“My son, my son, please don’t break my heart, ” cried my friend as she waved goodbye to her child who was off to party that night. She said this every time he left the house. I would laugh at her earnestness – short of taunting her for being uber ma-drama yet at the same time, I felt a tinge of sadness because no matter how many times she repeated it, there was no guarantee that he won’t.
I broke my mother’s heart when I gave up playing the piano. She didn’t get mad but she walked slowly away and said, “Someday, you’ll regret it.” And she was right. Again, I broke her heart when I threw caution to the wind and defied her wishes. Thank goodness, she didn’t give up on me. Instead, she continued to plead and pray for me until I realized the wisdom of her counsel before it was too late. How many times did my mother save me? Maybe, much more than I care to admit.
You won’t know it yet, but when one becomes a mother, there is a special grace given from above to help you become one. The moment you lay eyes on this miracle of creation, nestling close to you, you turn into the most gentle, tender person. You cradle him with utmost care and you become sensitive, loving, patient, generous and tolerant all at once. The transformation is so pronounced that you’d amaze yourself at how natural it all seemed to be, like second skin that just grew in you.
But just as fast, the tests begin. This little person you’ve grown to love unconditionally would be the same person who would hurt you with a pain so intense that it could leave you bone-weary and deprived of life and emotion.
It begins with an exchange of words that escalate to a heated argument until you are forced to draw up a line where you assert your authority over your child hoping that it would diffuse the tension and the growing coldness and detachment your child feels for you and vice-versa. That’s when tears well up and you steel yourself to hide the anguish that’s eating up your heart.
But like any mother, you don’t dwell on it. You forgive, you move on. What mother would give anything to shield her child from harm? Why could not the child see the darkness ahead? His mother would have caught a moonbeam and throw it across his path to light it.
Father Domie Guzman SSP, drew a parallel between Abraham and Mama Mary. When God tested Abraham and asked him to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice, Abraham did not question God but without hesitation, built an altar to perform the sacrifice. Just when Abraham was about to slay Isaac, God intervened.
Picture Mary at the foot of the Cross. God has asked Mary to drink the cup of suffering to fulfill the salvation of man. She offered her Son as the sacrifice. Would she have wished God to intervene and stop her just like what God did to Abraham? Probably, it crossed her mind. But she was following the will of the Father. When she said yes to become the mother of Christ, she also said yes to the passion and death of Christ. The pain that was gnawing at her heart was foretold and still when the time came, her broken-ness was beyond measure.
The challenge to Mary was to follow what Jesus was doing: To forgive. Could we have the compassion to forgive just like Mary did?
I found it quite amusing to compare Mary to some of the film clips we see of hysterical mothers who would be flapping their arms wildly and screaming and wailing at the top of their voices to express their grief. Mary was the “mater dolorosa”. She wept in silence. She showed the serenity of a strong woman.
In any language, a son without a mother is called an orphan. But what do you call a mother without a son? No word can describe the concept of grief and pain.
My friend, Jopee Valencia-Gueco, passed away a few years ago. Jopee struggled with poor health complicated by a donor kidney, diabetes, poor eating habits, bad cholesterol and hypertension. She surprised us all because beyond the constant emergency treatments she underwent, she kept her spirits high. Her biggest test however was to lose her two sons spaced five years apart. Her body was limp and numb but she accepted her fate in full resignation and humility. We tried to steer her away from dwelling on her loss – hard and wrenching as they were – and the fact that she kept her sense of humor helped a lot. However, in the privacy of her garden, I would catch her praying and lifting her pain to God.
When she was cremated, I held the bag containing her ashes – still warm – before it was placed in a marble urn. I felt deep sorrow but it did not weigh me down. Although Jopee suffered long, she carried her cross with joy. I suspect that her love for her sons must have been so strong that she didn’t want another day to pass without being with them, and God agreed.
Another friend was about to be wheeled to the operating theater and I held her hand to reassure her that everything would be fine. The surgeon came up to her and with a naughty glint in his eyes asked, “Are we ready for some pain?” She gave a smirk and replied, “Of course, I’m a mother.”
And so I pray, “Holy Mother, cast a gaze of kindness upon those who suffer, upon those who struggle against misfortune and whose lips are ceaselessly tinged with the bitterness of life. Have mercy upon the loneliness of the heart, upon those who weep, upon those who tremble. Give hope and peace to all, Amen.”