Thanksgiving is just another Thursday in Brazil. And Carnival is an ordinary winter weekend in America. When you are displaced, special days don’t seem so special unless everyone around you is celebrating them. Alongside Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter there is thankfully one more holiday that is the same day for both America and Brazil: Mother’s Day.
Olivia’s school is rehearsing a Mother’s Day program for Friday. Buses are advertising Mother’s Day giveaways from shopping malls. If you spend enough money at one mall you can get a free small frame that says something like, “Mom, I always wear your coat(?) and you are in my heart.” Restaurants are more than ready to serve mothers and their familes lunch this Sunday, complete with advertisements in the newspaper about their special menus.
If you just sprinkled in greeting cards, which don’t seem to be a thing here, I’d feel like I’m back in America just for one day. Except my Mom is in America, and I’m in Brazil, so having this day be the same day in both countries hurts a little. What’s more, her birthday is in a few weeks. And the date that would have marked my parents’ 50th anniversary, were my Dad still alive, is coming up next month. That’s a whole lot to process.
Sure, Mom and I can text, chat, and even call each other through the Internet, but none of that replaces a hug, holding her hand, or taking her to dinner and a movie on a special day. As for next month’s anniversary that isn’t, there are rightly no greeting cards for that. Only a longing. And longings are difficult to express when you live on the other side of the world from the one you love.
Our family devotions have recently taken us to the beginning of 1 Samuel in which Hannah exchanges bitter bleakness in her barrenness to the bittersweetness of a mother who only visits her son once a year, handing him each time a new little robe that she knitted.
As Hannah chose the thread for the annual robe perhaps she thought about what Samuel would be doing were he still at home, if she never lended him to the Lord. Maybe she’d cuddle him at night, tend to his wounds, and hear his cries. As she knit row after row of his robe each year, did she look across the room and imagine where he would sit for supper, what games would be his favorite, or which stories he’d want her to tell him again and again.
As an adopted son my Mom too was once childless. I was blessed to grow up not in a temple, but right at home with my parents and sister. I was much older than Samuel when it happened, but eventually God called me to serve him far away. When I told my Mom we were hoping to move across the world I knew she was happy for us, but also a little sad.
I was too. My in-laws have lived in Africa for most of my marriage, but during the brief times they would be in America, even if they were in Missouri while we were in South Dakota or Michigan, my wife would say, “they just feel closer to me.” I didn’t get it then, but I do now. It’s hard to feel close when you are an ocean or a hemisphere away.
On Sunday our family will join millions across Brazil and America in celebrating our Moms. I won’t spoil our plans for Marci, but we won’t forget her. And I won’t forget my Mom either. Neither will God.
The last time 1 Samuel mentions Hannah is when the author says, “For the Lord singled out Hannah and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters and the lad Samuel grew up with the Lord.”
My Mom is now a widow with a daughter close by and a son far away, but the Lord is not done with her yet. As he blessed Hannah, so he blesses all mothers who lend their children to him. And if there’s something I’ve learned about mothers it is that pieces of their hearts are locked up wandering around with us children, no matter where we may go.
And so, Mom, part of you will be right here with me in Brazil this Sunday. And every other day.
I love you,