MOTHERLESS MOTHER'S DAY CEREMONY
Full Ceremony by Shae Uisna
Hello! I’d like to welcome you all to this Motherless Mother’s Day Celebration - thanks for coming out today! Before we begin, let’s take a moment to turn off our phones. Thank-you!
My name is Shae Uisna… I’m a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® – I create ceremonies and celebrations that are based on the beliefs of the people whose lives I celebrate, whether that’s a memorial service, a house blessing or a renewal of wedding vows. So let me tell you what you can expect from this Motherless Mother’s Day Celebration… We ‘re going to share some stories and some pictures of our Mothers and loved ones. We’re going to eat. We’ll have some laughs, there’ll be some tears and laughter and by the end of the afternoon, I hope all of you will have met some nice people. Oh, and did I mention, there will be food? Hopefully when we leave this afternoon, our hearts will be a little lighter and all of us will have been introduced to some very wonderful Mothers.
Mother’s Day is all about “Celebrating Mom.” The assumption on Mother’s Day is that our mothers are alive and well and this is a special day to thank them for being our mothers. So everything on this day is geared to showing Mom how much we care by giving her flowers, cards, candy and gifts, & all of these can be very painful if we don’t have a mother still with us.
Grief is NOT a linear process: it is circular and seasonal; returning our pain to us on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of death and other special occasions… There is healing that comes with tears, especially if we gather together in groups and can comfort each other. There is healing that comes in remembering, in sharing our stories with others who have also suffered loss. I wanted to host this celebration because for those of us who have lost our mothers, Mother’s Day can be tremendously sad… it is a holiday that compounds the pain of our grief by reminding us of all that we have lost.
There is an old story about the power of the love between a Mother and her child – the story of Demeter and Persephone – Demeter was the Greek Goddess of the harvest and agriculture, she watched over the earth and over all that grew that fed man and beast alike – and her daughter Persephone was a radiant young woman who loved sunshine and flowers and dancing with her friends – close your eyes and breathe deeply – remember the sweet smell of a Spring Morning…in this, you will recognize Persephone’s presence in our world… But one day, a man came and, overwhelmed by her beauty, took Persephone, claiming her for his bride. He stole her away, taking her with him deep into the earth, into the dark recesses of our world, to a place called Hades, and Persephone vanished from the face of the earth…
The story tells us, that Demeter was heartbroken over losing her daughter – she scoured the earth looking for her child and in the process, she stopped caring for the plants and trees and crops. The world was plunged into winter… plants withered and animals and people began to starve. It was only then that the great king of the gods, Zeus himself, intervened. He sent the winged-footed messenger God Hermes into Hades to plead with the Lord of the Underworld to release Persephone, only to be told that she had eaten six seeds of a pomegranate in the underworld and this meant that she could never leave.
I’ve always thought this was a strange part of the story – Persephone was gone for a long time and she only ate six pomegranate seeds – I don’t know about you, but if I don’t eat every few hours, I’m very hungry, and six seeds is not enough to fill anyone’s belly – so it made me think that Persephone had lost her appetite after being stolen from her life… she missed her friends, she mourned the sun and the sweet smells of the earth, and I believe she missed her mother. Persephone felt the loss of her mother as keenly as her Mother missed her – because, for all she knew, she was never going to see her mother again – and that despair and grief made her lose her appetite for life. Perhaps some of you know what this feels like…
Eventually Mother and Daughter were reunited – Zeus struck a deal with his brother Hades – Persephone would spend six months of every year in the underworld with Hades and then six months above ground, returned to her beloved mother. six months for the six pomegranate seeds. And so it would be forever and ever. And in this way, the ancients explained the warm blossoming of Spring and Summer and the chill death of Fall and Winter: two who loved each other very much, who had been as dead to one another, were reunited. “It is a fearful thing to love that which death can touch.” And yet it is what makes this world so very, very precious.
Song: “The River She is Flowing” sung as a round. (“The River She is flowing, flowing and growing, the River she is flowing, down to the sea. Mother carry me, your child I will always be. Mother carry me, down to the sea.” Repeat this 3 times.) (Click to hear an interview I did about MMD in 2014.)
As long as there is life, there is hope, and the opportunity to love and be loved.
So now it’s your turn. Let us honor our departed Mothers by speaking their names and sharing their stories. My dear friend Frosty says, “As long as there’s someone alive who remembers them, then our loved ones aren’t really dead… and when there’s no one left to remember them, it won’t really matter, because we’ll all be together again anyways.”
What I’d like to do is to team you up with someone you don’t know. Move your chairs off a little so you can sit together. You’re going to take turns telling the other person about your Mother or Loved One – I have paper and pens here for you to jot down key points. You’re going to take a few notes if you like, because later on, we’ll be introducing each other’s loved ones to the group, so notes might make it easier. It’s a powerful thing to tell our Mother’s stories to each other. It’s even more powerful to hear someone else tell it back to you.
