[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following was originally printed in The Forum newspaper, on May 3, 2014.]
Living Faith: Mothers’ souls will be pierced, blessed
By Roxane B. Salonen
We were on a road trip together, my 13-year-old and I, and I was deep in thought.
As a mother, I’m always looking for the teachable moments – little bits of wisdom to pour into my children while they are still near.
Our journey had, the day prior, brought us to the Standing Rock Reservation to talk about writing, so it seemed right to divulge the contents of my writer brain.
“I’ve been thinking of ideas for my next column,” I said.
“I have one. You could write about your youngest daughter and how awesome she is,” she said, smirking.
She spoke in jest, of course. Our children usually cringe to see their names in print. They were born with the curse of the mother-writer, after all, and I can only hope that in time they’ll see the whole picture and forgive me.
But the truth of it is that by the time we reached home, I’d begun to take her suggestion seriously, in part due to timing.
Fifteen years ago, on May 2, 1999, we lost our third child in miscarriage, an event that evoked profound emotion.
There was the shock of learning the life we’d already begun to make room for was no more, coupled with intense gratitude at the sight of our two born children, especially after witnessing the ultrasound that had left the technician silent.
There was the cramping in the middle of the night, the heartbreaking expulsion of our child from my womb and the “this seems so cruel” utterance of my husband.
And then the following weekend, ironically Mother’s Day, there was the baptism at church and the infant cry that rang through the sanctuary, pricking me with a bittersweet reminder of the simultaneous beauty of life and darkness of loss.
In Scripture, Mary is given a glimpse into her future by Simeon, who forewarns that her son will be “a sign to be opposed,” and that “a sword will pierce even your own soul so the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Every mother knows of sacrificial pain. Certainly, losing Gabriel was one of numerous soul-piercing moments for me as a mother. More preceded that day and many more are certain to come.
In fact, on the final day of our trip, a few unexpected piercings came during phone calls home. My only recourse was to grab a quiet moment in the minivan alone to solicit God’s help and strength.
“I can’t see through this,” I said. “I’m giving it to you.”
If, as a younger woman, I’d been shown a prophetic vision like Mary and told my mother-soul would be pierced not once but many times, I’d likely have gone racing in the other direction. Who knowingly, willingly accepts this kind of suffering?
And yet somehow Mary knew – and I’ve been shown, too – that suffering can sometimes lead us to glimpses of heavenly bliss.
It begins with the births of our children, an all-consuming, excruciating task we can’t escape as co-creators, and yet as new life is placed in our arms, our pain becomes muted.
As difficult as losing our child was, God knew what we didn’t – that a blessing was about to unfold.
Our grief brought a new kind of surrender to our lives as we looked to the heavens with our empty arms and said, “Now what?”
It was a year after our loss, May 26, 2000, that we welcomed God’s answer into our family. When she arrived, we aptly named her Elizabeth, “gift from God.” She was, and still is, beautiful – and yes, worthy of a bit of ink.
Each of our five children has brought a unique and unrepeatable dimension to our family. We love them all dearly. But this child in particular was received as a sign of hope; hope that despite the certainty of loss, it can provide an opportunity to lean in closer to God.
With our leaning in, we’ve been able to see Elizabeth’s life as a reminder that death does not have the last word. Through this perspective, the bearing of new life and journey through motherhood become part of the greatest teachable moment of all.
As mothers, our hearts and souls inevitably will be pierced by the sword of life – there’s no getting around that. But if we can wait it out with patience and trust, we’ll be rewarded with immeasurable treasure.