Tell your mother you love her

May 9, 2003

“We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer. Together we exist. And forever will recreate each other.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 19th-century French philosopher

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I’m reminded that I’ve never held my mother, looked into her eyes and told her that I love her. I’ve never offered a soft kiss on her cheek. I’ve never even given my mother flowers.

My mom died before I got the chance.

As you might expect, such an early boyhood loss touched my life and my family in various ways. I, for one, looked elsewhere for bridges over the kind of troubled waters that beset most of us sooner or later.

My mother’s death left an extra-large void because she committed suicide. She apparently had schizophrenia, a terrible Grim Reaper of a disease that claims the life of one in 10 diagnosed with it.

My mom — her name was Hannelore — was a registered nurse, an articulate writer, photographer and lover of animals, good music and too many things to list here.

Yet her life ended with a needle and a whimper in her Berlin apartment on one sad, fall day when she felt alone and without hope.

Yes, my mom, like other suicide victims, died not of mental disease but lack of hope. Clinical studies, some done here in Hamilton, confirm this. People can survive the blackest of hells if they can somehow believe the darkness will someday pass.

The mentally ill get that hope, by the way, through simple friendship. Something to think about next time that haggard stranger comes your way.

Naturally, my life has moved on. The distant memory of a mother- never-known is eclipsed by, for one, my impending fatherhood. It will be a ride for sure. First, there’s DDay. I don’t how I’ll manage. Guys, admit it. The fairer sex is much stronger with this sort of thing.

Catching babies for a living certainly gives Jean some extra know- how here. Yes, one of us knows what we’re doing. If I had things my way, we’d borrow an ambulance for a while right about now.

What I find particularly interesting is how a certain synergy ties all this together. You’ll recall, Jean, with McMaster University as her vocational home base, is launching a Canadian- based program called Save the Mothers. It’s to help the half- million women who now die globally every year from pregnancy complications.

Indeed, by the time you’ve read this, some nameless mother in the developing world will have died, blood spattered, fevered, perhaps with her half-born child wedged in her womb or some other horrible happenstance that could be prevented if more people bothered to notice.

Like mental illness, this is not incredibly pleasant dinner conversation. But silence begets ignorance and fear and a strange, societal complacency. Which brings us to Mother’s Day. Considering these things, are we missing something in its spirit?

Ask yourself, what’s the value of your mother? Priceless?

Is the value of someone else’s mother any less? Do you see? Saving a mother is saving a child, and, in a sense, saving all of us.

So Save the Mothers is forging ahead as a master’s program.

It will immerse professionals working in law, politics, media, social sciences and health care in issues of maternal mortality, so they can in turn affect their spheres of influence. It now has charitable status and a host university in Uganda, which Jean and I recently visited.

Uganda is the place because, unlike the Arab world where we now work, this country is willing to talk about its problems.

Such openness has helped Uganda improve its lot by, for one, reducing its rate of AIDS more than other African countries.

Save the Mothers is planned for pilot there as early as 2005. Suffice to say, we’re optimistic this seed of hope will blossom and someday save somebody’s mom.

In the meantime, thanks for keeping these things in your thoughts. Enjoy Sunday. And for heaven’s sake, tell your mother you love her.

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May 9, 2003 • Posted in ,
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