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A Mother By Any Other Name Is Love

"The greatest misfortune of my life has come!" These words were written by a monk after the death of his mother, and reflect exactly how I felt when I lost my mother on March 28th 1992. The following poem echoes that loss;

"That year, although I was still very young

My mother left me.

And I realized

That I was an orphan.

Everyone around me was crying.

I suffered in silence...

Allowing the tears to flow,

I felt my pain soften.

Evening enveloped Mother's tomb,

The pagoda bell rang sweetly.

I realized that to lose your mother

Is to lose the whole universe."

The poem is part of a Buddhism tradition outlined in the Rose Ceremony in the Plum Village Chanting Book. The entire reading evokes sweet memories of my mother. Her sweet, tender commitment to loving me from the inside out taught me to love myself. The fragrance of her love fills my soul with joy. She influenced my life in meaningful ways that included her wisdom, knowledge, strength, patience, love, generosity and kindness. Without my mother I could have never known how to love. It's because of her love for me that I learned to love all living beings. Compassion, understanding and forgiveness - all practiced by my mother and passed to me.

Mother, Mere, Maji, Urdu, Madre, Makuahine, Nanay, Anya, Ibu, and Matka. No matter what language, whoever has a mother has the most beautiful gift life has to offer.

Mother's Day dates back to the ancient Greeks, who held festivals to honor mother of the Gods, Rhea. Early Christians celebrated mother's festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. That date evolved into Mothering Sunday. The colonist whom settled in American discontinued Mothering Sunday because of the lack of time. But a smart and probably tired woman by the name of Julia Ward Howe organized a day for mothers devoted to peace. In 1907 Anna M. Jarvis a Philadelphia teacher initiated a movement to set up a national Mother's Day in honor of her mother. Ms. Jarvis' tireless commitment to establish Mother's Day was realized in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the Second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers.

The increasing practice of gift giving and commercialization of Mother's Day was not Ms. Jarvis intention but nonetheless has become an integral part of Mother's Day. The ritual of buying instead of showing love cheats mothers who need or desire nothing more than the acknowledgement that she is appreciated. In the Plum Village Chanting Book it is written eloquently, "If you love your mother, you don't have to do anything. You love her; that is enough."

This Mothers Day I suffer great pain. My one and only child, my son, has not spoken to me since September 2007. He called me on a Sunday afternoon and told me succinctly, clearly, and unemotionally that he no longer wanted me in his life. I was as shocked, hurt, and saddened then as I am now writing this. How could my only child that I love so intensely not want me in his life? His rationale and explanation were muddled and so unlike the loving boy-child I had loved all of his life and all of mine. I knew as he spoke there was no room for discussion - he had only called to inform me of his decision to cut me out of his life. What could I have done to hurt him so? What could I have done for him to sever me from his life? I don't know but I do know I would have, if I could have, changed his heart. I would have fought harder to keep him on the phone. I would have crawled across the miles to get near him and to hold him close to remind him how our hearts beat as one from the day I laid eyes on him. I would have moved heaven and earth and made a deal with God and become a mother stalker if I had known that Sunday afternoon the loss I feel now. My mother told me that children should not die before their parents, and now I know what she meant. The black hole in my heart is bottomless as I mourn the physical loss of my son. I remind myself that this challenge will make me stronger that it serves some higher purpose and has nothing to do with me. My son has separated from me but he cannot stop me from loving him. My love reaches across the miles and hugs him close every moment of everyday. I pray that he is happy and excelling in life. My mother's love was unconditional for me and so is my love for my son, though I miss him terribly.

I am ending this posting with an excerpt from Plum Village Chanting Book, "Tonight, when you return from school or work, or the next time you visit your mother, go to her room calmly, silently, with a smile, and sit down beside her. Without saying anything, make her stop working, and look at her for a long time. Look at her well, in order to see her well, in order to realize she is there, alive, sitting beside you. Then take her hand and ask her this short question, "Mother, do you know something?" She will be a little surprised, and will ask you, smiling, "What, dear?" Continuing to look into her eyes with a serene smile, tell her, "Do you know that I love you?" Ask her this question without waiting for an answer. Even if you are thirty, forty years old, or older, ask her simply, because you are the child of your mother. Your mother and you will both be happy, conscious of living in eternal love. And tomorrow when she leaves you, you will not have any regrets."

This Mother's Day wherever you may be, may you be loved.

From my heart to yours, Happy Mother's Day.

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