Mother’s Day 2009 was particularly gruesome. I was living in that tortured season of hope that is a barren woman’s early thirties, and every month brought a fresh wave of pain, guilt, anger, and confusion. Mother’s Day was a fat, juicy lemon whose acid was being mercilessly squeezed into my open wound.
To make matters worse, I was without my husband that day. I can’t remember why – perhaps he was guest preaching out of town or on some seminary trip – but I walked into the church all by my lonesome that morning.
I had to walk past the table where corsages were being handed out to mothers in the congregation. The dreaded walk of shame. My cheeks burned red with humiliation.
A be-flowered friend stepped up to me in the narthex. She fingered her corsage while she spoke. I can’t remember what she said, but I remember the tightness in my throat as I willed the tears not to spill. If I could just make it into the church. Someone special was waiting for me there.
I slid onto a cold pew in the side wing of the nave. Next to the wheelchair.
“You can be my daughter today, and I’ll be your mother.”
“Thank you, Jeanne,” I whispered, the tears falling freely, now. I didn’t need to hide them from Jeanne. She already knew. Still, I wiped at them, not wanting anyone else to know.
We sat by each other through the whole service. I probably even leaned on her, she with the fragile back and weak cartilage. She was always stronger than she looked.
We took and ate the Body and Blood of our Lord together in the side chapel reserved for those who have trouble making it up to the altar. As we knelt at the rail, I whispered in her ear, “Jeanne, what do you think about when you take the Lord’s Supper?”
She didn’t balk at my imprudence. She and I always talked like this. Forthright. Familiar. Honest.
“I think,” she whispered back, “‘Lord, I am a sinner. Give me all.'”
Thank you, Jeanne, for being a mother to me in my grief, for mentoring me as a pastor’s wife, and for teaching me the prayer I still pray at the altar today. I rejoice in knowing that Christ Jesus has, indeed, given you all. I wait with you for the resurrection day, dear friend. +