We call it Mother's Day, but perhaps the British have named it better. They call it Mothering Day, suggesting ongoing action. Because, no matter what gifts are showered on them today, mothers are best known for their doing and giving.
Not that they give everything. Modern-day mothers are wiser than that. They make it a point to hold onto their identities, opinions, good humor and workout clothes. But rare is the mother who has not sacrificed something important - hidden some dream in her back pocket - to make life better for her offspring.
It comes easily at first, as mothers are asked to give the smallest of things - their last two bucks for a school lunch, good scissors for cutting pipe cleaners, 20 minutes of rare personal time to listen to who-got-mad-at-whom today at lunch.
Mostly, mothers hardly notice these losses, although their pain threshold shrinks a bit as their children grow. Endless hours of the single family phone being tied up by instant messaging, making the 2,000th "emergency" trip to Kroger to pick up poster board for a school project that was announced two weeks ago - these are the things that try mothers' souls. Somehow most women live through it. It's all part of their job.
And then one day the world asks them for larger things, things they do not know how to give.
For certain generations of women during certain troubled times in history, world conflicts have ignited and war has rumbled by. Someone has had to go to far-off places to defend an ideal or reclaim a liberty.
And across the country, thousands of mothers learn that "someone" is their child.
It is the last thing a woman envisioned as she held her newborn in her arms 20 years earlier. But it is reality nevertheless. Even the collective love of mothers has not kept the world from war.
And so, painfully, proudly, haltingly, generously, generations of mothers have sent sons or daughters off to Lexington, Normandy, Inchon, Da Nang, Baghdad. They have waited prayerfully, and sometimes eternally, for their children's return.
And in this new century of change, sometimes mothers have been the ones to go to war, and children the ones to wait prayerfully behind. Never have we so sharply felt a mother's worth than when those prayers have gone unanswered.
So on this Mother's Day, we honor mothers' sacrifices, both great and small.
We celebrate with them as they live their lives fully and teach their children to do the same. We hope with them as they picture a world where their children, and all children, are safe. And we wait with them as they hold the doors of their hearts and homes open, watching for their children to return.
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