20 September 2017

When Mum Can’t Kiss It Better

At one time, hugs, kisses and the occasional chocolate biscuit were all it took to soothe pain and dry tears. But, there’s a big difference between skinned knees and broken hearts. Children grow up and the trusted remedies of infancy seem absurdly ineffective against the heartaches of adulthood. There’s nothing in the maternal storehouse that can heal the pangs of shattered dreams or lost love. Unlike toys, such treasures aren’t easily replaced. Yet the instinctive need to protect and nurture does not lessen with the passing of time. Motherhood may be the source of greatest joy but it is also where we find the deepest pain.

When Madeline’s twenty eight year old son arrived on her doorstep, she knew something was wrong. “Jonathan and his girlfriend had been together a couple of years so their engagement wasn’t exactly a huge surprise. They seemed really happy as they began making plans for the wedding. I couldn’t believe it when he arrived late one Friday evening and told us that his girlfriend had changed her mind and the wedding was cancelled. When everyone went to bed, I made some tea and sat with him, waiting until he felt ready to talk. But, he had no words, just tears. The last time I saw my son cry he was seven years old. Then I was able to take him on my knee and make it better. This time, he was too big and the pain was too great. I felt utterly helpless.”

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A decade may have elapsed but Mary Wilson will never forget her daughter’s wedding day. “Jenny had been going out with Steve since high school. They’d attended the same Sunday school, youth group and later sang together in the church choir. When they started dating and eventually announced their engagement, it seemed such a natural progression and Steve had become like one of the family. In fact, I could always count on him to help with the Christmas decorations when my own lads always appeared to have rugby or football practice! As their wedding day grew nearer and plans got underway, things were admittedly a little hectic and Steve must have felt somewhat out of his depth with the endless talk about dresses, photographers and bouquets. There was absolutely no sign of his growing uncertainty. I will never forget the morning that my beautiful daughter faced the most humiliating and indescribable pain. Dressed in bridal attire she looked every inch the radiant bride until Steve’s phone call shattered the illusion and sent us all into a state of shocked disbelief. Apparently, our prospective son-in-law had been harbouring doubts as to God’s direction for his future. Somehow Steve had misinterpreted the divine plan and Jenny was not, after all, meant to be part of his life. The day was a complete nightmare as my husband and I set about cancelling the ceremony, reception and notifying guests. It was awful. For the next couple of months, I lay awake listening to my daughter’s sobs while trying to stifle my own. I have to admit that parenting an adult is the worst stage in the game. When our kids are young it is so easy to solve their innocent problems. However, maturity brings complexities that we are not qualified to handle. As a mum, I wanted to throttle Steve for what he did to Jenny. As a Christian, I may not understand but I know I have to forgive him and that God will turn everything to our good. Today, Jenny is happily married to a man that, with hindsight, is much more suited to her than Steve. Maybe sometimes we just need a spiritual wake-up call that, although for our good, isn’t always appreciated.

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When Joyce Mason learned that she was going to be a grandmother, she was delighted and couldn’t wait to share her maternal experiences with her daughter Kelly. “Ever since she was a child, Kelly had been a real little mother. She’d spend hours rocking and crooning to her dolls. It was obvious she was one of life’s natural nurturers. It came as no surprise when, six months after she and Tommy married she announced she was pregnant with twins. She was ecstatic! Sadly, three months before their expected date, Tommy called to say that Kelly had gone into early labour and given birth to their stillborn sons. We were devastated. The sight of my daughter lying pale and gaunt on a hospital bed was frightening. Her heart rending cries for the children she had lost pierced my heart and, as I held her, I knew that this was a pain that maternal love couldn’t ease. At that time, God seemed very far away. Faith isn’t about feelings, it’s about believing and I knew that, somewhere, in all the chaos of hurt, there was a divine plan. It’s been three years since Kelly lost the twins. In that time, I’ve held and rocked her through another four miscarriages. Each time, more painful than the last and I pray that she and Tommy will find the family they crave. When that happens, I will revel in my greatest joy of motherhood, the happiness of my child. No doubt, as these mums discovered, when it comes to our children, the divine handprint can be hard to find. Perhaps Samson’s mother, who had adhered strictly to God’s instructions for parenting her son, was confused by his adult behaviour. Maybe Jochebed was left reeling at her son’s exile. At any stage in the game, motherhood is a difficult role. Nevertheless, motherhood is a role appointed by God. As far as scripture is concerned, there’s only one requisite for a good parent, whatever stage of our offspring’s maturity. Regardless of the circumstances, the best remedy is to love them and leave them with God.

Lorraine Wylie