One year ago today our mother, Linda Philo, left her earthly home and family to join her family in her heavenly home, she was 66 when she died.
There were five generations of women in my home on mother’s day 2012. I remember that day very clearly because it was the last time these devoted moms would be gathered together as a complete family. My wife and her sister would each lose a son to drug overdoses in the next year. Their grandmother and mother would also die 6 months apart, all before mother’s day 2014. Two sisters each losing a nephew and a son, their granny and their mother in a 24 month period. The whole family was devastated but I think the 3 daughters, and the girls, young and old, lost more than most men might recognize. Mothers day is Sunday, as it approaches I am observing a mothers grief through the eyes of a grieving father- this is what I see.
I see the pain of my wife, I sense her silent grief and longing for her sweet mother and grandmother. Her eyes tell me of her pain though her mouth rarely communicates it to me in words. I also watch the aguish she carries over Jacob, our son, having a third of her heart torn from her chest. I have said at different times that I believe there is a deeper grief that a mother feels in the loss of a child that I as a father cannot understand or feel. They conceived, they felt the first kick, they endured the pain of labor, they nursed and nurtured them immediately and never stopped doing it. There is deeper love that mothers have for their young, it’s not better than a father’s love it’s just different, it is in my view deeply intimate.
For Stacey to suddenly lose her mother and grandmother was to lose the ones who had nurtured her most in life. Even as an adult she has admitted that her deepest sense of loss is that her mom and grandma are not here to nurture her anymore. Mom lived only a mile away as a crow flies and granny was often there or at her sisters house just next door. What Stacey wanted most in life was just to be a mother and to be mothered by these wonderful women. Mothers never cease to give their love and daughters are happy to receive their nurturing as it is dispensed. The girls in our family learned from the best, Marjorie and Linda were devoted loving and nurturing mothers and their girls are following their great legacy.
To lose a child is to be robbed of the most natural instinct that a mom possesses. They are hardwired to be loving nurturers, wise counselors, and sympathetic comforters. Stacey still has two surviving children to be a mother to but death can never kill a mothers deepest desire to nurture, even when the one you love is gone. Perhaps that natural desire intensifies and deepens their grief, I can only speculate on this but I think it might be true. I have watched a mothers grief through the eyes of a father and come to believe they are pained not only from the loss of life, but also because she has lost her basin where her nurturing was once poured. I am just a man, I could be wrong but this is what my fatherly eyes behold.
I am not sure if the men in the lives of grieving women really understand this part of grief and loss. I doubt it is deliberate because men by nature are not nurturers, they are providers, they are fixers, they are many times purposefully emotionally disconnected from their pain. I am often accused by my wife that I am a woman, not that I am unmanly but I try to understand how women are wired so that I might be a better husband to her. In my opinion the main circuit in the panel box of grief for a woman is the circuit of nurturing love. When the breaker has been tripped it leaves our ladies without the ability to receive nurturing or to give it out, their outlet for love has been short circuited. If a man would look through the eyes of a women for one moment they will better understand their grief and their unending pain. Men can help them by providing an environment where they can be loving nurturers once again.
As the father of a son who has died I feel the disconnect as well. I am hardwired to give encouragement to my son, to pour in wisdom, calling him to be courageous and to be a man in every situation of life. Death is the great thief, It has robbed me of this fatherly joy and the opportunity for me to have my boy come to me and say, “Dad, I need your advice.” The thief has also robbed my wife of receiving nurturing love from her mom and the ability of her to give it to her beloved boy.
What is the greatest mother’s day gift for a mom who has lost a mother, a grandmother or a child? Time with the family is the most precious gift that can be given to these hurting moms. Men, buy her flowers on a day she least expects it and give her what she desires the most on the day we honor them most. Gather your family to her and let her be a mother, let her nurture and be nurtured, let her love and be loved. This is who they are, this is what they do best, this is what they desire the most- let’s give them what they want!
Finally, as a Christian man I am called to lead in faith as the apostle Paul did. How did he do it? He led as mother and as a father. He said, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7) Paul continues, “You are witnesses and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 ESV)