(This post was written and shared by one of our A Weigh Out Circle Members…)
SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW
By Sharon Kohout, May, 2012
I have been acutely aware for months now that Mother’s Day falls on May 13th this year. The date is probably not noteworthy for anyone else, but it has special meaning for me. On this Mother’s Day I will be standing in a cemetery in the rural east Texas town of Mineola – facing the gravestones of my grandmother Bessie Leach, my mother Annabelle Saunders Leach, and my daughter Shayne Ann – all of whom died on May 13th. It feels surreal – like I know there is a lesson somewhere in this occasion. The burden will be heavy – I will cry and grieve – but will ultimately thank God for the gifts each of these beautiful women gave me.
I am struck by the tender yet resilient ties that bind our generations and the comfort that these bonds provide. Our lives are shaped not only by the tragedies, but also by the opportunities for healing that these great sorrows provide. As this particular Mother’s Day approaches, I have come to a poignant realization. We mothers see ourselves as the “constant gardeners” of our children’s lives. But if we will let ourselves be vulnerable we can be the recipients of a most precious gift: a child’s great capacity to restore and heal our hurting hearts.
Images from past and present bring this home to me. It is May 1962 and
I am 12 years old. Sound asleep in my bed, I sense my mother crawling in next to me. She is sobbing and I am stunned into wakefulness by her tears and moans. She tells me in halting phrases that my 19 yr. old half sister, Dianne, has been killed in a car accident. My dad has headed to the hospital and my mom is bereft. The picture is carved forever in my mind: I am cradling and comforting my mother while she grieves inconsolably.
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day 1988. As I am standing alone in my bedroom in Lubbock, TX, quiet tears are running down my face. It’s a difficult holiday because it marks the 3rd anniversary of the day I discovered that my mother had terminal cancer. She died at age 62, just three months after her diagnosis, and I am still mourning the fact that she is not here to see my three children grow and thrive. It just seems too much to bear. My 12-year-old daughter Shayne enters the room and wraps her arms tightly around me. The image of the two of us standing in front of the dresser mirror – crying and rocking together – is a precious one.
November 2010 brings yet another image. My 30-year-old daughter Paige and I are standing in the Atlantic Ocean at Myrtle Beach, SC. I watch Paige’s arm wave gracefully in the sunshine while she releases the ashes of her beloved sister Shayne onto a cool breeze. At first I feel wooden. I can’t, I won’t let go. But I gradually turn my face to the sun and pray and my fingers slowly open. Paige steps through the water to me and cradles me in her arms. My tears mix with the ocean…and the ashes….and the prayers….and I feel that peace will come again.
Most recently, I am sitting in a rocking chair in Austin,Texas…cradling my first grandson, six-month old Jayden, and singing “Tender Shepherd” from the musical Peter Pan. Those big eyes stare up at me in wonder and his tiny hand pats my cheek. The healing in those eyes and in those little fingers that begin to wrap around my own is a reminder to me that, even in our darkest moments, there can also be great joy.
And so it goes. Sorrow and joy, shadow and sunlight, holding on and letting go. It’s a rhythm that mothers of all generations understand and, ultimately, must accept. But if we look both to the past AND to the future, we may find special gifts of wisdom and comfort in unexpected places.
May Mother’s Day bring you one of those special gifts!