It is Motherâ€™s Day. I was and am extraordinarily mothered; my family is full of remarkable women who love their children fiercely.
I love them back, especially my own mother, who among a great many other lessons, taught me to read. Last week, I read this in The New York Times (italics mine):
An 8-month-old baby, Kuberan, survived only because his mother somehow managed to breast-feed him until just hours before she died….
Early on April 21, [Sivadasa Jagadeeswaran] stepped into the boat with his wife and their two sons. Their eldest, age 4, was among the first to die. They threw the child into the sea. Then, his wifeâ€™s father died. Her two brothers jumped overboard, lured by the twinkling lights of what may have been a fishing trawler. His wife held on until the last day. She complained of thirst, but vomited when he gave her seawater. Soon, she was gone.
This afternoon, a single father to an only child, he cooed softly to the baby on the hospital bed. He gave him a bottle of milk. He checked to make sure his diapers werenâ€™t wet. The baby giggled, oblivious to the misery around him.
I am not writing now to dissect the gruesome cadaver of this war. That has been done, and is being done, and will be done. The situation in Sri Lanka is complicatedâ€”so complicated. I am writing here because this familyâ€™s suffering, and its motherâ€™s love, is not.
This is hardly the only story of a Sri Lankan parent mourning a childâ€™s loss, or a Sri Lankan parent sacrificing him or herself for a child. And parents around the world do this all the time; when others are cavalier and cruel, they stand resolutely on the side of fragile and wondrous life. I can imagine this womanâ€”the determined fountain of her dying breast, her laying the body of one son in the sea, her falling silent, at last, in a boat rocking gently on the waves, as she hopes that the other son will live, even without her there to see it. I can imagine her husband cooing to a baby boy who giggles, because he does not yet understand at what cost he was saved and who paid, gladly, for his passage. Because she was his mother.
This is for mothers, who place themselves between us and certain disasterâ€”mothers, who are more powerful than the most powerful weapons.
I, too, owe my survival to my mother, to the steady and unsinkable boat of her love.