by Father Mark Goldasich
I thought I’d made it through the first round.
But I’d forgotten there’s one more, and it’s the hardest.
I’m talking about celebrating the holidays for the first time without a loved one physically present. In this case, it’s my mom. She died on June 4 of last year, age 101. I marked my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and, finally, Mom’s birthday — which fell, providentially — on Easter Sunday this year.
Each of those days was good — thanks to family and friends — but just not the same, somehow emptier.
The holiday I’d forgotten is this Sunday, Mother’s Day, my first without her. Since stories can express deep truths, ponder this one:
“Can I see my baby?” the happy new mother asked.
As she moved the fold of the cloth to look upon his tiny face, she gasped. The baby had been born without ears.
Time proved that the baby’s hearing was perfect. It was only his appearance that was marred. When he rushed home from school one day and flung himself into his mother’s arms, she sighed, knowing that his life was to be a succession of heartbreaks. He blurted out the tragedy, “A boy called me a freak.”
Eventually, the boy’s father met with the family physician to see if anything could be done. The doctor said, “I believe I could graft on a pair of outer ears, if they could be procured.”
After two long years, the father said, “You’re going to the hospital, son! Your mother and I found someone to donate the ears you need. But it’s a secret!” The operation was a huge success. The boy’s talents blossomed, and his school years became a series of triumphs.
Later, the boy married and entered into the diplomatic service. Yet, he remained curious about the donor. “Who gave so much for me?” he asked. “I could never do enough for him.”
No matter how many times he asked, however, his parents insisted on keeping the secret.
One day, the mother died, and the son and his father looked into her casket at the funeral home. Slowly and tenderly, the father stretched out his hand and lifted the thick, reddish-brown hair to reveal that the mother had no outer ears. (Adapted from Meir Liraz’s “Top 100 Motivational Stories.”)
Liraz notes: “Real love lies not in what is done and known, but in what is done but not known.”
Well, my mom gave her ears to me — not physically and not once, but many times over the years. She listened to my cries as an infant, I’m sure, and soothed me; heard me wail over skinned knees and comforted me; patiently endured my endless questions and meandering stories; was always present to pay attention to my successes and heartaches.
And even later in life, when her hearing was not as acute, she could somehow always hear and understand me.
She loved getting a blessing on Mother’s Day. This year, when many may be physically separated from their moms, say this prayer — source unknown — for them.
“God our Creator, we pray:
For new mothers, coming to terms with new responsibilities;
For expectant mothers, wondering and waiting;
For those who are tired, stressed or depressed;
For those struggling to balance the tasks of work and family;
For those unable to feed their children, due to poverty;
For those whose children have physical, mental or emotional issues;
For those with children they do not want;
For those raising children on their own;
For those who have lost a child;
For those caring for children of others;
For those whose children have left home;
And for those whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Bless these moms, that their love may be deep and tender, so they may lead their children to know and do what is good — living not for themselves alone, but for God and others. Amen.”
Hey, Mom, I know you’re still listening: I love you and miss you.