My first Mother’s Day without Mum
Not all mothers are perfect. But in a broken world, we give thanks for our mothers who have held that world together for us, especially at the most precarious of times. Pope Francis has said, “In today’s fragmented world, when we risk losing our bearings, a mother’s embrace is essential.”
This is the first Mother’s Day for me without my mother. The fair Patricia died seven months ago, aged 91, a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother many times over.
At Mum’s funeral, one of my sisters Anne, a mother and grandmother, reflected:
“I have the absolute privilege of talking about this wonderful woman, our mother. She was intelligent and curious. She was gentle and strong. She was so wise, yet humble. She had firm opinions but was open to new ideas and embraced change with interest and amazement. Her wit and, at times, irreverence were entertaining, genuine and endearing. Patricia Brennan was resilient. Her life was not always easy. It began happily but when Pat was aged five years, living in Mt Morgan Queensland, her young mother Rita Quinlan died. Two years later her young father, Dr Jo O’Hara died. Three little orphans were separated.”
Having traced the contours of Mum’s rich life as doctor, wife and mother, Anne, also a doctor, went on to say: “The great legacy Mum leaves is her seven well- educated children with good lives. This didn’t happen by accident. All parents work hard but Mum worked tirelessly and yet made time to read, relax and play. What Mum loved most was just to be with those she loved, who will always love, honour and remember her.”
Not every mother’s life is blessed. And no mother’s whole life is blessed. No family is perfect, and mothers are inevitably caught in the centre of the mess. For many mothers, life brings great burdens and tragedy. Today we particularly remember mothers who do it tough, those who have endured the loss of a miscarriage, those who carry the burden of caring for a child with acute disabilities and those who have known abuse and violence in the home. And we remember those who though not mothers have done much good mothering to nurture up-and-coming generations.
We know the comfort of being in our mother’s arms at those times when our joys and hopes, our fears and anxieties are intimately shared and securely held. It’s been in the embrace of our mother’s unconditional love that right values have been taught, and our lives enriched.
We remember those simple, most unlikely moments around the home when each of us had that time to be with our mother and for her to be so present to us. My sister Anne at Mum’s funeral reflected that the fair Patricia “had a unique strong relationship with each of us, to the point we each felt it was all about us, yet there were six others”. One of my fondest memories of my mother’s last days when she had dementia was when I wheeled her in her wheelchair down to a park by Sydney Harbour. It was a glorious late spring day. The water was glistening. The sky was blue. The jacarandas were in full bloom. I bought her a coffee. When she’d finished, I asked, ‘How was the coffee?’ She replied, ‘Mediocre’. She then smiled, her eyes lit up, she lifted her hands, and looked around, exclaiming, “But this!”
There she was in the autumn of her life surrounded by the beauty of nature, in company with one of her own. She counted herself abundantly blessed. And she was.
• An extract from Fr Frank’s Mother’s Day homily.