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by Debbie Fox

Eight years had elapsed, and the shards of my fractured soul were beginning their Reformation. I had distanced myself from God for more than eight years, blaming Him for my suffering, refusing to accept His will. One March afternoon, a young pastor and his wife knocked on my door and told me they were forming a new neighborhood church. When they invited me to the first service, I blurted out that I’d go. For two months, I attended faithfully and found I had missed singing the hymns of praise and listening to the pastor’s message. Although the pastor
knew my history, I withheld my past from my fellow Christians.

With trepidation, I decided to attend the Mother’s Day church service. Squeezed into an outdated suit, I set off for church in my low-heeled pumps, carrying a handbag stuffed half full with tissues. My husband
preferred to stay home, readying the Barbecue grill and preparing for our guests-of-honor—mothers. I did not fall in the mother category, having lost that privilege eight years earlier when my ten-year-old daughter died from AIDS.

At church, I smiled with fake composure and tried to sneak into a chair without too much fuss, but a chipper young woman cut off my hasty entry. “Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning to you,” I answered, noting the toddler hanging on her hip, eyeing her orchid corsage. “Happy Mother’s Day.”

“Thank you,” she said. Are you a mother?”

“No,” I murmured. “I was going to wish you the same,” she said. I forced my lips to curl into a smile and ducked into a seat. The pastor spoke about Hannah, a barren woman, who prayed to the Lord to give her a child, promising to give the child up unto the Lord. I had believed that children were a gift from God, but when He called for my child, I resented Him for taking back His gift. Spiritually I had known my child was on loan from God, but emotionally I neither accepted nor understood His plan.

Throughout the service, I blinked back tears—tears of heartbreak, tears of loneliness, tears for Christie, tears for what could have been. When the pastor said, “All mothers raise your hands,” I kept mine clasped in my lap. “Debbie,” the pastor pointed to me, “you raise your hand. You have < mothered and have earned that title.” I slowly raised my arm as tears fell. After the service, the orchid-wearing mother approached me again. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you any distress.” I shoved a soggy tissue into my purse. “That’s okay. I really don’t know what to say when people ask me if I have children, without going into a long, sad story.”
The orchid-wearing mother, with her sixteen months of mothering experience, sat down next to me, her brow furrowed, her eyes encouraging. She leaned toward me, silently waiting for me to begin.

Afraid of blubbering an explanation, I looked away from her face and grabbed a fresh tissue. I bowed my head. “My daughter, Christie, was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of seven. My husband and I didn’t know she had received a blood transfusion at birth. She died in1994.” I looked up and half smiled as if I knew eight years should be enough time to get over her death. The orchid-wearing woman nodded and murmured a few sounds. “I’ve been pretty mad at God since then,” I said. “I recently started coming back to church.” I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted of God or myself, but I felt as if I needed to be reassured or connected, my heart lightened.

“I’m glad you came,” she said, and touched my hand.

“Me, too.” I dabbed my drippy nose and said my goodbyes, hoping I hadn’t ruined her Mother’s Day. Back home, I freshened my tear-streaked face and evaded my husband’s questions about the service. “I’m busy,” I said. “I have to set the table and fix dinner.” The mothers would be arriving soon—my mother-in-law, mother of three sons, six grandchildren (one deceased), and four great grandchildren; my friend Donna, mother of three daughters, aged nineteen to twenty-three; and my friend Denise, a middle-aged, first-time mother of a son, now five months old.

The day blessed us with good food and happy stories. I couldn’t help but marvel at the years of mothering experience among my guests, the sparkle that lit their eyes as they spoke of their offspring. Memories and a dull ache in my chest were all I had left of my mothering experience. >I had learned that after the loss of a child, eighty percent of marriages ended in divorce. Consumed with sadness following my daughter’s death, I had barely acknowledged each new day. What was the point of living when my purpose was gone? I had wandered through my depression licking my wounds like an animal, offering my husband little consolation. NIV: Ps 38:/6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.

As a nurse, I had understood the grieving process, but that hadn’t made it any easier. I resented my husband for not being supportive, yet I could not find the energy to uphold him. Loathing my own weakness, my despondency grew while answers to questions eluded me. I struggled to understand life’s purpose and fought myself to accept