Remember me when I am gone away
Gone far away into the silent land:
When you can no more hold me by the hand
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember; do not grieve
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had
Better by far you should forget and smile,
Than that you should remember and be sad.
This poem, written by Christina Rossetti in the 1800s holds, for me at least, a universal relevance to loss. It is equally applicable to the passing of a mother, friend, child, spouse …. The beauty of the words is emphasised by the constant prompts to remember which run like a refrain throughout the sonnet. At the time the poem was written, the process of mourning was in many ways far more public and visible than it is today; much was written about it in this rather pensive and tentative style.
Given the quaintness of the archaic language, the sentiments remain viable on a day when we are likely to be visiting our own personal losses.
Mother’s Day is a day that fuses joy and poignancy in equal mix. I always remember my late mum fondly, but particularly so on Mother’s day. Though she died in 2001, quite a while ago now, I could never forget her and smile as Rosetti suggests, rather I remember her, and smile.
That would be my hope for anyone who is mourning their mum this Mother’s Day, whether the loss is recent or longer ago.
Reminiscing, examining and holding fond memories are some of the best ways to recall a loving and much loved mum. A mum who is firm but fair, who can be a best friend as well as a mother, a role model, supporter, tear-wiper, empathiser, nurturer and teacher – those of us who have – or had – mothers like this are indeed fortunate.
And when these very special mums have left us, what else is there to do but to draw in that distinctive, maternal love and make it ours? … then we can share it with our nearest and dearest. It is a joy to pour the love that our mothers have given us onto our husbands, siblings, children, friends. We keep the memories of our mums alive by paying forward all that love they showered on us in their lifetime. We smile and laugh fondly in our remembering.
I remember too how becoming a mother myself, taught me so much about my own mum. Suddenly I had parental responsibility for the gift of new, precious life and from mum’s experience she knew exactly how that would make me feel.
Loving and supportive, she was always there for me with advice, guidance, humour and affection. If there were exams for being a good mum to my brother and I … our mum would have passed with flying colours.
I have been blessed with two wonderful children, and despite losing James, I remain the mother of two wonderful children.
Stella and I always mark Mother’s Day though it is poignant with memory for both of us.
Stella is now a happily married mum herself, not only to Charlie, but also to Grace, her beautiful daughter who was born in December 2016.
Mother’s day celebrations are not limited to mums and daughters, either. Boys can give their mum flowers too – as an older teen, James invariably managed to find a last minute bouquet, though it’s fair to say he usually borrowed the funds to buy it! It’s easy to sanctify him now, but his heart was in the right place and the love and affection he held for his family and friends was never in doubt.
My Stella shines in her own right, like a bright star in my maternal constellation, just as James does, even though he is no longer with us.
And now Stella and I are so lucky to have the wonderful continuum of life as grandmother, mother and daughter to celebrate.
Becoming a grandmother to my daughter and stepdaughter’s children brings me great joy and I love my extended maternal role.
A mother’s status is undoubtedly underrated as the life affirming and responsible position that it is. Mothers put their children first without question. As a mum, you instantly become unselfish – yet you hold selfishly to the joys of babyhood, cherishing the memories of your children’s early responses to your loving.
You treasure every little piece of love that your child gives you and reflect it, bouncing it back to them without any forethought.
The bond that is formed between you in those early days is never broken. Your children remain your babies, and they stay part of you forever.
Even when you lose your child and you grieve, you grieve with love as well as sorrow.
You grieve with regret for the future that your child cannot have but you also grieve with loving memories of the time that you had together, however short that may have been.
Moving forward as a mother after you have lost a child is a massive challenge. You question your abilities as a mother, you even question your right to be a mother. You cannot help feeling that you must have failed in some way for your child to die. You would bargain anything if it would only give you back your child.
But slowly, the guilt lessens, the sadness becomes absorbed and you discover the lessons that grief has taught. You acquire a new, loving kind of wisdom, a new vision for looking forward. Though there is nothing to forgive, ultimately you feel forgiven.
When you lose a child, other mothers will be filled with fear of how they would cope if this unimaginable thing happened to them.
Instead of dwelling on that, I exhort all mothers to dwell on the love they have for their children, not their fear of living without them. As bereaved parents, the loss of your children does not lessen your maternal love; rather it intensifies it into new directions and takes you to places you could never have imagined.
Motherhood is not only biological, it can also be spiritual. Many people looking for a maternal figure can turn to those who may not already be mothers and they too can share in that special kind of guiding love; it is truly love without bounds.
Please heed Rosetti’s message to remember, especially on Mother’s Day.
In remembering rejoice in the power of maternal love, the sheer joy of loving unconditionally and being loved in return.
It is quite simple, really. Love is the important thing, whoever you are; and whether those whom you love remain in the present, or are lovingly woven into your past. Happy mother’s day to all mothers and children.