Sunday May 9, 2021
Today is Mother’s Day.
I had a mother. That’s possibly the only statement that every human on the planet can affirm without qualification. Also any mammal.
In the cause of gender equality, I could also argue that every mammal also had a father, but that’s not necessarily true anymore. Dolly, the cloned sheep, didn’t.
I’m tempted to say that every living thing had a mother, but I’m not convinced that laying eggs in a riverbed or casting spores to the wind qualifies as mothering. The new life may require female DNA, but in my mental dictionary, mothering Involves more than abandoning one’s offspring to chance.
When we scattered our son’s ashes in the ocean off Vancouver Island, his sister said a few words about visiting her older brother during his final month in hospital.
His grandfather recited a poem, about dying young.
I read a passage from one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books that seemed relevant to his story.
And his mother began, “From the moment I first felt you moving in my womb…”
With almost a sense of shock, I realized that being a mother starts nine months earlier than being a father.
Both joy and pain
She had more time with him, and had more influence on his life, than I did.
Although the patterns of family life are changing, society in general still expects the father to be the breadwinner, the mother to be the caregiver.
Typically, the mother gets up in the middle of the night – especially if the baby is still breast-feeding.
Typically, mom shapes the infant’s most formative years.
Typically, mom sacrifices the most in any family.
My mother gave up her profession, her home, her national roots, to have me.
She died when I was 36. I didn’t love her as much as I should have. After all, I was building my own career; I had worlds to conquer; I had miles to go before I sleep.
I took my mother for granted. Maybe we all do.
Now, much later in life, when I no longer have a mother, and even more, when my daughter no longer has a mother, and my grand-children have no grandmother, I begin to sense how much they’re missing. And how much I’m missing.
Getting beyond ego
I thought of this the other day, in a heated Zoom discussion about a different subject entirely. One of the participants said, “Isn’t this really all about ego?”
Yes, it is. It is always about ago. About how this affects me, Me, ME.
The discussion had focussed subduing ego. Keeping it under control -- a recurring theme from mystics ancient and modern, from Meister Eckhardt to Eckhardt Tolle, from Julian of Norwich to Thomas Merton.
I believe we only cast aside our egos when someone we love is in peril. When your only child is swept away by a river, and you roar into the water whether or not you can swim.
When your baby girl has a raging fever, and you sit up all night, listening to every breath in the darkness.
When your son spills his bike on the street, and you race out, daring that truck to hit you.
In my experience, mothers are more likely -- or perhaps have more opportunities -- to display that ego-squelching commitment than men. And that applies to adoptive moms just as much as to birth mothers.
Right under my heart
Of course there are uncaring mothers. And incompetent mothers. I can read about them in my newspaper pretty much every day.
And there are mothers who ride their own ego train through pregnancy, bequeathing to their unborn infant a drug dependency or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, leaving society to pick up the pieces.
But you might notice that those are afflictions the father cannot pass on to his children. Because those children have never been part of his body. They have never shared his blood, his immunities, the constant thump-thump of his heart.
Only mothers can do that.
Despite what Hollywood says, love does not mean never having to say you’re sorry. Love, in fact, means always having to say you’re sorry.
Sorry I can’t always be there for you. Sorry that you’ve chosen to go your own way, without me. Sorry that I can’t still wrap myself around you, enfold you, provide for you.
Love is continuing to feel you right under my heart, even when you’re not there anymore.
Because that’s what mothers do.
Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Lat week’s column, advocating vaccinations, produced sharply divided opinions pro and con – as you might expect. My thanks to Ray Shaver, David Carr, Anne McRae, Florence Driedger, and Louise Miles who expressed support, without substantive letters.
On the other hand….
A woman (I shall withhold her name) wrote: “You seem to watch and follow only mainstream media, all owned by six billionaires. Perhaps you should look at the other side of the story.”
She referred me to an angry 15-minute video rant against vaccination, which I won’t pass on and which I quit watching after the speaker’s first assertion was a demonstrable lie.
