When I saw the newspaper headline, my gut reaction said don’t read it.
I was up early, trying to ward off the morning sickness with a piece of toast, hoping to squeeze in an hour of work before S woke up. So the last thing I needed was to get distracted. Also, being all pregnant and hormonal, I knew exactly what my reaction would be if I opened the front page.
But I had to.
So I read this story: Mom drives kids into river; four dead.
And it was heart-breaking, as I knew it would be.
I stood there reading as my toast got cold and my cheeks got hot with tears. I felt every maternal instinct and every pregnant hormone in my body grieve at the thought of a mother so distraught that she would drive her babies into a freezing river.
But then I read this testimony from the daycare worker who cared for her children and reported that the mother seemed “stressed out” when she came to pick up her kids on Tuesday:
“The only thing she’d say was that she was so alone,” Strange said. “She’s a single parent. She takes great care of her kids, goes to school and works. She really needed a helping hand.“
Suddenly the story became personal. Even damning. Because some guilt lies on all of us when someone falls between the cracks so tragically.
I thought of how many times I’ve paid lip service to single moms, often when I’ve had to brave a week or two of solo parenting. I don’t know how they do it; they deserve so much credit. Which they do. But they also deserve my help. My support. My prayers. My refusal to condemn them with my judgment.
And I think I’ve failed in many of those respects, if I’m honest with myself. I could do a lot more. And I hope that reflecting on this awful story will move me to do more.
God’s Mothering Spirit must ache so deeply when such tragedies happen. Those babies are God’s babies, too. As is their mother. And I believe that the God of Love and Compassion and Forgiveness must surround such souls so tightly in those last moments that the terror of the present is washed away with the peace and promise of what is to come.
But I still can’t help but mourn the fact that a mother who “really needed a helping hand” never found one. And I wonder how often my arms are crossed or my fingers wag instead of reaching out a hand to help.