This weekend many families around Australia will be celebrating Mother’s Day. Mums of all ages will be receiving breakfast in bed, bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates and expressions of undying gratitude for their never-ending love and care. It is a beautiful celebration of gratitude for the important women in our lives. It is also good to remember that this day is not always a happy day for everyone.
For those who have struggled with fertility or have lost children, Mother’s Day can be painful. There are a myriad of reasons why women may not have children of their own. For some it is a deliberate choice. For others it may just be they never found a life partner or it just never happened. Sometimes the messages about Mother’s Day and the expectation that all women would and should be mothers can leave some women feeling isolated, judged and condemned. Maternal care comes in all shapes and forms, so perhaps we need to rethink the idea of Mother’s Day to include all women. We can all be involved in the nurturing of children regardless of whether we give birth to children or not.
Mother’s Day also has a bitter-sweet tinge to it, as we remember the mothers who are no longer with us. It can also provoke a little bit of cynicism. Why do flowers, chocolates and cards abound on this one day of the year, while for the other 364 days of the year mothers are forgotten, taken for granted, even abused. It is a pity that every day of the year could not be Mother’s Day. Too often we do not realise the gift of the women in our lives until they are no longer there.
This year has been the year of one thing after another. As if the continuation of Covid wasn’t enough there have been the ongoing stresses of trying to balance family life with study, Dan’s transition into independent living (still a work in progress) and a bout in hospital for my husband, Paul. I hoped that would be the end of it. But I was wrong. Just when I thought our lives couldn’t get any more stressful, our world has been turned upside down.
A few weeks ago Paul’s Mum, Joy, went into hospital for suspected pneumonia. She came out with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Inoperable. Incurable.
The thing is, she didn’t even look sick. She had a terrible cough which several courses of antibiotics could not clear. So then they started doing tests. When they discovered a spot on the pancreas, suddenly things were getting very serious. We didn’t say the C word, but we were all thinking it. The doctors frequently commented on how well she looked. It makes you wonder how many of us are going about our lives, feeling and looking well enough, not knowing that the dreaded C is waging war inside our bodies.
Pancreatic cancer is aggressive. It grows quickly and can spread to other parts of the body before anyone even shows the first symptoms of ill health. Tests have shown that the cancer has spread to Joy’s lungs and it is most likely that there are cancer cells in other places too. Treatment will be about management not cure.
For this Mother’s Day Paul’s family have gathered together. His two siblings have returned from interstate and for the first time in a few years, most of his immediate family will be together in the one place. It will be a special time as we gather together. There are important decisions to make. We don’t yet know how much time Joy has left. We don’t know if we will have another Mother’s Day with her but her calm acceptance of the diagnosis and her concern for others is inspiring and humbling.
Paul’s mum and dad have been married for over 50 years. I cannot even imagine how it must feel for his dad, knowing he will lose his life partner. We all know that day will come, sooner or later. We just don’t think about it. When I lost Rob, 18 years ago, it was sudden. There was no time to think about it. The cancer diagnosis is devastating, but at least we will have time. Time to prepare. Time to make more memories. Time to say goodbye.
In true form, Joy is not worried about herself. She says, these things happen. It happens to other people and to other families too. It is for her husband and life partner, Hedley, that she is worried. We cannot change the diagnosis. We cannot endure the chemotherapy for her or bear the pain that will come. All we can do is walk beside her, hold her hand, care for her in the way she has cared for us, and promise her, that when the time comes, we will do the same for Dad.
So things have been a little quiet here, and I expect they might be a little quiet for a bit longer, but I know you will understand.
Family matters. The time we have left is precious and not to be taken for granted. We never know what is around the corner in life, so we need to make each day count.
Happy Mother’s Day