… O evil day! if I were sullen / While Earth herself is adorning / This sweet May-morning; / And the children are culling / On every side / In a thousand valleys far and wide / Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm, / And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:— / I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
“Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)
My heart melted whenever my son Brennan brought me flowers he had culled.
When he was nearly three, he joyfully handed me discarded artificial blossoms. He asked me to smell them, so I did.
I asked, “What do they smell like to you?”
He plunged his face into the bouquet and breathed in. He looked at me with all seriousness. “Cheerios.”
For me, nothing has been more wondrous than raising my boys. Even with the exhaustion, the frustration, the terror, the powerlessness. The sorrow.
My motherhood began later in my life than for most mothers. A week after the due date, an ultrasound indicated my firstborn was twelve pounds.
Um, he wasn’t coming out naturally, even though I had a great midwife.
Sighing, I scheduled a C-section.
I had another week to wait. I was reminded of the words of Jesus when he broke bread with his disciples for the final time: This is my body which is broken down for you; This is my blood which is shared with you. Greater love has no one than this, than one lay down her life for her friends.
Or for one.
A baby boy named Brennan.
“Congratulations,” my doctor said after the surgery. “You’ve given birth to a two-month-old.” Brennan looked enormous beside the normal-sized babies.
I loved this precious new being with every breath. I held him at every opportunity. I sang to him, talked to him, read to him before we even left the hospital.
I wrote in my journal: “When I look at this baby, I don’t see a child; I see an extension of myself. I feel a bond that is stronger than death. It really hurts my soul to see him cry. I love being able to nurse him—to feed him with living water from my innermost being. To nourish and sustain him with my body. To give to him from my life’s blood, for it takes blood to make milk.
“Now I know what a mother’s love is. It has nothing to do with how the child turns out or how smart or gifted he is. All that matters is his happiness.”
When Brennan was a week old, I held him in my arms while I rocked. I cried for half an hour—a slow, silent, teary cry. I never wanted him to be hurt, so I prayed for his protection.
How prophetic. He could not find happiness for himself. He did not have the protection he needed.
It is said it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved. At the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation national conference in 2015 I spoke briefly about losing Brennan two months earlier. A woman came up to me, her eyes brimming with tears, her voice tremulous. She had lost her daughter a decade earlier to leiomyosarcoma. The pain of losing a child can come up anytime, anywhere, and produce copious tears. Time does not erase the agony. Would she trade this desolation for never having her beloved daughter? Never. No, never. I know that love and am grateful for the 19 years I shared with Brennan.
And the bond of love continues beyond the grave. It is deathless. (And as I write this, the song “We’re Walking in the Air” randomly plays on Pandora—it’s one of the songs played during Brennan’s memorial service. He is with me, even now… His essence is deathless. His presence is present. His love lingers.)
Even without this precious child still embodied to celebrate Mother’s Day with, I would be remiss to be sullen. I loved being his mother for 19 years; even in the darkest hours, I loved him with all my heart. He knew. And he still does.
So I will celebrate with my living son, my second-born, who soon will have lived longer than his older brother. He delights me with his humor, his insights, his love. He is the treasure of my life.
I have much to celebrate.
Thriver Soup Ingredient:
Please share this post with mothers who have lost their children. Thank you.