What does one say on Mother’s Day?

My boys, Christmas 1982.

What do you say on Mother’s Day when the mom you’re talking to has lost a child, or to a person who has a bad — or no — relationship to his or her mother, or to someone whose child has abandoned her for whatever reason?

Do you say, “Happy Mother’s Day” anyway?

I still have a living son, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

But the son I lost sits heavy on my heart today.

I should still be Mike’s mom. He should still be here. It is not a happy day for me, even though my surviving son is doing well.

So, what do you say to someone like me?

How about this: “I’m thinking of you today.”

Or this: “I know your heart is heavy today. Tell me about your son.”

That first one is good for everyone — for a bereaved mother or a bereaved child, for someone whose relationship with their mother is complicated or nonexistent or to a mother whose child has walked away, no matter what the reason.

Today isn’t about flowers, sappy greeting cards and chocolate for everyone. For me, it’s about remembering my late son and renewing my vow to fight for health care justice so other mothers won’t have to endure what I do.

Yes, it’s about being grateful for what I still have, but please don’t tell me I should stop thinking about Mike and focus on the living. He should still be among the living and I’m never going to get past that.

The loss of my child still drives me to seek justice — and it makes me dangerous because I don’t fear much. The worst thing that can happen to a parent has happened to me. Nothing can hurt me more than that. You can arrest me (that’s happened four times already, thank you), you can throw me in prison. Yes, that would be bad, but not as bad as losing my child.

What do I want to hear today? I want to hear that you’ll stand with me as I fight for health care justice.

I want to hear you’ll fight for a living wage so parents can support their children and still be able to spend time with them.

I want to hear you’ll fight for education so that all children can have an equal chance to do well in life.

I want you to stand with me as I fight for women’s rights to equal pay opportunity and to dominion over their own bodies.

I want you to stand against racist policing and all the other ways we treat people of color differently than white people.

I want you to stand up for immigrants as our government pulls families apart.

I want to hear you’ll fight for voting rights and fair elections so its the people who control our government, not corporations.

I want you to say you’ll stand for the rights of LGTBQ people so they can live their lives in peace as who they are.

I want you to say you’ll stand for peace and resist war with all your being.

I want you to join me as we kick off the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. I want us to fight for social, economic and racial justice together.

I’m not just thinking of happy white mothers in intact families today; I’m thinking of mothers and children who are struggling.

Please, please, put down the flowers, cards and chocolate and stand up for justice. There’s no better way to honor mothers than to stand for justice for all of us.

2 comments

  1. TJ Amos says:

    I will stand with you.

  2. Gann says:

    As a mother, godmother, grandmother, aunt, daughter, niece, and cousin, I stand with you for justice for all,Leslie. Thank you for this powerful post.

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