Mother Heart

I am not a religious person.

I don’t got to church or temple or mosque. I don’t pray or bend a knee to Goddess or God. But after nearly fourteen years of motherhood I have come to believe in something, something fierce and  powerful and universal. Something outside of me, completely out of my control. Maybe it is Mary, or Hera, or Gaia. I don’t know the answer to those kind of questions. I only know that I’ve felt it. I’ve been wrapped up in it, been at one with it, some Jedi force of motherhood–birthed of something primal and fierce.

It would be poetic to say this connection to some universal mother’s heart is born of having had the lullaby of another’s heartbeat tied to your own for nine months, but I don’t think that’s true. There are mothers who did not physically bear or carry their children who know exactly what I’m talking about, and of course there are fathers, whose hearts rend and tear and rip as sure as any mother’s.

Yet there is something uniquely feminine and mysterious about the moon and the Earth and birth and the way it is all knotted together in this unknowable universe. There is something uniquely feminine in this great, universal beat of motherhood.

Maybe the drum beat thrum is tied to the planet or to the tides, like the blood that flows each month or the way that waves lap and play upon the shore. Maybe the gargantuan beat is held in place by the gravity of our own selves, hanging as pregnant as a full moon, ripe and heavy. It doesn’t matter. Through everything, it beats steady and strong.

Through mist or magic, or maybe even just the mundane, when you love a child, your own heart joins the chorus, picking up the tempo.

And so you go, until another mother’s heart suffers the unimaginable. When that happens, that central heart which sets our beat slows in mourning. It grows heavy.

Today I learned the son of an old playground friend had died. It was the kind of news where you do a double take, a triple, when you are sure you have misread or misunderstood. Because of course it makes no sense, no sense at all to lose a child, a child who was not ill or sick, a child who you’d only seen smiling and happy.

In what order of the universe is that ever acceptable?

And for the briefest of seconds you imagine the unimaginable–and in that split second of time, you can feel the splinter of another mother’s heart, in tandem with her grief, in solidarity with her loss. As my friend mourns her son, the heart of every other mother she knows weighs a little bit heavier, and the hearts of all the mothers those mothers know. And so on, and so on.

Perhaps that is why women keen and wail as they bury their dead. A dirge, not only for the dying, but for the living as well, a mourning song to lose yourself in, or to hide within while you put the pieces of your heart back together. Or a message, coded in grief: our hearts are breaking with you. Let us take the weight and bear it, even for just the space between a heartbeat or two.

A collective bleeding, a collective beating. That collective is why so many women, so many mothers, are affected so strongly by the pain and suffering of any child, their own, but the children of others they know and love, the children of strangers, who are in pain, the children of faraway countries who hurt. Because somehow, even though we didn’t bring those children to the breast, didn’t swaddle them against our heart, didn’t love them with the same ferocity and tiger’s growl of their parents–we feel it, because we have all imagined it. We have all had nightmares, shuttered our minds against the unimaginable.

When the unthinkable happens to someone we know, to a child we know, we are forced to confront it.

Let the Mother heart take over, my friend. Let the collective beat of all those motherhood hearts carry you through while you pause, while you put yours back together.

Let us provide cover for you while you need it.

I’m not religious. I don’t got to church or temple. I do not pray, not to any recognized Goddess or God. But I bow down to that great beating heart of humanity, of motherhood.

I know there are those of you who do. And if you do, please spare a thought, a moment, a prayer or a word for a family who is grieving. Who is suffering the unimaginable.

 

For Deb

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Mother Heart

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  1. You said it beautifully and perfectly. Motherhood grips your heart and soul unlike any other force in the universe. It brings love and laughter unlike anything else. It also brings fear that is straight from the depths of hell. My daughter turns 19 in a few days. I will never stop being her protector and her mother wolf. And I will light a candle for those in grief from a loss that is unimaginable.

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  2. The love for her child, that washes over and drowns a new mother, is something unexplainable unless one has experienced it. It is at once the best, most all-encompassing feeling, and the scariest for its depth and intensity.

    Therefore, I suspect the loss of a child is a previously inexperienced level of loss. An unfathomable level.

    When another mother suffers the loss of a child, we feel at one with her. The sense of pain and dread is heavy. At the same time there is the prayer—even when one is not religious—to never have to be in her shoes.

    I just returned from a trip to Poland with a Holocaust survivor, Eva Kor. We toured Birkenau, Plaszow, and Auschwitz. Mrs. Kor survived only by being a twin, which made her valuable for medical experimentation. I mention this only because of the experience of touring places where so many children were killed and the responses to witnessed to being where it happened. Whenever the children were mentioned, collections of small clothing or shoes shown, or the drawings and stories of children were shared, the silence carried a shared pain. Tears rolled down cheeks, and strangers patted the arms of strangers sharing thoughts of the unimaginable.

    When we think of losing a child, it’s the loss of what was known and loved, and also the loss of all the possibilities to come that now won’t. My heart goes out to your friend, Dina.

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. It is unimaginable, even in the deepest, darkest recesses where we only let our minds go very occasionally.

      We recently spent some time in France, and some time in a wonderful museum in Caen. Some of the exhibits were breathtakingly horrible in scope, letters written by soldiers justifying the murder of babies, photographs of suicides and lynchings. But you force yourself to go there, so that you make sure you don’t go back. But it always leaves a little bit of a tear, a little bit of a scar. The statistics of the number of Jewish children who survived the camps was bleak–my heart was heavy that day as well.

      I won’t even pretend to know what it feels like. I just know that if my own heart hurts for her, and for all those who have lost a child, then hers must be pulp.

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D.E. Haggerty

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