Gina Murdock: Holding my mother’s hand
Lead with Love
For all the years I dreamed of being a mother, one of the things I yearned for, visualized and literally felt was my child’s hand in mine. This image would visit me often. Your little hand in mine. I felt it. I saw her reaching for me. I tried and tried to grasp it. I ached to know what that felt like.
I became a mother later in life. My mother was a different story. As many women from her generation, she became a mother early, more than 20 years earlier than I am. She was a beautiful, young mother raising my brother and sister in her early 20s in San Francisco as she and my dad moved from one tiny apartment to another — my dad making a living as an actor who soon had to give it up to provide for his young family. I can imagine my late-1960s mom juggling these two kids, cleaning the house, making dinner all the while looking amazing in her size 6 pants, makeup and hair done perfectly. I tend to spend most of my days in some sort of stretchy sweatsuit that to me counts as pajamas and dinner wear.
The pictures I see of my mom in this era show her enjoyment of motherhood. She is perfectly lit up by the act of mothering. It’s in her. She embodies it. She is warm and nurturing and safe and welcoming and so, so loving.
My little/big sister Michele began having headaches when she was a bouncy brunette 4-year-old. Before she turned 6, she died. A part of my mother died then, too. My sister and I came around several years after Michele died. I didn’t know her directly, but always felt connected to her. In my mind she is my little sister, age 5, gorgeous doe-like deep brown eyes, soft heart, loving warmth, just like my mother. I imagine my mom holding her hand through countless doctors appointments and hospital visits, through chemo and radiation. Your little hand in mine. Hold on. Hold on.
My mom, just 27 years old, no therapy, little support, and another child to be strong for, buried her daughter. I will never know anyone stronger than she is. She persevered. She kept her heart open and warm. My parents stayed knit together even though all they wanted to do was fall apart.
I hope I never have to know where that strength came from. I honor it. It is in so many women who care for their children or other’s children, animals or planet with their nurturing, loving hearts. They do what needs to be done from a source of strength that comes from necessity. There often simply is no other choice. I am thinking of the mothers in Ukraine recently, how strong they must be, not because they want to be, but because they have to be. The wars of men require it.
Mothers are to be celebrated every day. And women, like me, who yearn to be mothers and are on a journey to realize that dream, are to be celebrated. All of us who mother in all the ways that we do are to be celebrated. It does not require childbirth to be a mother, it requires courage to show up and take care.
The Earth needs mothering, and all the children of the world need our loving embrace. There are many, many children with an outstretched hand waiting for someone to hold it. On Mother’s Day (which is May 8), I honor my mother for sharing her love, strength and dedication with me, these are the qualities that led me finally to hold the little hands I knew I was meant to hold.
Gina Murdock is the founder of Lead with Love, an Aspen-based nonprofit dedicated to shifting culture from fear to love and a board member of CASA of the Ninth. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Ninth is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization serving Pitkin, Garfield, and Rio Blanco counties that trains and supervises volunteers to represent the best interests of our most vulnerable citizens — victims of child abuse, neglect, and severe domestic conflict. For more information about CASA go to casaoftheninth.org.