Mother and Son

What am I to make of Mother? At this stage my mum is in care as she slips slowly and surely into a world of limited words, memories and conversation. This (as many carers will tell you) is not the mother I have known.

Mother The Cook. Mother the Washer Woman. Mother the keeper of My Father. (Often keeping him away from us kids I suspect). Mother The all-round advisor, visionary and encourager. Mother the Champion Businesswoman in our suburb. This is (or was) my mother.

She had a saying when I strayed (often to her hurt) from the expected.

“Gladly my little cross I’d bear.” To my insensitive ears it made no sense, since what I heard was, “Gladly my little cross-eyed bear.” She would bear the cross of my being a rather disappointing son by not doing whatever she had in mind for me.

In that, she was a fellow traveller with the parable teller’s mother who found it difficult when her son did not follow a life-path which she may have expected. This was the son promised to her by other-worldly visitors and life changing events. This is the son who was seen by her surrounding relatives as illegitimate. He was certainly special. Mystics came soon after the birth to visit and bring gifts. A king wished to kill him so the family became refugees.

Special. There was a trip when he was 12 years old where he painfully vanished for a couple of days. She knew he had special abilities so when at a wedding at which they were both guests ran out of alcohol, she pushed him to do something only to earn a rebuke for her trouble, yet to have before her eyes an unexpectedly generous miracle. It is recorded that she “kept all these things in her heart.” But it was only the beginning of curious and heart-wrenching pain.

He became a wandering teacher and healer. He gathered round a group of rag tag followers. He became an object of desire for some, and a structural threat to others. He narrowly avoided being at the head of a mob who wanted to make him king. In time though he managed to irrevocably offend and upset the entrenched power bases and become a condemned man. Yet to his mother, what had he done? Told some obscure stories. Healed the sick and tormented. Made some astute observations about existing political structures. But he wasn’t a criminal. They killed him anyway.

The Roman method of execution was certain and brutal. It was a cross on which you hung until your body gave way. From one to four days. This was where he died. His followers fled. His mother watched. His mother watched and bore this cross way beyond our imagining.

This is mothers. They bear us in the beginning and then bear with us in various states through our lives. The cross we put on them is our own doing. Our own errant behaviour. For the mother of Jesus it was a cross of unfairness, unreasonableness and irrationality. By this time, in all probability a widow, it was a strike at the very heart where she kept her hopes dreams and memories.

What is the cross we have put on our mothers? Some of us may not even be aware of being a “cross eyed bear” to them. The record is that Jesus died, was buried after the cross, but rose out of the grave to see his mother again. Is it, on Mothers’ Day, time to visit our mothers, understand the cross they have borne and bring new life to our relationships?