Now, here’s something you may like to consider: If you could talk to your Mother, or your loved one right now, what’s the one thing you would want to say to her? You will each have 8 minutes to talk
[Everyone pairs off, if there's an odd number, make one group of three.]
Great! So we're going to each have 8 minutes to talk about our Mothers. Partner listening, ask questions and take notes! Then we'll switch roles. I'll give you time warnings so you know how much time you have. Then we'll come back together as a group and you are going to each take turns introducing each other’s Mother or loved one, to the group. This is where you get to use those notes that you just took!
[We take the time to speak and listen to each other. After everyone has had a turn, if the group is large, I divide the group into smaller groups of 10. If the group is small, we stay together as one group. Then we take turns introducing our partner's Mother to the group. Take as much time as you need for this part.]
Now, let’s come together in one big group again. We’re going to go around the circle… I’ll be first… We’ll each light a candle using the flame from the universal candle, and we will speak our Mother’s, or loved one’s name out loud. Then everyone will repeat the name together, and add, "We Remember." And then that person will place their candle into the sand here on the table.
And now I’d like to share something with you: my dear friend Lisa Jeffers-Fabro told me that after her Mother died, she kept a smooth pebble in her pocket for almost a year… it went to her Mother’s funeral with her… and it comforted her - it was a touchstone that helped her stay grounded. After the funeral, she moved it from pocket to pocket in other outfits…and it gave her strength. Now, this bowl of pebbles has gone through our ceremony with us, and has witnessed all that has been done here – so while we’re all eating, please feel free to come over and choose your pebble from this bowl. Keep it in your pocket to remind you of this gathering. I have the same stone in my pocket today that was with me on May 9th of 2010, the first time I led this celebration!
And now that we’re almost at the end of the ceremony part of our Celebration… I’d like all of us to gather in a “London Bridge is Falling Down” kind of formation, lets have all of us who have already been to a MMD (Motherless Mother's Day) Celebration, here in the front… The last person will go underneath the bridge of outstretched arms and then take his or her place up at the top and we’ll do this until everyone has had a chance to go through. Your mother birthed you into this world, if not physically, then she nurtured you and mothered you. When she died, that was another transition you went through, of becoming a motherless child or person. This ritual represents the grief-work you are all doing and have done in mourning your mother - even if she died a long time ago!
While we go through this "Bridge" we will all sing a song by Rami Shapiro: "We are Loved By An Unending Love" https://youtu.be/MViLs01idso
This bridge symbolizes your journey through your grief, here in the company of friends and allies. You were able to love deeply, and that’s a good thing…That’s why it hurts so much... But today, on this Motherless Mother’s Day, you are surrounded by the good wishes and affection of others who know what it’s like to miss their mothers, and we are all stronger because we are in this together. The idea being that there is "light at the other end of the tunnel," that our mothers live in in us and now each other, and that there is the possibility for new connections between us all.
And finally, it’s almost time to eat… Some people have asked me why the potluck? Why not a beautifully catered event? Some of you can guess my answer to this… That life is a mess and that’s okay… That stories and important lessons about life were passed down in the kitchen
between you and your mother, even if she couldn’t cook! Even if all she ever made for dinner was reservations!
(Shae’s pink mug story to be shared while we’re eating and informally telling stories about our mothers)
My mother died on Christmas Eve in 1994 when she was 53. She had cervical cancer and it spread. It wasn’t what we had planned or expected: we were going to grow old together and be rambunctious grey-haired old ladies together. But life is what happens while you’re making other plans, and this was certainly the case for my mother and I.
After my Mother died, when we were cleaning out her house, I found this pink mug. It was something that my Mom had given me, back when I was in my 20’s which I, in the brashness of youth, had declined to accept – I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and it was just too pink for me! – but there I was, 15 years later, faced with it again. We never know when our last day will be; never know what words people will remember us by… and for me, this is now part of my Mother’s legacy to me, this pink mug, with its sentimental poem … and now I keep it dear and re-read the words my Mother wished to give to me, that conveyed her love for me which transcends her death:
“To My Daughter With Love” by Susan Polis Schutz
“You were brought into this world
a beautiful little girl, born of love
who will one day grow up to be
a beautiful woman full of love.
I tried to teach you important values
I tried to show you how to be
strong and honest, gentle and sensitive.
I tried to show you the importance of having many goals
and of being independent and confident.
I tried to emphasize the beauty of nature
and to demonstrate the importance of family.
I tried every day to set an example
that you could look up to.
I have always been very proud of you
and I will continue forever
to appreciate, support and love you
and to be here for you whenever you need me
my beautiful daughter.”