As the month of May brings the celebration of Mother’s Day, all mothers who have lost children find it to be a bittersweet day filled with both happy memories and deep longing for a beloved child who is no longer here.
Recently, a woman who had lost her son to suicide stepped into my life and with one brief conversation, reminded me of what it means to love a child, not only in life, but also in death.
I was attending a conference in our state sponsored by The Association For Suicide Prevention (AFSP), an organization that not only promotes suicide prevention but also provides suicide loss support. After the conference, participants were guided to break up into small groups according to the type of loss endured (spouse, child, parent, friend, ect.). Naturally, I found myself in a group of parents who had lost children of various ages. Proudly, we shared with each other who our children were – not on the day of their deaths — but during their short yet wonderful lives. I was deeply touched by how tenderly each parent spoke of their child.
At the conclusion of the day, one mom in particular approached me and we began talking more personally about our sons. She shared that she had lost her youngest child at age 17. I asked her what his name was and she proudly said, “Collin”. Then, without missing a beat, she leaned forward, tipped her head, looked me straight in the eye, and added, “That’s ‘Collin’ — with two ‘l’s.”
My heart was touched by this endearing comment.
I wondered how many times Collin’s mom had made that clarification throughout her son’s life. Perhaps to the nurses in the hospital when her baby was born, to the pediatrition reviewing his immunizations, or to the secretary registering him for school. Maybe when she helped him get a library card, took him to the dentist, or signed him up for soccer camp. Over and over throughout his life, she had made sure people got his name correct – no, exact – and now even in his death, she felt the need to define her son by, “Collin with two ‘l’s”.
Standing before this dear mom, I hadn’t been holding a pen or clipboard in my hands. I wasn’t taking notes or filling out a form. Yet, she wanted — no, needed — to be certain that I knew the correct spelling of her child’s name.
Mothers all over the world make clarifications for their children. They spell their child’s name, interpret their baby talk, and explain their toddler fears to strangers. They excuse their child’s shyness, apologize for their mishaps, and proudly emphasize their triumphs and achievements.
Collin’s mom exemplifies how mothers do not turn their “mothering” off at their children’s deaths. Still, we clarify, defend, and explain. We joyfully accentuate our child’s gifts and abilities. We loyally speak of them with fondness and love, focused on their beauty and their strengths.
Even in the face of a suicide death.
Once a mom, always a mom. And how grateful I am to have this physical and human link to my son. I am blessed and tremendously grateful to have been gifted with the pleasure of both being his mother and enjoying his life.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who lost children to suicide. Happy Mother’s Day to Collin’s mom, Johnny’s mom, Maysie’s mom, Jonah’s mom, Levi’s mom, Joseph’s mom, Justin’s mom, Aaron’s mom, Troy’s mom, AJ’s mom, and so many others…
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who love their children in death just as loyally and completely as they did in life.