Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Do You Replace a Mother?

When I signed off from blogging a few months ago, I never expected my next entry would be about something so tragic and so personal. But, as I'm sure most everyone knows, life happens, trials come, tragedies occur, and we are left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep breathing in and out--even when it takes a conscious effort to do so, to try to find understanding in whatever event that occurred that rocked our very world.

Three weeks ago my brother lost his wife. She was 31. She was perfect. She was beautiful and healthy and full of life. She was the mother of two children.

In the days following her death we tried so hard to make sense of it all. She was not feeling well, had gotten up in the night and thrown up, thought she had a little flu bug that was going around. The next day she felt better. She was tired and lay down to take a nap. She never woke up.

I have thought of this dear sister of mine continuously over the past few weeks. And I've thought of my brother, only 31 himself and now a widower. And I've thought of their children. Michael is only five, just beginning his first year of kindergarten. Olivia celebrated her first birthday (without her mother) yesterday. And I've wept for these dear children. Not because they will not know love now; not because they are alone; not because their futures are not bright. But, how do you replace a mother?

It's not that I mean to diminish in any way a father's role in the lives of his children. His influence is so important, his role in a home so vital. But, he's not a mother. He may be able to cook, to clean, to taxi, to teach, to guide. But he's not a mother. He may be a great multi-tasker, a patient listener, a careful organizer. But he's not a mother. How do you replace a mother?

When little Michael can't find his backpack, it's Mom who always can. When he asks for a particular shirt to wear, it's Mom who knows just which one he's talking about. When he sits down for breakfast before school, it's Mom who knows what his favorite thing to eat is--oatmeal--and she makes it just the way he likes it. When Olivia is crying inconsolably, it's Mom who can soothe her. When she smiles that beautiful smile, it's Mom who lights up right along with her. When she's taking a bath, it's Mom who knows she doesn't like to lean back, but would rather have water poured on her head. You see, Moms just know stuff no one else does. So, how do you replace a mother?

Grandmas step in and offer love and stability. Aunts and uncles wrap loving arms around as often as they can and whisper love. Grandpas show more patience and listen more attentively to stories about school and friends and ideas. Cousins are especially kind and spend more time playing. Friends are understanding, offering sympathy and concern. Teachers take special note to attend to tender feelings. Dad does all he can to mend the hurt and fill the void. But, regardless of everyone's selfless efforts, how do you replace a mother?

Leaders of nations are replaced by their successors. Soldiers that fall in battle are replaced with new recruits. Retirees are replaced by fresh graduates. Sports heroes are replaced by younger replicas. But, how do you replace a mother?

The answer is straightforward. You don't because you can't. You see, a mother is the one person in all the world who simply cannot be replaced. No matter how many people love Michael and Olivia, no matter how hard everyone tries to make up for their loss, the truth is, it can't be done. No one is Zoe. No one is their mother.

And so, I just want to say to every mother out there: Remember--you are not replaceable. No one can step in and do your job in just the way you do it. No one can love, nurture, guide and bless her children like you can. No one. And for all of you who have lost your mothers, my heart goes out to you, for you have lost a precious jewel.

When I think of my dear sister-in-law, I think of a woman who gave everything to being a mother. She only had a few short years with her children, and she soaked them all up. She was bright, she was funny, she was dedicated, she was irreplaceable.

And so are you.