For her child’s sake
This is about mothers, about who they really are and what they mean to us.
Let me start with a story about an ordinary mother. I remember the date clearly because it was an auspicious date that could happen only once in a lifetime—Aug. 8, 2008. It was supposed to be a lucky date depicting three 8s: 08-08-08.
But, apparently, the date was not a lucky one for a mother who died instantly early that day, after getting hit by a speeding vehicle. This little item on an ordinary police matter was buried deep in the inside pages of the next day’s newspapers, amid the reports on the interesting events that occurred, such as the opening of the Beijing Olympics, the babies born on 08-08-08, and the weddings held on that unique calendar date.
What was glossed over by many of the newspapers was a small detail—that the mother died in the process of saving her son. She actually managed to get her son out of harm’s way before she herself was struck by the speeding SUV. The 10-month-old child miraculously survived, with only a slight injury.
The story profoundly moved me then, as it still does today. Not being a mother, I reflected deeply on how a mother could totally forget herself for her child’s sake, even at the cost of her life.
I found the answer from a remark I often hear from mothers: “Sana ako na lang” (I wish it were me instead). These words, usually spoken in anguish, are what a mother cries out when her child is ill or, worse, when her child dies.
“Sana ako na lang” must have always been this mother’s wish. It was fulfilled on that fateful day.
As I recall this story today, I am reminded also of another mother’s agonizing grief after having lost a child: “A child usually buries a parent, but a mother burying her child?” And of a mother who asks in sorrow: “A child who lost a parent is called an orphan; a wife/husband who lost a spouse is called a widow/widower. But what do you call a mother who loses a child?”
Then I thought of my own mother. I do not doubt that had she been given the opportunity, she would have willfully given her life for any of her seven children. And I say this because she has often said that her one prayer to God was for her not to see any of her children die ahead of her. Thankfully, God granted her that wish. She died well ahead of all her children.
And, of course, there are the Gospel stories about mothers and their children.
I remember in particular the story of a mother that Matthew the Evangelist wrote about in Matthew 15, 21-28. Anyone familiar with the story knows that it is usually captioned as the story of the Canaanite woman. And ordinarily, homily preachers would emphasize her being a woman, that she is from Canaan, and that there is value to unceasing prayer even when it is coming from a woman who is a non-Jew. This is because Matthew wrote his gospel with a non-Jew audience in mind, in contrast to the others who wrote mainly for the Jewish people. He was also writing for the outcasts, the sinners, etc., when he wrote about God’s universal love embracing all peoples—regardless of race, gender, religion, etc.
A careful reading of the text, however, would reveal the detail that the woman from Canaan was a mother who came to Jesus to plead without ceasing for her sick daughter, even if she had to defy established customs and practices, earning the anger of the people. Until Jesus granted her request…
And so for me, this is another story about a mother’s love and her wish for her sick child. A story of how a mother can go to great lengths for the love of her child. A story worth telling for Mothers Day and the days surrounding it.
On a light note, I remember reading this sign about mothers in the internet: “Sometimes when I open my mouth, my mother comes out.” And I remember the following anecdotes about teachers and their students in a classroom situation. Whether these anecdotes are factual or not, they bring out the point I want to make about mothers just the same—that mothers have so much influence, especially on their younger children:
There was a math teacher who was trying to teach the concept of fractions to her pupils. Teacher: “Your mother baked a pie for your family of seven—your father, your mother, yourself, and your four siblings. What part of the pie will you get?” Child: “One-sixth of the pie.” Teacher: “But I said there are seven of you. I am afraid you do not know your fractions well.” Child: “And I am afraid. Teacher, that you do not know my mother well.” Teacher: “Well, what about your mother?” Child: “She would say she does not want any pie.”
There was another teacher whose topic was magnets in her science class. One day she brought an actual magnet and demonstrated what it can do. The following day, she asked the class in a short quiz: “I am a six-letter word. The first letter is ‘m,’ and I pick up things. What am I?” Almost all of her pupils answered: “mother.”
And finally, here’s my favorite quote about mothers from Rudyard Kipling: “God could not be everywhere and therefore, He made mothers.”
Danilo G. Mendiola, 74, is retired from corporate work and now serves with his wife in the Marriage Prep Ministry of their parish in Quezon City.