In my tradition, we never talked about her. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was given over to the Catholics and we made do with the rest of the family. It was like the leaders of my denomination simply didn't know what to do with her, how to fit her comfortably into a narrative, because of course, she doesn't fit easily into the picture of motherhood created in the minds of many.
But, there was something about that particular Mary that I found hopeful as a child. I saw her as a mother who loved her kid, with determination and with passion, knowing he was different. He took off on her, as children do, and she had to search to find him. He argued with teachers and debated those who he was supposed to simply bow down to. He couldn't have been an easy child, today they would put him on medication, to calm down his innate sense of revolution. But she loved her son anyway.
Even to his death, she followed him. She must have seen it coming, and she didn't turn her back on him, didn't disavow him, he was hers and she loved him. This is easy to understand from a distance but on the ground, when it was all happening, I'm not so sure it was easy.
She, to me, is a role model. To me she challenges, even today, parents to love the kid they've got. To never turn away from your child even when the world has. Steadfastness in the belief that family matters, that your child's difference is simply your child's difference, no matter whether that difference is celebrated or reviled.
To love your kids anyways.
I remember the very first time I saw a woman with a sign, in a protest march, that read, "I love my gay son." I wept. I cried for blocks as we marched through a crowd that threw things at us, rocks, garbage, anything they could find on the street. She loved her son anyway. It was possible for the human heart to love anyway.
I remember seeing a woman, standing up in a meeting, and demanding that her son with an intellectual disability be given a shot at a future, at an education, at a chance to be amongst rather than set apart. She spoke of his difference. She spoke of her pride in him, anyway. It was possible for a parent's heart to feel pride anyway.
I remember a woman with a physical and intellectual disability showing me a picture of her daughter, a daughter she raised at home, a single mother. Her daughter did not have her disabilities, and her disabilities made some aspect of motherhood more difficult, but she loved being a mom. It was possible for all hearts to love kids, to want the best for them, and to work around the barriers in the way, because there are always barriers.
When I was a little boy, just coming to terms with my difference. I knew I liked boys. It was a time of silence regarding who and what I was, I had a picture of Mary, and I imagined she knew of my difference and she knew of my secret, and I imagined she loved me anyway. It gave me comfort.
Years later and only days ago, my Mom said that she wished Joe and I could be with her and my brother and his wife for Mother's Day. I hung up and asked Joe if he heard my mother's words. They may have sounded like an invitation to a brunch, but what they said was...
... I love you anyway.
May all kids, at all times, feel loved anyway.
And thank you Mary, for being there, while I waited.