by Mike McDonough, Pastor of Spiritual Development

For me, the week before Mother’s Day is always full of bittersweet thoughts, memories, and emotions. (Yes, I do have emotions). I do not really know what it is like to grow up with “mom.” My mom was diagnosed with cancer while I was in early elementary school and passed away on my first day of 5th grade. I can still remember seeing my dad close the door of his car as I peered through the window at a friend’s house. He was coming to tell my sister and me the horrible news. 

I can’t imagine having to tell your kids their mother is gone, or raise kids on my own. He did an excellent job, but that blog post is for Father’s Day. Let me get back to the subject at hand.

Most of my memories were of my mom sick in bed, suffering from the effects of chemo, radiation, and the cancer. I do know that she loved me very much, and I remember playing board games, the Dumbo ride at Disney, and all the volunteer work she did even while she was sick. I would love to have known her as a teenager and adult – especially now having four kids of my own.

While the emptiness felt with the loss of my mom makes this week bitter, there is a sweetness to it as I think about all of the women that God used to shape me into the man I am today. 

While we mostly think of motherhood in the biological sense, I have come to know the meaning of motherhood through the many women who have helped take care of me throughout my life, whether they had kids or not. 

(This blog post is a whole lot harder to write than I originally anticipated.)

First, I think of my sister who took on so much as she herself was just becoming a woman. She drove me to practices and activities. She would help me shop for clothes. She was the one that did all of the “mom” stuff my senior year of high school even though she was away in college. 

My sister has picked up the phone and consistently called me, not waiting for me to call first. She has loved me unconditionally and done so much more than a sister should have to do. Mother’s Day is sweeter because she has, in some sense, filled the role of "mother" in my life.

I think of all of the carpool moms that made sure I got to where I needed to go and had everything I needed. I think of all my friends' moms who gave me an encouraging word, some fresh baked cookies, or even a hug. 

I think of all the women who took the time to talk to a young man, unknowingly giving me a mother’s perspective on life. I think of all the female teachers who truly cared and took extra time to teach me about life and not just math, science, English, or history. 

I think of women at our church who would make something for our family at the church potluck so we would have something “to bring.” Mother’s Day is sweeter because they made life a little easier for me and my family.

I now think of my wife and the mother of my four children. I am seeing motherhood on full display each and every day as I observe her take care of our kids. I am so glad that they have a woman in their life to take care of boo-boos, hold them when they are crying, and encourage them to learn, grow, and be adventurous. 

Mother’s Day is sweet because I get to see my kids have the best mom in the world.

For everyone out there facing bitterness this Mother’s Day, know that I am praying that God gives you a taste of His sweetness. I have come to experience it in my life, and I truly desire that you experience it as well. 

I do not claim to know all of the answers to the bitterness we face in life, but I do know that peace, contentment, hope, and healing are only found in Jesus Christ. I do not understand why my mom was not healed of cancer, but God has given me so much and His love for me is enough. May you find sweet rest in God’s love this Mother’s Day.

And to each and every woman who has helped me along the way, happy Mother’s Day!

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