Mother’s day: a time of celebration and grief

I started perspiring as someone asked me the question a second time: “Why did you only have six caregivers?” Such was one of many questions asked of me when I had to defend my dissertation in front of my seminary’s Doctor of Ministry committee.

My dissertation had been on caregivers and spiritual formation; the committee wanted to know — and rightly so — why my focus group, consisting of caregivers, was so small for such an important project.

Usually, these groups require 10 or more people to provide substance for one’s doctoral dissertation. Six is a pretty dismal figure. The committee had every right to know why I did not get more participants. I was getting hot under the collar, literally.

I went on to explain to the committee that when I started working with caregivers at Trinity Baptist Church in 2006, we had nearly 14 people caring for a loved one, be it a spouse or aging parent. Many of the caregivers took care of their aging mothers in particular — 11 to be exact.

By the time I did my focus group for my dissertation project in 2009, we were down to 10 caregivers: Four mothers had already passed away (therefore, four fewer caregivers in our ministry); two more mothers passed away while I was meeting with the focus group over a span of a month.

And by the time I met with the committee a year later, three more mothers of caregivers passed away, one of whom was pretty important in the founding of Trinity Baptist Church, Judy Norman.

To say that Mother’s Day is a difficult holiday at Trinity Baptist Church is an understatement. Many of our parishioners will be spending this Sunday without their mothers for the very first time in their life.

As our society continues to age, I have a feeling that Trinity Baptist Church is not alone in its grief over mother loss. Baby boomers, who make up the majority of caregivers of aging parents, are seeing their loved ones dying all too soon.

In the independent-living, senior retirement home in Decatur in which I am a chaplain, we’ve lost more than 14 residents in the past eight months alone. Most of these residents were mothers.

Mother’s Day is a time for celebration, a time to honor mothers living and gone. But for some, Mother’s Day will be a day in which the only fitting prayer is Psalm 6:6-7: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of my grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.”

At our church this Sunday, we will celebrate our mothers with lavish hugs and kisses. We will also set out a floral arrangement and candle on our communion altar in remembrance of the mothers whom we miss dearly.

Sons and daughters of loved ones lost will be invited to adorn the altar with relics or keepsakes once belonging to their mothers, allowing each cherished item to bear silent testimony to motherhood in our church’s past.

Well, suffice it to say, when I explained why my focus group was so small, my dissertation committee was very understanding. Nevertheless, the work of Trinity Baptist goes on. We still support our caregivers, still welcome new mothers into our fold, new babies into our nursery, and new insights of wisdom from our spiritual mothers.

Please know that our congregation wishes you a happy Mother’s Day; and for those of you who grieve and weep, you will be in our prayers. Our candle will burn brightly tomorrow for you.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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