25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19.24-27)
Mother’s Day is always fun when the kids are young – the homemade crafts, the valiant efforts of breakfast making, and the conscientious attention a mother receives in contrast to the usual “being taken for granted” and “aww mom, do I have to” gestures. My son is a sweet boy – caring, empathetic, a rule follower. When I was pregnant with him, it was as if this little organism had invaded my whole body. I felt pregnant from head to toe – migranes, severe morning sickness, bloody noses, swelled feet, strong cravings for watermelon, and oh yeah . . . my favorite, constipation. Sorry if that is sharing too much, but like I said, I was literally pregnant from head to toe.
My daughter is also sweet or should I say, sweet and sour. When she is happy, she is electric, contagious, and absolute pure joy. When she is upset, she is . . . well what can I say? . . . sour. Unlike my son, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I was “cute pregnant.” I was the kind of pregnant woman that didn’t look pregnant until you saw this little cantaloupe sticking out of my body.
Now while being pregnant with my son was horrible, he made up for it at birth. The epidural was my best friend and before you knew it . . . Voila! He was born. I am convinced that my pregnancy with my daughter was her way of luring me into a false sense of security. I had gotten used to the sweet symptoms of pregnancy. What I wasn’t prepared for was screaming so loud at the birth that it would have made the actresses you see giving birth in the movies seem like they were under-acting. In some ways, I wonder if my son was born too soon. I always said that he could have benefitted from having an elephant for a mother. Nine months just didn’t seem long enough, unlike my daughter who pushed her way out a week early. I swear after she came out, she looked at me to say, “Thanks mom for the nine months, I’ve got to get going to a job interview I have lined up.”
And now Mother’s Day – the one day devoted to mothers – seems to make it all seem worth it. This year, since Mother’s Day is so close to Easter, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary. Easter is usually such a celebratory time, where we are reminded to live as resurrected people, live into the hope, live into the dawn of the new day. Christ has died and conquered death. He has risen indeed. But I wonder, through Mary’s eyes, through a mother’s eyes, how does one live the resurrection? Even if her son had conquered death, it doesn’t take away the images of watching her son die a horrible death; it doesn’t take away the pain a mother feels when her child is suffering. I wonder how many times Mary looked back when she gave birth to her son during those moments of sitting near the cross. When Jesus carried the cross through town did Mary think of the long journey she took to Bethlehem while pregnant? When the people yelled “Crucify Him!” did it remind Mary of the time they escaped Egypt to protect her baby boy from King Herod? When Jesus cried out his last cry did Mary think about the cries she let out when giving birth? And when he breathed his last breath did Mary cling to the memory of when she saw him breath his first breath – born in a manger?
Ask any mother, the pain of losing a child at any age is a heavy weight to carry. Sarah Walker Cleaveland, a Spiritual Director, shares her thoughts on trying to lose weight after losing her twin boys 19 weeks into the pregnancy. She says,
You would think that the death of twin boys and our grief surrounding that loss would be all-consuming. What is a few extra pounds in the face of such a loss? But, if I’m honest, on a day to day basis, it is the extra weight that bothers me the most. Maybe it is that the death of babies is too big to grasp most days, too big to carry around when the rest of life goes on. Or maybe it is simply that extra weight is the only thing that is tangibly different in my life now that we are no longer pregnant. Whatever the reason, the weight bothers me.
I told my spiritual advisor about it one day. It’s so frustrating I complained. And I’m so frustrated that this is the aspect of our loss that frustrates me the most. Sounds normal she said. Sounds like you are carrying the weight of this loss with you in more ways than one. Oh I thought.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe that is how we are to live the resurrection. We all carry the weight of the world – the violence in the Middle East, the economic crisis, the state of public school education, the destruction of tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods. We carry the weight of the loss of loved ones, the loss of dreams, and the loss of jobs. We bear the scars of mistakes learned, tragedies overcome, and pain endured. Even after the resurrection, Jesus showed his scars to Thomas. And with Thomas’ doubt, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ fear, Jesus still called them – just as they are to live the resurrection. And like any grieving mother, one never stops carrying the weight, but Christ still calls us just as we are to share the weight of the world.
Here’s a wonderful video of examples of how mothers live the resurrection while carrying the weight of the world (created by To Mama with Love):