One of my earliest memories of my mother takes place in our kitchen in Churchbridge, Sask. when I would have been three or four years old.
Having baked a cake of one flavour or another, an inconsequential matter to me at my young age, she had completed the much more important job of whipping up my favourite frosting with egg whites, vanilla and sugar.
Even then, as young as I was, I knew that hanging around near the kitchen when Mom was baking could pay off in a big way. Sure enough, I was rewarded with frosting covered eggbeaters and a mixing bowl that had the tasty, sweet leftovers that she didn’t require for the cake. While that may be the first of her “yesses” to me that I can remember, today I am being graced with new insights into the many “yesses” that came before.
Over 40 years later, and 20 years since Mom’s death from Non-Hodgins Lymphoma in 2001, I am lucky enough to be journeying with two good friends, one who is currently pregnant, and another who has given birth very recently.
It is a wonderful opportunity to hear the incredible challenges that are part of motherhood. That there are so many women who engage in this process which distorts and transforms their bodies so that they might carry, nourish and deliver children cannot be celebrated enough. That some women welcome this process more than once certainly rates as a miracle in my books!
The sacrifices that mothers are asked to make are as varied as they can be difficult. I think of one friend who made the decision to suffer through painful and debilitating migraines during her pregnancy, concerned that pain medication might harm her unborn child.
Another is far enough along in her pregnancy that the privilege of finding a comfortable sleeping position and a good night’s sleep is long past. Often, too, a mother’s body can change in ways that last well beyond the actual pregnancy.
The Feast of Corpus Christi on June 3 comes a few weeks after Mother’s Day in the calendar. Nevertheless, it provides us with a beautiful lens through which to view the Eucharistic nature of motherhood.
Catholic tradition recognizes that Jesus’ words at the Last Supper “This is my Body which is given for you” are meant to be taken literally, and certainly we see this reality in the life of service that He offered to the people of His time, in His broken body on the Cross, and in His Presence at Mass in the Eucharist today.
However, it is certainly no stretch to also see this Eucharistic offering in the sacrifice of our mothers’ bodies as they bring us into the world. In order to sustain us in our most vulnerable moments, our mothers take on the challenges of nausea, fatigue, swollen feet, sleepless nights, breathing difficulties, joint pain, bleeding gums and much more, and all of this lasts for months before the agony of delivery.
My relationship with mom was complicated and imperfect throughout the first 25 years of my life and it was difficult to lose her to cancer at such a young age when so many issues between us remained unresolved.
However, as I get older, I cannot help but to have an ever-greater understanding of all the momentous “yesses” she had to commit to in order to birth and raise me. As a child, the offering of her cake frosting seemed like a tremendous sacrifice to my eyes.
Now, as a middle-aged adult, I am graced to be able to see that this was just one in a long line of beautiful, Eucharistic “yesses.” As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, let us see the humanity and the godliness of our mothers with clearer eyes.
-Sister Michelle Langlois, fcJ is chaplain and a teacher at St. Thomas More junior high school in Edmonton. She was honoured recently with a 2021 Excellence in Catholic Education award from the Edmonton Catholic School Division.