I work with some really wonderful people at the church where I am on staff. This week has been a particularly difficult one for some of them. One of them experienced the loss of her mother just yesterday after a battle with cancer that lasted over a year. The end came quietly in her home, with one of her daughters by her side.

Another one of these amazing people is sitting at the side of her mother-in-law, also soon to take her last labored breath after a bone marrow transplant of less than a year ago fails in her body. Her whole family – husband, children, grandchildren, siblings – are at her side, singing hymns, praying, sharing smiles and stories, even as she takes one breath, and then another, that will be her last on this earth.

Still one more of these co-workers of mine just became a grandmother for the seventh time, her own daughter’s giving birth having been a dramatic change from previous births. This grandmother of seven is now preparing for the death of her own mother as her aging body and mind, now clouded by dementia, slows to a stop.

Three women having lost or preparing to lose a mother, all showing me a picture of holding on and letting go in very different ways. All showing the amazing grace that defines motherhood.

My own mother died when I was seven, leaving behind seven children. My memories of her are scarce but precious: A smile, the gentle pumping of a treadle sewing machine, the long phone cord stretched across the room as she talked on the old kitchen wallmount while continuing to wash dishes or prepare meals for the army she and dad had brought into the world.

All these women experienced the joys and sorrows of being mothers and left their imprint on their children.

I, myself, am not a mother. I came to the place of marriage at 43, too old to have children and not wanting to experience that journey. Maybe just too selfish to put so much of myself into caring for or worrying about another life in need of so much.

In offering prayers for these special women yesterday I found these words of Julian of Norwich: “As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.” And so when I pray at night, I will remember that not only do I pray to God my father, but to God my mother. And I will take comfort in that. And the faces that come to my mind as I pray will be of these amazingly grace-filled women who have shown me a new face of God.

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