Mothering Sunday: Always and unavoidably bittersweet

The Church Ladies are an extraordinary group of women. Nothing much gets past them, like the time it was one of my significant birthdays and one day after Mass, out came a cake. Despite my best efforts to keep it quiet over several years, I must have let the date slip on a previous occasion.

Thereby, my innate misanthropic scepticism about celebrating such occasions was confounded. In the face of such kindness, there is only one credible response and that is to graciously accept, in the same generosity of spirit with which it is offered. 

After Mass a few weeks ago, I was asked  “you write about your Dad quite often, but you don’t write much about your Mum, do you?” And that is true. Somewhat inadequately, I tried to explain that was because I was working away from home for some years before she had passed to glory, more than twenty years previously. My Dad had passed more recently and I had lived with him and looked after him.. 

Moreover, there was fourteen years age difference between them. In the normal order of things, my Dad would have passed first and my Mother should still be with us.  

Death is certain, but also arbitrary like that, or put another way, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” These words of Job are always very moving, no matter how many times I have heard them and even if they are said as part of rites for someone who I did not know. 

Last week, I took some passengers to their mother’s interment, in a municipal cemetery many miles from Abingdon, a person I did not know in this world, in a place I do not know in this world. For the first time ever, a priest robed up in my taxi, before conducting a short graveside ceremony, beautiful in both the manner of delivery and the simplicity of the liturgy used. Both ordinary and extraordinary, in the same actions. 

This Sunday, in the middle of Lent, the church marks Mothering Sunday, or Mothers’ Day, with or without apostrophe, as it is sometimes known in the commercial world.   

At my friends’ traditional, what could be described as quite high, church in Oxford, they wear pink – or ‘rose’ – vestments on Mothering Sunday. They are one of only two occasions in the year when they are worn, in Lent and in Advent, both seasons of waiting, a state with which I am very familiar in my job as a small town taxi driver. 

Here in Abingdon, last year, at a local café run by an evangelical church, they had a bucket by the side of the road, with free flowers for everyone.  And who on earth gives anything away for free, these days? 

Mothering Sunday is always and unavoidably a bittersweet occasion for me and has been these last twenty years or so, but I do enjoy the outward manifestations of the day, like flowers and cake in church! 

Happy Mothering Sunday.

As published in the Abingdon Herald, Wednesday 22 March 2017