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Mother’s Day isn’t always easy. Sarah Torbeck finds the remarkable gifts of healing and gratitude within the heart of imperfection.

It’s that time of year again, when you find yourself jostling between last-minute shoppers at the local vendor, searching for just the right Mother’s Day card. You can always find me in that crowd as well, searching diligently for a card that depicts just the right sentiment. In fact, I have been known to stand there for almost an hour, searching in vain for something—anything—that strikes the right chord of our relationship … because the truth is, none of the cards ever reflect the true nature of the tumultuous and dysfunctional relationship I have with my mother.  




As I pick through the myriads of cards and notes, I find myself scowling at the cheery sentiments. “Dear Mother, thank you for being my friend.”  

“Nope,” I say to myself. Mom never wanted to be my friend. I pick up another pretty card: “Mother, on this day, I am reminded of your affection for me.”  

“Scratch that one too,” I mutter, as I continue to stand there picking through the brightly colored cardstock, trying to find that which cannot be found.  

I usually give up at this point, and buy a small gift instead, although I recently stopped buying gifts for my mother as well. (They make her uncomfortable.)  

If you haven’t caught on by now, let me clue you in. These are the fruits of dysfunction … and they are a common experience within the human family. I know that dysfunction is something we are expected to collectively avoid—or relegate to the darker corners of our hearts and minds—but I would like to make the case for its rarified contributions as well. In fact, if you are like me (and there are more of us out there than you might think) then allow me to remove the stigma once and for all: it’s okay if your childhood was difficult, and it’s okay if you struggle with conflicting emotions in front of the card section … because the truth is we are wiser and more resilient as a result of those experiences. 

I don’t wish to imply that my childhood was unsalvageable. In the debris and chaos of my memories lie those rare and glistening gems of beauty and grace. For instance, my mother loved the outdoors, and I can remember following her through two-foot snowbanks, under a wintry moon. “Look!” My mother would cry. “Do you see the moonlight sparkling in the snow? Those are snow diamonds. Aren’t they beautiful?” 




And they were. To this day I still cannot look at a snowy landscape in a veiled light without seeing the snow diamonds.  

My mother also loved bright and starry night skies. So, she and my father would gather blankets and take my sisters and me outside. We would spread the blankets on the grass, lie on our backs, and gaze at the stars. My father would talk about the constellations and astronomy, while my mother counted the shooting stars. It was not uncommon for us to wake up in the middle of the night, still lying under the stars—covered with dew. Precious memories. 




Click to tweet:
It’s okay if your childhood was difficult, and it’s okay if you struggle with conflicting emotions in front of the #MothersDay card section. #CatholicMom


This is how our Creator heals and restores. I know that my life was far from perfect … but then again, it is a fallacy to believe that a perfect life exists outside of God. This life is full of pitfalls and snares, but our good God has given us everything we need for the journey—in the form of wisdom gleaned from sadness; in the form of His Son’s death on the cross, and in the life of His Mother who loves us unconditionally and who prays for us at every moment. We just need to recognize and accept these healing gifts in our own lives. 

It really is that simple. 

As for me, I think I will finally write that Mother’s Day card that has remained undiscovered until now: 

Mama, thank you for giving me snow diamonds, and starry-night wonders. They are pressed into my memories like a precious flower between the leaves of a book. I know that things are imperfect here, but I pray for you every day, and look forward to healing for both of us.  
Love, Sarah 

Of course, I won’t give it to her (it would make her uncomfortable), but that’s ok. God knows, and His mother knows … and one day, my mama will know as well. 

Happy Mother’s Day, dear people. 



Copyright 2023 Sarah Torbeck
Images: Canva