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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, October 26, 2020
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Reflections of an Evolving Elder: Mother’s Day Can Bring Both Joy and Grief

A slightly damaged mother’s day memento of joy and deep suffering.
A slightly damaged Mother’s Day memento of joy and deep suffering.

As I was falling asleep Saturday night I vaguely remembered Sunday was Mother’s Day. I thought of a friend who lost her son to gun violence when he was just starting life as an adult. I made a mental note to reach out to her in the morning and then slept fitfully. It is unseasonably hot – again.

Sipping my first cup of tea Sunday morning, I texted my friend. “I am hoping this day is not too difficult for you.”

She texted back, “This day is one of the toughest.”

That’s what I thought. How could it not be?

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We texted back and forth for an hour or so. She shared pictures of the beautiful mementos that her son had given her over the years. A china plate with a poem and a raised rosebud. “I look at it every day.”

It once had a little stand that held it upright, she said. “It has a chip and the stand is gone, but I will keep it always.”

She told little stories about who he was for a while until we both moved on into our respective days.

But she has stayed with me since the day we met as a mother who has suffered what I have so far avoided. The unbearable, the unthinkable.

I am well aware of the power of the relationship between mother and child. From the moment of birth, or even before, our only instinct is to protect.

I was watching a PBS Nature special recently of two mother grizzly bears chasing off a male twice their size who was threatening to their cubs. Yep, “I get that,” I thought. GRRRRR.

Someone once said to me, “the first twenty years are the easiest.” I understood that perfectly. Those early years contain much more power to protect.

But one day our children step out into their own lives. Lives that we are not privy to, that we have no control over. No curfews, no daily check ins, no longer are they captive to our sage advice.

And then for some mothers comes the 3 a.m. call. And life changes forever. Forever.

There are some in this community who cannot imagine that ever happening to them. They feel safe. They think they are removed from that danger.

There are many ways to lose a child, but gun violence is the one that we as a community have the power to change. I refuse to listen any longer to the excuses for not doing something about it.

There is much to be done, including addressing childhood trauma and offering hope of a meaningful life to our young people – real hope and opportunities, not just empty slogans.

There is nothing like a mother’s instinct to protect. And it extends not only to our own children, but it must extend to every mother’s child. If it doesn’t, then it is shallow and meaningless – and all our children will be in danger.

Sharing with my friend today renewed my resolve to rise up as many times as it takes like that mama grizzly and fight to save every mother’s son or daughter from the ravages of hopelessness and violence.

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