(5.14.17) Grief

Mother’s Day is hard. It has been five years since I last spent this day with my own mother and just eleven since my grandmother was here to share it too. After two decades as the junior mother of the clan, I am now the only woman left in this house.

I am inexpressibly grateful for my sons, who were all home today for the first time in months, and for my husband, who cooked the Mother’s Day brunch and who has always been my full partner in this miracle of parenthood. It is not possible for my full heart to swell with any more love or gratitude for these good men, and still Mother’s Day is always hard.

For too many others, this day is even harder. Friends who lost their mothers too young or only in the last few weeks. Friends whose mothers are still alive but who no longer know their own child’s name. Friends whose mothers were never present in the ways that matter most. Friends who wanted to be mothers and couldn’t. Friends whose lives feel like a terrible, empty cavern, today and all days, because they have buried a child.

People of faith look to the promise of the afterlife for comfort in the slipstream of sadness running beneath the bright joy of these sunny days, of this impossibly beautiful spring. I look with hope to the promise of reunion, too, but that promise—so hard to hold in mind, so uncertain in its dimensions—is no solace now. I must look instead to the world itself, to its verifiable truths.

In nature, terrible things happen every hour, but they are no one’s fault. Nothing in nature is evil or unfair. The natural world is much simpler than that. All living things must die, and before they die they will fail and fail and fail. Human beings are as wholly in the grip of nature as any bird or flower, and so we need only look out the window to understand that humanity has not been singled out for suffering. What is beautiful in nature is always temporary, always threatened by violence and hunger and disease and time, and so it is for us as well.

It does me no good to cry, Why? oh, why? There is nothing to figure out, no steps to retrace in wondering how it might have turned out differently. This is just the way the mortal world works. The shadow side of love is always loss, and grief is only love’s own twin.