Sunday is Mother’s Day. Chris’ step-mom just sent me a Mother’s Day letter her grandfather had written to his mother from a foxhole in World War I. It was so gentle hearted and earnest. He even told his “Mother dear” that come morning he would “steal out from my little dugout and take some fresh flowers with dew and I’ll wear them all day long and each time these little bells tinkle over my heart they will be chiming my love for you.”
Of course, our culture cringes at earnestness. I’m convinced that our ironic snarky emotionlessness is our greatest fault as a generation. I’m just as guilty as anyone in sarcastic love-showing. I’m much more comfortable telling a friend I love them and then adding in a little snide joke just so the love doesn’t get too uncomfortable.
But, there’s something in a mother’s heart that longs for her grown son, away at war in a foxhole, to pick some flowers (sprinkled with dew if possible) and wear them all day in her honor. Doesn’t that just choke your heart up a little?
A couple of months ago I had a conversation with a friend who was sharing a little about the suicide of a close friend of his. It had been almost a year since his friend had died and he was contemplating calling the man’s mother. My friend said, “Micha, she must have such a feeling of rejection. To lose a child that way, even a grown one–must feel like all you gave was for nothing.”
That caught me off guard. I’d never gone farther in my mind than the immediate suffering of that kind of loss. I’d never considered how a mother might feel as though every thing she had provided for that child (his very life!) was not only unappreciated but rejected.
I looked at my friend and considered the process I was in (still am in) of teaching August to use the potty. I thought of the hours and days spent coaxing and convincing, of cleaning poop out of his underwear, the stories read and told on the potty, the stickers—all for what? To make him a man who can thrive in this world. To grow him up.
Of course, we don’t keep count of what we do for our children. It’s ridiculous and rarely even something we consider (except on really bad days!). But that thought hasn’t left me.
I don’t need my kids to thank me. What I long for is for them to take what I’ve given them and multiply it: I want them to give themselves away in service. I long for them to use the minds I’ve whispered the ABC’s into. I hope the hours we spend pretending will build them into men who create beautiful things. I’m teaching August to be kind to friends, to share, to introduce himself to someone new. My hope is that he’ll love people, hold tight to dear friendships, and forgive with sincerity.
And I hope that the moments I wait for him in the park while he picks and picks and picks flowers, off in some unknown toddler world, will result in the kind of grown son who picks early morning dew coated flowers in my honor on Mother’s Day, wherever he is: foxhole or not.