I have a stepmom, the lady who somehow put up with me when she married my dad and I was on that awful cusp of being a teenager. She has loved me, supported me and claimed me as her own.
A mother-in-law, the one who didn’t get to choose me, and claims me anyway. She is full of wisdom and the good humor needed to raise four boys.
There are the other mothers, too — the ones at church who’ve taken me on as a project and as a friend, the ones who have loved me in the midst of such personal transformation and growth.
No one tells you, when you become a mom, that you will lay down who you were, that your children will not stop to think of you as a person beyond being their mom, or that maintaining partner relationships can be hard when you’re both wrapped up in paying the bills and raising good people. It’s hard sometimes, to juggle our personal desires and dreams with sports schedules and forgotten lunches. No one tells you that you will remind your children to “please finish your milk and eat your fruit” 86 times as I have just done.
And yet, on Mother’s Day, I see of all the women who are standing in line with their hands out waiting to receive what I have. The women working through the pokes and prods and disappointments of infertility. The women who have miscarried or lost children. The ones who would give anything for the messy and chaotic gift of a child.
I recognize that there are women whose mothers have damaged them, left them or abused them.
Mother’s Day isn’t a holiday for everyone; instead, it can be a time of remembering very real pain and trauma, of living again the grief of dreams that have died, of mourning mothers who have passed on and who are not here with us anymore.
But family is about more than who is related to us by blood. Family is who shows up. Family is the people who care for you when you don’t deserve it, the people you will let down over and over again but who won’t give up on you. Family is neighbors who shovel your walk, friends who watch your kids, people who bring casseroles after a funeral or a surgery — these people count, too, and all of these strong and wise people, especially the women, should be counted on days like Mother’s Day. Family shows us that love is the way.
You can continue to disagree with me, but what we need is love. In the grief of more dead children and teachers, in a world that feels upside down and backwards, we need to care for each other. There is not another way; it cannot be about us but must always be about others.
Love casts out fear. Love shows us a different way to live and a different way to be. Love isn’t about who has the biggest house or the newest car, love is about every child fed. Love is about radical welcome for every person. This is the sort of love we have received, and the sort of love we are called to give back.
As Bishop Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said at a wedding recently: “Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way. Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way — unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive. When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
“When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.”
Thank you. Thank you to all the strong women in our midst, the doers and the huggers, the scolders and the peacemakers, the joyful and the bereft. We need you and we see you. Thank you to the people who aren’t blood but are family, the ones who keep showing up, the ones who give radical welcomes and love sacrificially every chance they get.
And we belong to each other. We really, really do. Love is the way.
— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist