorted to turn to her when things got tough. She was an example of all that we should be, we were told. But somewhere along the journey I realised that because she was perfect and she had a perfect child I was never going to attain the ultimate. That realisation was a great relief. I didn’t need to beat myself up over my failings and mistakes. All I had to do was be there for my children, love them, appreciate the uniqueness of each one and be grateful always for their wisdom, their laughter, and their trust.
One day each year when we acknowledge and say Thank You to all mothers for who they are and for what they do awakens us to Love. After all, Creator God needs mothers. How else can Love be kept alive in the world?