I squinted against the dim lighting, scouring every inch of the sanctuary in an attempt to find her. The end of our Sunday morning service was drawing near, and as the chords of our final worship chorus ebbed to a close, I knew my chance to deliver the envelope burning in my palms was ebbing along with it.
And then I saw her. She stood on the opposite side of the room, her shoulders rounded in defeat, her wilted posture the voice for grief trickling out without words.
Come on, I said to myself. It’s now or never.
I slipped quietly out of my row and made my way toward her, praying all the while. I had no idea how this gesture would be received. Our friendship was one marked by intimacy, by the sweet knowledge that we could bare our souls to each other and find empathy and compassion in return.
But the loss of her one pregnancy was a topic she rarely broached. I knew few details regarding her life’s greatest sorrow, other than the facts that the miscarriage occurred before we met and that her inability to conceive even once more – please, God, just once more – often cast a dark shadow over her usually radiant demeanor.
No, I had no idea how this gesture would be received. But I knew it had to be offered.
I was behind her now, and as she turned in response to my hand on her shoulder, I hugged her tightly, whispered “Happy Mother’s Day,” and pressed the envelope into her hands.
Her lips trembled just slightly as she withdrew my card – probably the first Mother’s Day card she had ever received – but when the nectar of those words hit her parched and barren spirit, she didn’t just cry.
In the middle of church, surrounded by glowing young moms and bouncing babies and curious onlookers, she poured out the grief only a bereaved mother can know.
She collapsed onto my shoulder, and soon my entire body shook with the force of her heaving sorrow. My own tears rolled slowly down her back as I stroked her hair, prayed silently for comfort, and simply became a safe place for the despair that had long needed a voice.
I don’t remember exactly what I wrote in that card. But I know it went something like this:
Happy Mother’s Day, my beautiful friend.
I celebrate you today because I know you don’t have to hold a baby in your belly or your arms to be a mother. You earned that title the second your precious one was conceived, and though he or she is separated from you today, you are no less a mother.
You’re just a mother who has to wait for Heaven.
I want to thank you for all the ways you mother my own children, for all the ways you mother every child I’ve ever seen you encounter. You were made for this. You were made to wipe away tears, to kiss foreheads, and to pour yourself out for the sake of another. You pour into my girls’ lives every time you speak words of love and affirmation and acceptance over them, and they are so blessed to have you in their lives.
You’re a mother who can’t help mothering.
You seek out the broken, you love the downtrodden, and you speak life. You love fiercely, you pray without ceasing, and every day you give more of yourself than you gave the day before.
Your mother’s heart changes lives.
I don’t know what the coming year will hold for you. I pray with all my heart that next Mother’s Day will find you with a child in your arms, because whether that child would be birthed from your body or from another, I know it would be loved with a tenderness that so many can only dream of.
I pray that this day next year ends with snuggles and bedtime stories and slobbery kisses.
But even if not… I will still celebrate you.
Because you are beautiful.
You are strong.
And you are a wonderful mother.
This Mother’s Day, please remember the mamas without babies. Hug the necks of the women who nurture, love, and mentor. Honor the women who lay down their lives in service to others. Acknowledge the women who exemplify the beauty of a mother’s heart.
And pray for the women whose journeys to motherhood have been longer and more grueling than they ever could have dreamed.