Rainy nights are good nights to walk and cry. The rain comes down along with the tears and there’s a solemn satisfaction in knowing emotions have trickled out. No one gets hurt; no one even has to know. The people who are closest to me know I’m a sensitive person, prone to rainy night walks. I try to keep it all buttoned in; really, I do. I don’t just “boo hoo” over everything, either, like puppies, kittens, and holiday beer commercials.
The things that make me cry are things which usually involve human struggle and suffering; the incomprehensibility of evil, man’s inhumanity to man, and random tragedy. When I witness these things first hand, it makes me cry.
One March evening, about ten years ago, I was visiting a friend who lives on the North Shore. We had dinner and as we looked out the restaurant window, snow started falling. It was not unexpected for that time of year. The snow picked up in intensity. This, combined with the fact that it was a Monday, made it an early night. As I merged onto the interstate on my drive home, I felt the wheels of my car give a little against the coated pavement. The bad weather warning bell went off in my head and I drove cautiously north to The Coop.
The next morning, I had an e-mail from an acquaintance. A woman from church had been in a car accident and died. Her four children, ranging in ages from four to twelve, had been in the car with her, but had sustained no “life threatening” injuries. I didn’t know the family well, but I had observed their life through the lives of others. This young mother had been devoted to homeschooling her children; choices and sacrifices had been made and they were swimming steadily against the cultural tide towards a different destination.
A random and tragic snowy evening changed their trajectory and it didn’t make sense to me. I asked myself “why her and not me?” This mother was so needed by her young children. When I compared my own shallow existence to hers, I was overwhelmed by the injustice of life’s circumstances.
Over time, I had occasion to babysit these children. We’d do Saturday things, like go to the beach or go to the movies. They were sweet and sad and silent most of the time. Then, through more of life’s random circumstances, their father moved them to the middle of America and I never saw them again. They must be all grown up by now.
Mother’s Day is an arbitrary commercial holiday here in the United States; it’s a day to honor our mothers. The woman who founded it spent her family’s fortune campaigning against the saccharine evolution of the holiday in her own lifetime. She died in poverty.
I am fortunate; my mother is alive and I spend a lot of time with her. I don’t wait until Mother’s Day to express my gratitude for the sacrifices she has made for me. As I walked tearfully through the rain, I contemplated these things and the randomness of life. I thought about those four motherless children again and I wept.
I mean no disrespect to Mother’s Day; I’m just taking a longer view on it now.
“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12, KJV.