Forever a parent

When your children are little and they in pain, you can comfort them with hugs and kisses, but when they face the heartaches of adulthood, it is no longer possible simply to kiss it better. Lorraine Wylie hears from four mothers who have had to grieve with their children

“My son’s wedding was cancelled”

When Madeline’s 28 year old son arrived on her doorstep, she knew something was wrong.

“Jonathan and his girlfriend had been together a couple of years, so their engagement wasn’t exactly a huge surprise.  They seemed really happy as they began making plans for the wedding.  I couldn’t believe it when he arrived late one Friday evening and told us that his girlfriend had changed her mind and the wedding was cancelled. 

“When everyone went to bed, I made some tea and sat with him, waiting until he felt ready to talk.  But, he had no words, just tears.  The last time I saw my son cry he was seven years old.  Then I was able to take him on my knee and make it better.  This time, he was too big and the pain was too great. I felt utterly helpless.” 

“My daughter was jilted on her wedding day”

A decade may have elapsed, but Kierra McIntyre will never forget her daughter’s wedding day.

“Jenny had been going out with Steve since high school. They’d attended the same Sunday school and youth group, and later sang together in the church choir. When they started dating and eventually announced their engagement, it seemed such a natural progression and Steve had become like one of the family. In fact, I could always count on him to help with the Christmas decorations when my own lads always appeared to have rugby or football practice!

“As their wedding day grew nearer and plans got underway, things were admittedly a little hectic and Steve must have felt somewhat out of his depth with the endless talk about dresses, photographers and bouquets. But, there was absolutely no sign of his growing uncertainty – or, if there was, nobody noticed.

“I will never forget the morning that my beautiful daughter faced the most humiliating and indescribable pain. Dressed in bridal attire she looked every inch the radiant bride until Steve’s phone call shattered the illusion and sent us all into a state of shocked disbelief. Apparently, our prospective son-in-law had been harbouring doubts as to God’s direction for his future. Somehow Steve had misinterpreted the divine plan and Jenny was not, after all, meant to part of his life.

“To be honest, being jilted on her wedding day was the worst experience of Jenny’s life, but it was equally devastating for us as a family. The day was a complete nightmare, as my husband and I set about cancelling the ceremony, reception and notifying guests. The phone rang non stop with sympathetic calls from friends and relatives. It was awful.

“For the next couple of months, I lay awake listening to my daughter’s sobs while trying to stifle my own. I have to admit that parenting an adult is the worst stage in the game. When our kids are young, it is so easy to solve their innocent problems. But maturity brings complexities that we are not qualified to handle.

“As a mum, I wanted to throttle Steve for what he did to Jenny. Yet as a Christian, I knew that I had to forgive him and believe that God would turn everything to our good. The experience was indescribably awful but, today, Jenny is happily married to a man that, with hindsight, is much more suited to her than Steve.

“My daughter has lost six babies”

When Joyce Mason learned that she was going to be a grandmother, she was delighted and couldn’t wait to share her maternal experiences with her daughter Kelly.

“Ever since she was a child, Kelly had been a real little mother. She’d spend hours rocking and crooning to her dolls. It was obvious she was one of life’s natural nurturers. When she and Tommy married, it came as no surprise when, a few months later, she rang to say she was pregnant with twins. She was ecstatic! I was over the moon, as I knew how much she wanted the babies.

Sadly, three months before their expected date, Tommy called to say that Kelly had gone into early labour and given birth to their stillborn sons. We were devastated.

“The sight of my daughter lying pale and gaunt on a hospital bed was frightening. But her heart rending cries for the children she had lost pierced my heart and, as I held her, I knew that this was a pain that maternal love couldn’t ease. At that time, God seemed very far away. But faith isn’t about feelings, it’s about believing and I knew that, somewhere, in all the chaos and hurt, there was a divine plan. 

“It’s now been three years since Kelly lost the twins. In that time, I’ve held and rocked her through another four miscarriages – each one more painful than the last. I pray that she and Tommy will be given the family they crave. When that happens, I will revel in my greatest joy of motherhood, the happiness of my child.

“My son’s wife deserted him and took their sons”

At 62, Joan Walters was enjoying life. She loved her part time job as a hospital receptionist and took great delight in taking her grandsons Tim and Zack to the children’s bible quiz and picnics in the park.

“My son Peter would bring the lads on Saturday afternoon and pick them up Sunday night. He and their mum, Carol, would relish the peace and quiet of a weekend without the demands of a couple of boisterous youngsters.

“As grandparents, my hubby Joe and I loved to see the boys and would spend the time going to the park for Saturday picnics. On Sunday, we’d take them to the morning service at our Elim church. I think we actually got more pleasure than the boys!

“Call it maternal intuition, but when Peter rang to cancel our weekend visit, I knew immediately that something awful had happened. He didn’t elaborate, but I could sense the depth of hurt in his voice. As adults, our children relate to us in an entirely different manner, trying to spare us the painful and intimate details of their life. But maternal instinct never dies and I could detect the sadness in my son’s voice.

“As it turned out, Carol had met someone else and decided to leave Peter and take the boys with her. Oh, the pain of not seeing my grandchildren. I cannot articulate the agony. Yet to watch my son fade physically and spiritually before my eyes and not be able to help is an unbelievable burden. All I can do is pray that he will find some kind of peace while he waits to be reuntied with his family. As parents, it is agony to watch. But as grandparents, we face an added dimension to the heartache.”