Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Not alone

Last Sunday was Mothers’ Day here in the UK. For the second year running, we set up stall in the shopping centre next door to the Minster in the run-up. Over a day, our volunteers invited passers-by to write a message or a prayer, an expression of gratitude for a mother or grandmother, living or dead, with the messages to be displayed for several days in the Minster—a space that is open daily to the public, as a place of sanctuary in the city centre. We also invited them to hold a tea-light as they brought their mother to mind, and then to leave it with us, to be lit at our service on Sunday morning. We lit over 200. See pictures, below.

Today I found myself re-reading all the Mothers’ Day messages on display this week at Sunderland Minster. There were plenty of expressions of love for the living, but many more expressing how the writers miss mothers or grandmothers who have died.

I know that Mothers’ Day is complicated; a difficult day for many, including (though not limited to) those who have lost their mother; and needs to be handled with sensitivity.

But I am struck by the value of being able to express the grief we carry. Again and again, the messages say, miss you every single day. But on almost all of those days, and on their birthdays or other significant anniversaries, that grief is carried on our own. Mothers’ Day is one day in the year when we get to say “I miss my mum” in the safety of doing so collectively with others. Ritual, that enables us to see that we are not alone. And to lift one another up to God.

And that is the gift of such a day, albeit perhaps quite unintended by the sellers of greetings cards.

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