A Congregation-Wide Project
“In Honor of Our Mothers”
May 5, 2022
Throughout the world, ever since medieval times many countries have designated a particular day of recognition and celebration of motherhood. Our contemporary
Mother’s Day customs in the United States are a derivation of the concepts of three influential countrywomen: Anna Jarvis – founder of the original US Mother’s Day observance in 1907, in honor of her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis – Civil War activist, and Julia Ward Howe – Civil War volunteer and author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. As described by authors Catherine Boeckmann and Heidi Stonehill in their article, “How Mother’s Day Became a Holiday” these were determined women “who championed efforts toward better health, welfare, peace, and love.”
We continue to carry on the observance—mostly with gifts and luxuries, dinners out, time off from duties, etc., but still with earnest appreciation for our mothers’ valiant day-in and day-out efforts. (As my daughter used to jokingly coo whenever she noticed my waning energy, “Oh, my dear self-sacrificing mother!”)
One year ago, we sent an email to the congregation sharing a proposal by our resourceful Music Director:
“Hello Everyone! Mother’s Day is next Sunday!
Phil Swanson has a brilliant idea for our service that morning:
A SLIDE SHOW of everyone’s mothers, accompanied by his original piano compositions.”
The hasty, enthusiastic response from so many members of the congregation was a testament to the power of the relationship between children, of any age, and the women who nurture them. Photos, stories, and poignant memories of all kinds made an instant collector/curator of me as the precious content filled my inbox that week.
Starting with the photo of Phil’s Norwegian mother, Ellen Koski, in whose lovely portrait one can see Phil’s own high cheekbones and clear blue eyes, the same was true for each photo. The familiar facial characteristics of individuals in our congregation were subtly, but definitely apparent in the images of their mothers, grandmothers, aunties. One after another, there on my computer screen, with only a few descriptive words, or even just a name and place, they all quietly manifested the sanctity of the flowing generations, and the rich, layered histories embodied in each one of us.
My mother once penned her thoughts on the back of an envelope while contemplating the beauty of the clouds outside her airplane window, sensing that surely her recently deceased mother must now be a part of God’s heavenly splendor. I remember marveling at the immensity of her wonderings which extended far beyond our usual day-to-day family busy-ness.
Shortly before, she had given birth to our youngest brother. I made a card for her at the time, including a quote by Rabindranath Tagore:
“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”
I felt clever and wise to have found a reference so apropos for my mom, who was now officially overloaded with the vast array of demands put upon her: a singing career of her own, a household of four other children, ages 9–19, a husband immersed in his work and rather short on patience, two grandmothers who needed her attention. And yet, she was thrilled by the prospect of starting again with a brand new infant. Tagore’s words have ever since rung true at the arrival of a new life in our messy, worldly midst.
Just recently I encountered the writings of Harriette Hartigan – midwife/photographer/writer in Arizona.
“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.”
For me, the captioned photographs in our FCCR 2021 Mother’s Day video convey these stirring thoughts, ever so simply, yet powerfully, carried upon Phil’s buoyant, evocative piano music.
Incidentally, I don’t think we ever would have thought, or been motivated to create such a portrait of ourselves—through recognition of our mothers and others who have mothered us over time—if it hadn’t been for COVID-19. We must have finally heard our mothers’ admonitions to stop whining, to make the best of things, to look for the silver lining, and to always remember to say “Thank You”.
Click here to watch the video.
(BTW, if you happened to have missed participating in this congregational project last year, and would like to be included, it might be possible to add a few items to the video, after the fact. If interested, please contact me to discuss. Kristina, 978-509-4995)