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Mothers who have lost a child - May 14, 1995
Erma Bombeck

If your're looking for an answer this Mother's Day on why God reclaimed your child, I don't now.  I only know that thousands of mothers out there today desperately need an answer as to why they were permitted to go through the elation of carrying child and then lose it to miscarriage, accident , violence disease or drugs 

Motherhood isn't just a series of contractions.  It's a state of mind.  From the moment we know life is inside us, we feel a responsibility to protect and defend that human being.  It's a promise we can't keep.  We beat ourselves to death over that pledge.  "If I hadn't worked through the eighth month."  "If I had taken him to the doctor when he had a fever."  "If I hadn't let him use the car that night."  "If I hadn't been so naive, I'd have noticed he was on drugs."

The longer I live, the more convinced I become that surviving changes us.  After the bittnerness, the anger, the guilt, and the despair are tempered by time, we look at life differently. 

While I was writing  my book, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise, I talked with mothers who had lost a child to cancer.  Every single one said death gave their lives new meaning and purpose.  And who do you think prepared them for the rough, lonely road they had to travel?  Their dying child.  They pointed their mothers toward the future and told them to keep going.  The children had already accepted what their mothers were fighting to reject. 

The children in the bombed-out nursery in Oklahoma City have touched more lives than they will ever know.  Workers who had probably given their kids a mechanical pat on the head without thinking that morning are making phone calls home during the day to their children to say "I love you."

This may seem like a strange Mother's Day column on a day when joy and life abound for the millions of mothers throughout the country.  But it's also a day of appreciation and respect.  I can think of no mothers who deserve it more than those who had to give a child back. 

In the face of adversity, we are not permitted to ask, "Why me?"  You can ask, but you wont get an answer.  Maybe you are the instrument who is left behind to perpetuate the life that was lost and appreciate the time you had with it. 

The late Gilda Radner summit it up well:  "I wanted a perfect ending.  Now I've learned the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end.  Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next.  Delicious ambiguity.