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Getting Things Right: The Mother’s Day–or Day-After-Mother’s-Day–Excuse

In one of those episodes that struck me as more providential than accidental — a “God-incidence”, as some like to put it, versus a coincidence –: I once had a chat with a fellow (I’ll call him Sal) whose elderly and infirm mother had just passed away, and it so happened her death and our exchange had taken place mere days before Mother’s Day. For that reason, I suspect the bereavement was that much sharper. In light of the impending holiday, it certainly struck me more poignantly than it might have under other timing.

Her passing, fortunately, had not come as a total shock to him. As I mentioned, she’d been far along in years and considerably unwell for quite some time on top of that. He’d been forewarned her days were seriously numbered and so was able to arrange a visit which, literally, overlapped what turned out to be the final ninety-six hours of her life.

My friend is a devout Christian man, so when I had asked him about his mother’s spiritual condition, he’d expressed hope; but not indomitable assurance. He’d been privileged to pass big chunks of time with her during that sunset stretch – expressing his goodbyes, praying and studying the Scriptures with her, asking pointedly after the state of her soul. All of that, undeniably, encouraging.

“But she had trouble forgiving herself,” he’d solemnly intoned to me.

I’d been aware of his and her history. “Well, she wasn’t a very good mother,” I’d responded, stating what we both knew was the obvious.

“No, she wasn’t,” he agreed, matter-of-factly and without any bitterness.

As an adult, he’d been able to healingly pursue his relationship with his mom. In fact, years ago and in those last few hours together with her, he’d reassured her of his forgiveness toward her and that God was eager to offer her the same if only she’d penitently ask Him for it.

Doubtless some, reading about Sal’s experience, are ripped with pangs of grief. They envy him his invaluable chance to make amends with the woman who carried him nine months in her womb, to clarify important issues with her and repair their elemental but profoundly wounded relationship. Those possibilities have been forever foreclosed to them, however: Their parent/child connection? It’s too late for them to salvage that. Their mothers are irretrievably out of reach – deceased or for other reasons unavailable. And what’s left to them? The stoic and grudging options of learning to live with regret and, best case scenario, resolving to make the most of whatever contingencies life is supplying at present.

Meantime, there are still others reading this account who aren’t quite yet hobbled by these ruefully limiting circumstances. They still have time to act, to do something about the damaged situation with their moms. For them, Mother’s Day offers a potential excuse – perhaps even a motivation – to take some initiative toward reconciliation, setting things right, patching up whatever maternal rough spots are dogging them.

Or perhaps for simply reinforcing the loving, appreciative, tender feelings mom already knows they have for her. That effort never stops being necessary, as well.

To this latter cohort I say: Do it. Don’t wait too long. You might not be granted the same, fortuitous, last-ditch opening as my friend. Rolling the dice on that prospect? Especially when the relationship involved is among the most fundamental in all of human experience? Stompingly foolish.

If there exists a rift – of either recent or longstanding vintage – with the one who brought you into the world, and even the slenderest hope of restoration lingers, whether you were in the wrong or she was in the wrong, or you both played a part in the difficulties: pick up the telephone, make a call. (I know, that’s sooo 1980’s. But the old-fashioned sound of the human voice reaching out? That never stopped being marvelously effective.)

Perhaps send a card or note. Virtually fashioned into an 18th and 19th century art form, letter-writing remains rather less immediate than a phone or face-to-face encounter, and thus less emotionally dicey; it can be pretty potent, nonetheless.

At least, minimally, consider pecking out an exploratory email or text. Hi, there. How are you? Mother’s Day got me thinking about you. I’d like to talk sometime soon.

Who knows what gratifying response something as frank and vulnerable as that might inspire.

What you don’t want to do? Presumptuously delay, postpone, ignore – and then, suddenly and inconceivably, something conclusive happens and it really becomes “too late”. Abruptly you’re enrolled in the “I-wish-I-had-…” and full-of-regrets fraternity.

Lucky you.

The moment for taking a stab at mending something supremely vital is while it’s possible to do so – a condition that won’t endure forever.

This urgency, of course,has application to any relationship, not only the matrifocal one. For the moment, though, Mother’s Day extends an unusually handy pretext for decisive action. Or perhaps the day after Mother’s Day.

Really, any excuse ought to do.

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Steve Pauwels

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.

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