Like clockwork it happens every time. As I look through photos and videos of May 10, 2020, my emotional cup overflows. My eyes attempt to focus on the brief Mother’s Day video I recorded through a swelling of tears that won’t subside, thinking how this once very traditional ritual had become not-so traditional during a year that was like none other.
“Not too close” were the words Mom muffled to me while reaching for her Mother’s Day balloon through her front screen door cracked ever so slightly. From inside, Ms. Betty Joyce had been greeted with the most meaningful sentiments I could muster in such a painfully different year. With limited contact time, brevity of this year’s card was essential:
No distance, nor devastation, no disease in the form of a scary flu,
Could keep me from getting all the love I can muster to you.
You are my heart and world; you hold a place like none other.
And today more than anything, I am so grateful for you, my mother.
While the cinematic moment captured comedic ingenuity at its finest, it was a painful realization for me and so many others, this was a Mother’s Day in which our mothers would be away. Away from our loving embrace, the gifting of cards, homemade coffee coasters, and smiles as moving as those moments seen in Hallmark commercials. I had a choice. I could lament this unprecedented matriarchal holiday was marred by social distancing guidelines, or I could choose to adjust my posture and ultimately my sense of gratitude, making precious memories from very real and unforgettable pain points.
The weeks following Mother’s Day 2020 were, in many ways, troublesome. There were distinct moments of connection, decision-making and even celebration where I needed close audience with my mother and frankly, my mother needed me. Indeed, this was the piercingly painful reality for so many sons, daughters, and grandkids—virtual hugs from incessant Zoom calls and kisses atop of dirty windowpanes.
In the months following May 2020, one of my life’s greatest pillars was literally untouchable—and my entire world was changing and in many ways for the better. I would get engaged, purchase a home, and graduate my oldest daughter from community college, all with the very limited physical presence of Ms. Betty Joyce. While her absence was frequently an excruciating reminder of just how vital her existence is, it afforded a beautiful lesson in the space of humility, and an opportunity to embrace the amazing grace of God’s goodness that indeed she was there. My mother was thriving through the pandemic and doing all she could do to persevere to the other side of this unknown and unprecedented existence.
In those moments when my grief seemed to swell the most, I would cling to the gravity of personal gratitude—realizing that so many were without even of a semblance of my socially distanced Mother’s Day celebration. For some there was distance, there was devastation and there was a very real and tangible fear of a disease that allowed for no cracked screen doors and the exchange of Mother’s Day balloons. But for grace, this was not my mother, nor my reality.
So today, as I helped my mother venture out once again (more than 365 days since the pandemic started), I asked her what was the guiding jewel that kept her heart and mind at bay. In addition to an unwavering commitment to prayer and her persistent faith, she offered this for all those still navigating through the heaviness of the distance: “This Mother’s Day, hold on to your hope, because every day is a gift, and an opportunity for undiscovered or uncelebrated amazing grace.”
As always, Mother is wise; so I, too, would echo the same.
Over the last year we have indeed seen great challenge, stress, and pain. But by God’s undeserved and amazing grace, we made it, we’re making it. While we could choose to drudge on in the heavy and the loss, our hearts and minds are designed for healing, recovery, and great resilience. As you venture out into the open air, creating new memories this Mother’s Day, I dare you to exchange the recollection of your heartaches for new healing pathways. Let joy be the language that speaks from a heart so thrilled to be outside, and allow the hope of a beautiful reunion with ‘the mother’ in your life be the reason your whole being smiles.