The table held 14. It was full. There were five mother’s and one baby boy to represent mother number six whose lungs had filled just two days before with pneumonia. Some of those relationships went back forty plus years. My history with them was shorter. Only 15-20. But when heads bowed to give thanks for the food before this crowd, my thoughts crowded right up with the cherishing companionship that had brought us here. Brought us to this Mother’s Day brunch.
The fact that we have a day to honor mother’s is all because of a woman named Ann Jarvis. Ann’s senses heightened during the Civil War when homes were void of men. No more Dad’s, Husbands, Brothers, Uncles, or man-sons. Homes held Mama’s, half-grown kids, babies, and the elderly only. Trying to make family into a verb was crumbled. However, what woke Ann up were new, sudden, quiet friendships among all the women. Companionship, turns out, was essential to survival. She watched another kind of family form when women began sharing letters, food, and conversation with each other. These women began to gather, especially when a son was lost. No matter the North or the South of the side, Ann watched these women cross lines to pull themselves out of the darkness of loss, desperately seeking to fill empty spaces with friendship. And when she began making the trek through war torn camps holding the typhoid fevered skeleton’s of all these sons, she found them again. All these Mama’s. Holding the wretched leftovers of what a fight for freedom looks like. And she knew she had to do something other then serve brunch. She wanted to make a public war-cry on the bleeding hearts of Women.
She wanted to bless them. To honor them. She felt it deep in her core. How a woman’s womb could empty right out and when her umbilical cord was severed from her son it would sever her ability to protect his life. So she would sit there. She would sit and read his letters, patch his clothes, peel his favorite potatoes, and one day, maybe , sit by his broken body and feel whole parts of her separate.
And loneliness could literally clamp tight across your core and dare you to breath.
Ann wanted to win something for them. Something to acknowledge their offering, their loss, their stoic ability to keep walking upright. She watched them reach for each other again and again. Put the teakettle on, shake out the laundry and clip it tight across the line, and move one shaky step forward. Pick each other up and hug tight and weep deep and pour hope into each other’s pain.
Ann’s gift was a calendar day to honor these women of war. To shape a day out of rigorous routine to honor their sacrifice. Girls who dreamed romantic dreams of weddings and babies, now turned into women of loss and death and diseases. Oh how she admired them!
Turns out, in the end, Ann needed her own companion. She did not get Mother’s Day accomplished on her own. Her daughter, Anna, had to experience her own loss when her Mama died. But Anna was that friend that took what was left behind and continued to push forward until President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day a national holiday.
Friend, it was the companionship that held these women up. Held them together. Held each other’s hands. Maybe that’s why Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stood together at the tomb of Jesus? Maybe it was in the helping that these two women found healing. Maybe it was the comradeship of common heartache that found them walking towards a rolled rock on a dawn lit Sunday morning. They NEEDED each other!
Maybe that’s what we all still need. Companionship. For the holding on while the world spins and the loss hits and the agony catches us? And in a personal way, I know this it true. You showed up when I needed you! You never questioned whether my hard was easier than yours. No. You just showed up. I love you for that!
Searching for pure companionship,