On May 12, 1907, Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother, who passed away two years earlier. The purpose of the service was to remember her mom, to tell stories about her life, and to express ongoing gratitude for her mom's efforts through the years. Shortly thereafter, Anna launched a campaign and in 1914 "Mother's Day" was officially declared to be a national holiday celebrated on the second Sunday of May each year. Anna's hope was for each American to spend special time with their mom's on that day, or remembering them in some special way.
For a long time I approached this annual event with hesitancy. In fact, Laura and I didn't enjoy Mother's Day for many years. Being childless and not knowing if we would ever have children, Mother's Day became a grim reminder of our loss and struggle. It felt like a forced celebration which required us to rejoice for those who had children with no mention of those who didn't or couldn't have children. So it was helpful to consider the origins of this holiday, and to discover Anna's original intention.
From the start, Anna placed primary emphasis on expressing gratitude for her own mother - which was an act that every person could engage regardless of age, marital or parental status. She scoffed at those who would merely purchase a greeting card and utterly disliked the practice of buying a gift. This day was created to enjoy one's mom, to speak words of kindness and thanksgiving, and to share a day of being together. Talking briefly with my mom on the phone last night, it seems that she got to enjoy that kind of day with most of our family.
In the church we have the opportunity to go one step further as we also thank the spiritual "moms" who have helped to nurture our faith. The day reminds us to praise God for women who planted seeds of belief in our hearts, and who tended the garden of our souls.
You see, Mother's Day was never about being a mom - not at all. Anna knew that not everyone would know the pleasure. It was about whoever you consider to BE mother in your life. How do I know this? Because Anna Jarvis, the Founder of our American celebration, on the day she died in 1948 was single. She never married. Never had any children of her own. She was just thankful for her mom...