On Easter morning, as sermons of redemption and poems of rebirth flood her social media feed, she considers whether and how one can be reborn after committing a terrible mistake that brings loss and grief to everyone she loves.
How does a mother find redemption when she naively – and selfishly – signed away her right to motherhood? How does she forgive herself for choosing a grief that will unfold over lifetimes in her child, her partner, and herself? And in her family, who will not have the privilege of knowing the lost child tied to them by blood and the kind of love that doesn’t have to physically touch to be felt.
How does she welcome community to encircle her if she cannot accept herself? She is terrified to face the Terrible Mother she sees in the mirror. She is ashamed of her, ashamed of who she’s become. She used to dance with Mother Kali and surrender to the fires of transformation. But what if she unconsciously embodied the violence of the dark goddess when she believed her dreams were being stolen? Maybe her weakness disguised itself as strength. Maybe her selfishness masqueraded as generosity. Maybe she was so afraid of losing the freedom she imagined that she cut away the best part of herself to claim it – the Good Mother. The Present Mother. The Mother who does not abandon. In abandoning her son, she abandoned herself and everyone she loves.
Once the abandonment started, it took years to stop.
The emptiness left in its place has no end.
Now she dances with the Goddess of Never Not Broken.
She was always the one to overcome, to turn tragedy into beauty, to rise from the ashes and lift her children with her. She just doesn’t know how to rise this time. Somehow she forgot that her children were her reason to fly. She denied that she was born to be a mother and offered the gift to a beloved instead, who later betrayed the gift and the sacred promise made when it was given.
She’s certain she lost her wings when she lost her son. She can’t see the beauty in the mess she’s made now. She doesn’t trust the future she’s condemned them to. She is hurt. She is scared. She doesn’t feel God here. She wonders if this is hell, a burning of the heart that can never be transcended. She imagines all the mothers who burn with the loss of a child – more mothers and reasons for the loss than can actually be imagined by a single heart or intellect.
Maybe resurrection isn’t for everyone. Maybe hell is alight here on earth with the flames of Mothers, burning in grief for the children they’ve lost to accidents, illnesses, and acts of nature; to choices, mistakes, and betrayals; to wars, hate crimes, and the decisions of men in charge of the institutions we all submit to. Christ may have risen from the grave but Mary still lost her son, the human man that she birthed and raised. Resurrection didn’t bring him back to her. She had to live with the burn of grief and the ache of loss for the rest of her life, as all mothers who lose their children do.
Art: Karyn Crisis, Mother Tiamat, 2008