Ghosts of Mother’s Day

Many women in the western world wake up to breakfast in bed, flowers and cards, mostly hand drawn, at least one day a year. Except for the flowers, that’s probably exactly what Anna Jarvis had in mind when she founded Mother’s Day mother than 100 years ago.

Most people don’t know that Jarvis’ own mother was the first ghost of Mother’s Day. In 1907, two years after her mother died, Jarvis held a memorial service honoring her mother’s efforts to improve sanitary and health conditions in five cities, and began a campaign to gain national and international recognition for a holiday celebrating motherhood.

She succeeded spectacularly.

“The mother/daughter relationship is one of the strongest human bonds and once she’s gone, you’ll always miss her,” said Nancy Kiel, a bereavement counselor with Loyola University Health Systems. “Just because she’s gone in person doesn’t mean she’s gone in your heart.”

In fact, some mothers may not be gone at all.

Daughters, and even sons, will say the voice in their head that both cautions them against doing something stupid and encourages them to do and be their best sounds a lot like Mom after she is gone. That only makes sense, since those were her primary messages, along with “clean up your room”, while she was a live. It also makes sense to follow Mom’s advice.

“My mother always encouraged us to get something special,” Kiel admits. “To celebrate her life my sister and I go shopping and buy something we don’t need. I can still hear her say ‘Nancy, just get that.'”

The voice of the most famous ghost mother, a beautiful young woman thought to be named Maria, is said to be heard by more than just her family. La Llorona, as she is known in her native Mexico, allegedly murdered her children in order to be with the man she loved (maybe this is where Susan Smith got the idea?). After her lover rejected her, Maria commits suicide, however when she arrives at the gates of Heaven, St. Peter asks her where her children are. When Maria admits she does not know, she is denied entry into Heaven. According to the legend, she wanders the Earth seeking her lost children, weeping and crying out for her “hijos” (children). In some cases she may even kidnap children she finds wandering about in the dark. It isn’t known whether she mistakes these wandering children for her own or is just so desperate to get into Heaven that she will take any child that crosses her path.

A superstitious person might point out that Mother’s Day and Halloween, a holiday which celebrates ghosts among other things fall on opposite sides of the wheel of the year. It’s not surprising, therefore, that some ghosts can be associated with a holiday celebrating mothers, especially given the origins of Mother’s Day.

Who knows, maybe even the ghosts of Anna Jarvis and her mother are keeping an eye on the holiday they inspired.

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