During a defining moment, we all have a choice. We can turn from God, or turn to Him. We can choose to be bitterly despondent and refuse to see options, or we can creatively cope with our challenges. There is always a choice.
One of my defining moments occurred soon after I timed our entrance to church so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. We entered the chapel just as we heard the welcome from the pulpit. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday. I’m sure the birds were singing and the flowers were fragrant, but I was drowning in a sea of sadness. After three years of marriage, I had miscarried our first pregnancy. Even though it happened days before, the shocking numbness consumed me. Especially since it was Mother’s Day.
To be honest, I thought about not going to church that day. ‘It would be easier,’ I told myself. ‘Certainly God would understand, wouldn’t He?’ But, I needed church that day more than any day I could remember. I needed to feel His love. Mostly, I needed to partake of the Sacrament.
As I sat in the middle of the chapel with Anthony’s arm around me, I wondered for the first time if my mom had ever gone to church feeling the same burden I felt. She always seemed like she “had it all together” to me. But, even producing eight spectacularly wonderful children, she had her share of similar losses along the way.
The Sacrament was especially sweet to me. I didn’t really hear many of the talks, engrossed for the most part in my own thoughts. I knew the service was ending and prepared myself for the dreaded “all the mothers stand” moment when adorable teenagers or children give each mom a flower or treat or some token of the congregation’s appreciation for being all-around amazing women. Though I usually felt awkward on Mother’s Day, that moment never really bothered me before. But that day I felt tense resignation. I soon got lost in my thoughts again until suddenly I realized my name was being called from the pulpit!
“Delisa Hargrove, you stand up, too!!”
Horrified, I knew that I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t.
I didn’t think I could stand anyway, and had been crying for an hour and really didn’t want everyone looking at me. So, in my calmest, most practical voice, from the middle of the chapel I defiantly murmured, “I don’t want to.” Anthony nervously laughed. All of the standing mothers waited and everyone looked at me.
My friend at the pulpit persisted, “You are the mother of the ward and should be honored, too.” (It’s true that I was the Relief Society president, but let’s be honest, I didn’t even know how to bake bread!)
I’m not typically insolent at Sacrament Meeting. I calculated the pros, cons, and opportunity costs in an instant. The Holy Ghost showed me my friend’s intentions really were pure and not deliberately cataclysmic.
I stood to just get the whole thing over with.
It seemed like every woman in the building approached to console me that day. It was the first time I became privy to the heartaches and disconsolation of women who had children on Mother’s Day. Only one friend knew of my miscarriage before church. After the standing incident, I told a couple of ladies about my tragedy. The rest of the women offered their stories and compassion out of empathy.
Many women, like my mom, love Mother’s Day. I’m glad they do! Mothers truly deserve 365 days of being honored each year. I hope all mothers feel loved and cherished and appreciated.
But after hearing stories that fateful day, I realized that many women felt guilty and discouraged and grief and overwhelmed and frazzled and alone. They came to church that day for the same reason I did: to gulp from the cup of Grace.
Ironically, because I stood, others felt my need and comforted me.
Unfortunately, some “comforting words” were not comforting at all. Saying stuff like, “motherhood is more than having children” or “you can come and take my children any time” or “have you tried this [fill in the blank] remedy” or “have you ever thought about adoption” or “you can raise tons of kids in the Millennium” to someone who doesn’t have children on Mother’s Day (or any day for that matter) is not helpful. I’m a very logical person and know the doctrine, but Mother’s Day is not a pragmatic day, it’s an emotional day. I learned that when someone didn’t know what to say, a sincere condolence sufficed.
That day changed me.
As Mother’s Day rolled around the next year, I panicked imagining the “Delisa stand” reunion tour. Skipping church is not an option for me, so Anthony and I took our vacation the week of Mother’s Day. You may think that’s extreme, but panic stricken hormones demand desperately creative measures. Mother’s Day vacation time became a habit for us.
And you know what happened? I began to love Mother’s Day! I loved going to random places around the country and the world (where it wasn’t ever Mother’s Day anyway, which was my preference), popping in to celebrate womanhood and popping out without ever having to be reminded of my personal reoccurring tragedies. When asked to introduce myself, I could be brief and genuine. I didn’t have to explain how I “was feeling” to anyone, because nobody knew me or my situation.
I also saw how other congregations “handled” the standing issue. Many of the mothers in my ward said they hated standing up, too, because they didn’t feel like the “ideal mother,” or just felt plain self-conscious. Some wards I visited had the youth walk down the chapel aisles and just hand women a gift (while they sat). Others had the gifts delivered to Relief Society. Some wards had the youth stand at the chapel doors and just hand every woman a gift as she exited (that was my favorite because I could actually thank the person and keep on walking). I made recommendations in my own ward while it was still my stewardship.
After years of avoiding Mother’s Day at home, I figured it was time to “stop running.” I hadn’t seen women specifically asked to stand for many years, so I decided to be brave. With some trepidation, I began attending Mother’s Day in my own ward.
I’m still not a mom and Mother’s Day intensifies a grief deep in my soul that I don’t feel on other days.
I’ve come to know that the Savior truly knows me and my need. He said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end…I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Jesus Christ knows my heart and my heartaches and promises “my grace is sufficient for you” (Doctrine and Covenants 17:8). His Grace has healed my soul to the extent that I allow.
The Lord’s inspired servants offer powerful words of comfort and peace. President Boyd K. Packer’s April General Conference talk pacified my disappointment of a recently dashed adoption hope,
“Those who do not marry or those who cannot have children are not excluded from the eternal blessings they seek but which, for now, remain beyond their reach. We do not always know how or when blessings will present themselves, but the promise of eternal increase will not be denied any faithful individual who makes and keeps sacred covenants.
Your secret yearnings and tearful pleadings will touch the heart of both the Father and the Son. You will be given a personal assurance from Them that your life will be full and that no blessing that is essential will be lost to you.
As a servant of the Lord, acting in the office to which I have been ordained, I give those in such circumstances a promise that there will be nothing essential to your salvation and exaltation that shall not in due time rest upon you. Arms now empty will be filled, and hearts now hurting from broken dreams and yearning will be healed.”
But still, even with my fervent belief in Jesus Christ, as I approach this Mother’s Day in a new ward, with the recent loss fresh on my heart, I did consider taking that vacation to anywhere-else-but-here.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have assigned responsibilities at church this Mother’s Day. I feel a little stuck and stressed, but know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
If you feel as sketchy about Mother’s Day as I do, I know that He can strengthen you, too.
And to my sweet mother, Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for instilling faith, hope, and love onto my young and now older heart, for teaching me the characteristics of Jesus Christ through your example, and for still praying your always answered “God will help us find anything prayer” over the phone for things that are lost so I can find them. I love you forever!