Joan Janzen unsubscribed with this indictment: “I'm tired of your ignorant poorly researched and misinformed take on the Covid issues. I can't believe you would promote a jab that is not even a vaccine. People are dying in droves from this. Pretty much everything you have said just goes along with the mainstream news which is propaganda.
“You have lost your once objective view of what's going on in the world and succumbed to the lies and fear of those who are trying to take over. It's shocking to see how you have been taken in by these lies. For your own and the sake of your subscribers, research what you are propagating and stop believing the lies.”
The third negative letter came from Shelley Eberle: “I feel bullied by your journalism. I do not believe I am ‘simply wrong’ in my opposition to vaccinations. I am not a scientist or a health practitioner. I am a Christian but I have never used the Bible to support my decision; it really doesn’t have anything to do with religion for me. To refuse a jab is about conscience for me. I believe in the power of my own immune system, to support and strengthen it.
“Covid is real, no denying that. H1N1 and the Norwalk Flu were also real and killed a lot of vulnerable people. Viruses are the new normal and we have to learn to live with them. We all have different perceptions of risk (fear) and how we want to protect ourselves. If you choose a vaccine to feel protected that’s your choice. If you decide the risk of the vaccine is as great as the risk of the virus then that’s also your choice.
“I don’t believe you can compare the choice of refusing a Covid vaccine to the lobby for killing Jews, racism, speeding or even small pox and polio. Good grief!
“I guess I will be exposing myself to all viruses, and if I become ill, I believe I will recover with true, long lasting immunity. Yes, it’s a risk but I am not going to rely on evolving science, pharma, or any powers that don’t support my conscience.”
Now for some of the supportive letters.
Jody Lafontaine: “I am proud to know you and know you speak and write the truth. I am so tired of all the reasons people have for not taking the vaccine and all the ways people talk about how they circumvent the rules -- be it wearing a mask, staying home in their bubble, or getting around travel restrictions all because it is their right to do what they please…”
Rob Dummermuth: “I have concerns with our emphasis on ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’. It seems that the only ‘right’ I can have is the right to respect the rights of others around me. If I enforce the rights I have, it can only be abuse of those around me. I like to think more of the ‘responsibility’ of free speech, the ‘responsibility’ of religion, indeed even the ‘responsibility’ of freedom, . . and in the Covid context, the ‘responsibility’ of vaccines.”
Tom Watson: “I'm astounded that in the U.S. some 45% of Republican voters are hesitant about getting vaccinated. Also, in Canada, some political voices and some religious voices have been speaking out against vaccinations, against wearing masks, and against anything designed to regulate their right to go where they want, and do what they want, and gather as they see fit in groups. We don't live on individual islands; we're in this together.”
Bob Rollwagen: “I had to carry the yellow vaccination booklet when I led safaris in Kenya and Tanzania and to deal with precaution for Malaria. I agree with you. A year from now, if someone shows up at a hospital with Covid and has no record of being vaccinated, they should go to the back of the line for all procedures. Our personal constitutional rights go as far as our arm reaches, and end when they enter another person’s space in a negative fashion, like sharing disease.
“Unfortunately, we also have politics being put ahead of doing the right thing to save lives.”
Ted Spencer: “Despite having resolved that I’m too old to get really steamed about stuff anymore, I still get really steamed about stuff. The zonks would far rather believe an internet lie than solid scientific evidence -- setting aside the recognition that the internet delivering the lie is the last word in scientific logic from one end to the other. We occasionally bump into one of these persons and don’t know which way to look. There’s obviously no point in arguing.
“I’ve begun to suspect that, in the rather unlikely event that some vestige of the human race makes it to the distant future, our time will become known as the ‘idiocene’ where the idiots ran the show.”
“You un-shot idiots: don’t take your chances with a pissed-off geezer. I’ve got very little to lose at this point.”
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