While some look forward to celebrating Mother's Day with gifts and flowers to honor their mothers, for those who have lost their mothers to death, the day often brings sadness. This became a reality to me about two years ago when I faced my first Mother's Day without my mother.
Typical Mother's Day hymns at church brought tears rather than joy. Simply walking by a card display loaded with beautiful verses for mothers brought a fresh awareness of the void left by mother's death. Browsing the Sunday paper which focused on Mother's Day sales reminded me that this year I wouldn't be trying to find the appropriate gift.
I soon realized I had turned, into mourning, recollections which should be bringing joy. When the focus is on what has been lost, it brings grief, but finding other ways to honor our mothers who have passed away may bring gladness and smiles.
I discovered some positive ways to approach Mother's Day and to honor Mother's memory when she is no longer present:
1. Share funny stories with your family of funny things your mother did or said. I recall the way my mother would invent words when normal vocabulary failed her. Once she told me of a sale on blouses at a local department store. She said, "The price was so good I 'cabbaged' on that deal."
I remember another incident when her correction of Dad's mistake was a blunder in itself. My dad was discussing the need for various types of churches. He said, "Now your church is more 'confisticated' than ours, but I enjoy our style of worship just the same.'"
Mother corrected, "Hugh, it isn't 'confisticated'; it's sophisticated."
Pondering this, he asked, "Well, what does 'confisticate' mean?"
"It's when the sheriff goes out and 'confisticates' the bootlegger's liquor."
2. Cook for your family one of your mother's best dishes. A few years back, realizing that she would not always be with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watched Mother make her famous chicken and dressing because I knew she didn't go by a printed recipe. Now the family gathers at my house. With great care and pride, I mix with my hands the crumbled cornbread, chicken broth, and other ingredients just as she always did. I reflect on the many great meals she served, hoping mine will measure up to hers and wondering if my children will have similar pleasant holiday memories.
3. Sing some of her favorite songs with your family. Just as we, as a family, would gather around Mother's piano and sing some of her favorite hymns with her as she played them, I now gather my grandkids around for us to play and sing some of her favorites.
4. Write a poem that recalls her good qualities, even if it is the "Roses are Red" kind. After her death, I was going through some of Mom's cherished possessions. Among them I found some very simplistic poems I had written for her on past Mother's Days. I realized she had thrown away the cards we had bought for her but had saved those I had personalized with poems about her. I then sat down and wrote another about my favorite memories with her. I found this to be very therapeutic.
5. Plant a tree in her honor. A nice way to make a living memorial is to plant a tree in Mother's memory each Mother's Day. This can become an orchard if the children and grandchildren continue the tradition. The actual planting can become a pleasant memorial service in her honor.
6. Show your family photos of mother, taken at fun times in her life, to family members. Going through old photo boxes and albums elicits many memories of happy days with Mother. Not only can these be preserved with photographs, but an oral history can also be passed on as you discuss these pictures with family.
7. Place flowers in your church to honor her. Many churches allow family members to place altar flower arrangements to commemorate special events. It would please most mothers to know they were remembered in such a way.
8. Write ten lessons that you learned from your mother. Most good mothers teach valuable lessons by word and deed. By writing these down, a person can recall and revisit these lessons. This also preserves them for future generations.
9. Do something special for someone else's mom, such as giving a gift, making a call to tell her she is special or cooking something for her. I have cooked Sunday dinner for other mothers in honor of my own. This helps both the one being served and me by changing my sorrow into something productive.
10. Try to embody and live out the good qualities you saw in her. If I can focus on "just being happy" as my mother always encouraged, I can keep my mother's philosophy alive.
When we apply Philippians 4:8 to this situation, we find ourselves focusing on the lovely, pure, just, and good things left behind by our mothers instead of spending Mother's Day mourning our losses. Thinking about what we have instead of what we've lost can make Mother's Day a happy occasion once again.
Barbara Ann Eubanks is the author of Humorous Happenings in Holy Places. She is a minister's wife, mother of three and grandmother of eight. For more information about Barbara's book, click here.