“I’m having a Mother’s Day Tea,” my friend Becky said on the other end of the phone line, “and am inviting some of our writer friends and a few of the ladies from church.”
My heart dipped.
Six weeks into grieving my son’s suicide, I didn’t know how I could possibly get through an afternoon without crying. Each afternoon played out the same, and escalated into evenings of tears, tears, and more tears. I did not intend to upset my friends and ruin a tea party, so I said, “That’s so kind of you, Becky, but I’m afraid I can’t go. I’m too weepy and that will bother everyone.”
“It’s in your honor.”
My throat swelled, so that I could not speak. Oh. My.
Becky said, “I know it’s hard, Jean, but you’re a mother and you need to celebrate your motherhood.”
My voice quivered. “Oh, I don’t know.”
“It’ll be fun,” she said. “Everybody will wear their favorite spring hat and I’ll make lots of goodies. And,” she said with emphasis, “I’m serving fabulous hot peach tea.”
I nodded. “I like peaches.”
“This will be good. You’ll see.”
I wailed, “But I’m a crybaby.”
“Invite your daughter and granddaughters. We can’t leave them out.”
She got me there. I could go to the tea with my daughter Jami at my side.
When the day came, I dreaded going once again. How could I possibly mingle with close acquaintances only two months after Joshua’s death? Maybe they dreaded seeing me more than I dreaded being around them. Besides, I didn’t deserve to honor my motherhood. I couldn’t even keep my son alive. I would not attend.
But, then, I thought of Jami and her daughters.
After I told my granddaughters about the tea party, it was all they could talk of with me: dressing up in gloves, dresses, and hats and drinking peach tea. My girls and I needed to attend a lighthearted affair after our horrific loss from suicide. Not only did I lose my youngest child, but also my daughter lost her baby brother. Her daughters lost their uncle Joshy, as they called him.
That morning, I couldn’t help myself and began to sob as I dressed in my linen skirt and lace top. Would going to the tea make me more miserable for what I no longer had? With one less child in my life, I had one gaping hole in my soul. I bowed my head, and said, “All the other mothers still have their children.”
No, that’s not true.
I stiffened. Where did the thought come from and was it so?
My mind raced over the names that would attend the tea. My remembering settled over Martha from our church. She would celebrate her one-hundredth birthday soon, and she had lost her only child and her husband decades before.
I remembered Martha’s gentle encouragement to me one day during worship services. She winked. “You’re doing alright, kiddo.”
At the time, I had no idea Martha lost her son, and resentment rose inside me at her words. How could she know how I felt? I was not doing well. A few weeks later, I discovered the truth about Martha.
Right then, thinking of the tea I dressed for, I decided to pray. “Lord, please help me get through this day. Thank you for good friends like Becky and Martha. I am grateful my daughter and granddaughters will be there. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
A bit shaky, I arrived at Becky’s home. My friends eased my frazzled nerves with their hugs and whispered condolences. My daughter and I sat together and stayed quieter than the other ladies at the tea. I looked around at the oak trees surrounding Becky’s house made from a windmill and listened to women chatter. At one point, Martha gave me a knowing look and smiled. All of it made me feel safe and loved.
True to Becky’s word, she had an abundance of delicious finger foods and treats. Cup after cup of the sweet peach tea warmed my insides. My granddaughters ate their fill, getting chocolate on their frilly gloves and dresses.
All the while, Becky took pictures and I thought little of it at the time. Within a few weeks, though, she presented me with a photo album of our Mother’s Day Tea Party. Becky offered another blessed moment in an otherwise bittersweet month of May.
I’ll never forget how Becky served me as a friend. Months later, as a woman of action, she suggested I needed a project and together we created a children’s book of Bible stories. It doesn’t matter it never got published. What counted was how Becky kept my mind busy.
Through my experiences with Becky, I learned to seek women friends who were willing to nurture me. They created some of my most comforting moments. I needed more than what my husband was able to give because he hurt just as much. I scarcely had the ability to struggle through myself, much less be there always for my husband.
Like many mothers who have lost a child, I needed to talk about my son. I needed to feel safe in sharing my greatest fears and sorrows with Becky, and I had no doubt she would keep our conversations in confidence. Becky listened to me for countless hours and never gave advice. She not only helped by allowing me talk, but she showed me by example what being a good listener looked like.
Some days I did not feel like answering the phone, nor did I want to visit in either of our homes. When all I wanted was to hunker down and hide, Becky sent me cards in the mail and showed me she cared.
One thing Becky could not do was take away my hurt. That was God’s job. She had, however, acted as a ministering angel. I found God allowed Becky to ease my wounded heart. Though I sure didn’t know it at the time, I needed a tea party to celebrate my motherhood. Later, Becky and I shared many teas for two in the comfort of her safe and loving home.
Jean Williams 2012