It was a rough week.
I had two losses in my family.
On Monday, I found myself sitting not in front of my room full of seven-year-olds, but in front of a marble statue of the Virgin Mary at a funeral. I was thinking about these two deaths and lives: one, my step grandmother, the other my cousin. My step-grandmother, who I will call Marie, lived to be 87 years old. She raised nine extremely different yet successful each in their own way children in her life. She was a mother. My cousin, I’ll call her Maya, who took own her life at 27, lost her own mother to cancer when she was too young to go to school. She never really seemed comfortable in her own skin. She died while living with her husband in upstate New York, hundreds of miles away from her father and siblings in New Mexico.
I was contemplating the folds in the virgin’s robe when I overheard the priest talking about the exact mother I was contemplating. He was telling the congregation that there are certain things you tell the Virgin Mary and not Jesus. Some things are much better told to a mother. It made me wonder, what is this power we attribute to mothers? I can’t tell my cousin’s story without starting with the fact that her mother died when she was young. As though this must be the reason for her suicide. Yet her sister has always felt perfectly comfortable in her skin. She’s a successful educator with a seemingly happy and productive life. My cousin was probably clinically depressed. Yet even I talk about how her mother wasn’t alive for her. All I could do while I watched people enter the funeral was think, “Wow! How wonderful was Marie? She created this whole family. Nine children, six grandchildren, four great grand children. They are all standing here as a testament to her productive life.”
My step-cousin gave a moving eulogy, in which she said that when she asked each of the nine children individually what was special about their mom, they all said the same thing: “She was always there for me.” It makes a mom hope that that’s what her kids will say about her. But how can a mom’s presence or absence be attributed so much power? Why?
I don’t have a clean way to wrap this up. The whole thing just makes a little bit humble and a little bit confused. Do I really have some sort of superpower because I’ve chosen to raise children? Is the absence of mothers anything like the dreaded absence of fathers that people always gripe about? Does having two moms there for you somehow make you even more prepared to face the world?
What do you think?