Mother's Day Revisited

Many of us in TCF do not look forward to Mother's Day. On this holiday, when the whole nation is celebrating the joys
of parenthood, grieving parents often feel a special anguish.

Mother's Day this year looms as particularly difficult milestone for me. Sunday, May 10, 1998 is not only Mother's Day
but also the second anniversary of the death of my ten-year-old son, Jacob. Because this day of private sadness also happens
to be a day of public celebration, I decided that I should start thinking early about the occasion. I engaged in a little
research about the holiday and learned a story that I think is worth sharing.

Mother's Day was the creation of a woman named Anna Jarvis in the early years of this century. Anna, who never married
and never had children of her own, devoted herself to establishing a national Mother's Day as a way of honoring her
beloved mother, who died on May 9, 1905. In Anna's view, her mother deserved a memorial because she had lived selflessly
and endured considerable suffering-seven of her eleven children had died in early childhood. According to historians,
Anna's mother mourned the deaths of her children throughout her life.

Anna insisted that the holiday always fall on a Sunday so that it would retain its spiritual moorings. Because of her efforts,
President Woodrow Wilson finally proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. Although Anna couldn't
prevent the new holiday from quickly becoming a marketing phenomenon, she did try. Speaking out against "the mire
of commercialization" that threatened to engulf Mother's Day, Anna attempted to preserve her creation as a true "holy
day," a time for solemn reflection and prayer.

Mother's day, then, was borne of a daughter's grief and love. More importantly, it was intended as a tribute to a bereaved
mother-a brave woman who lost multiple children but who managed to live with an abiding kindness and generosity toward
others. I like knowing this background, and my attitude towards Mother's Day has been colored by the knowledge.

The holiday now makes me think of the common sorrow that links all bereaved parents. I feel a bond with Anna's mother
that stretches over time and space. In a broader sense, the woman for whom the holiday was founded reminds me of people
I've met at TCF who have continued to live productive, meaningful lives in the face of unthinkable loss. Finally,
Mother's Day in its origins symbolizes both the joy and the vulnerability inherent in parenthood. Anna's mother knew all
too well that from the moment a child is born, hope and the possibility of tragedy go hand in hand. She understood the
fragility of life.

Enriched by its own history, Mother's Day is easier for me to tolerate. The coincidence of dates this year-Mother's Day
and the anniversary of my son's death-is not as jarring as it once seemed. Although the commercial images of the modern
Mother's Day still make me wince, I can turn off the television and envision the kind of day that Anna Jarvis had in
mind: a time for quiet reflection and the sharing of cherished memories.

By Barbara Atwood, TCF, Tucson, Arizona
~lovingly lifted from Tucson TCF Newsletter, May 1998