Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It is not a holiday I celebrate. I am not a mother myself, and as those of you who know something of my personal history are aware, my relationship with my own mother was critically wounded when she became mentally ill during my adolescence.
I’m generally not much affected by the holiday. It’s been years since I left home, and by now I’ve spent more of my life without my mom than I spent with her. Time heals. But last year I learned that she had died – in 2007. And ever since then I’ve found myself thinking of her much more often, of the mother she was when I was young, and of the mother she became when I was older. And in completing my memoir, which is being released next month, naturally I’ve had to spend a great deal of time digging deeper into my long-repressed feelings towards her, this woman I once loved with all my heart.
And maybe that’s why, on Sunday morning as I was doing my usual Twitter thing, I found myself growing uncomfortable when faced with the steady stream of tweets celebrating moms and motherhood. That’s wonderful, of course, for people who are mothers and who have mothers – they should celebrate. But then I thought, what about those who don’t ? What about all those children – young and old alike – who have lost their mothers? How does it make them feel to be deluged with these reminders of other people’s happy families when their own has been torn apart?
I hadn’t known ahead of time what I was going to tweet that day. I had nothing sweet or tender to offer in honor of the holiday, nothing warm or fuzzy I wanted to say about my mom or anyone else’s. But as I waded my way through my tweetstream, it suddenly came to me that even if I didn’t know what I wanted to say, I knew who I wanted to speak to, this Mother’s Day. Not to the mothers, but to the motherless.
And this is what I posted.
“For all those who can no longer celebrate #MothersDay… Remember #Mom.”
And then I got up and made breakfast. When I returned to my computer about an hour later, my tweet had been retweeted 49 times and favorited 70 times.
I was blown away. Needless to say, nothing I have ever posted on Twitter has ever gotten anything close to that kind of response. As of this writing, there have been 133 retweets and 152 favorites – mostly by people with whom I had no prior connection. And people responded! How they responded. Here are a few of the notes I received:
“I remember my mom too! Its the 1st Mother’s Day without her! Be strong, Lori!”
“I put flowers on my mother’s grave too. Miss her so much today.”
“Thank you. Lovely reminder of our mothers lost too early.”
“Thank you Lori. This is a tough day for a lot of us, but this makes it a little easier.”
I was moved. Deeply, deeply moved. My tweet – 70 characters and a photo – had actually reached people, hundreds of them; it had touched them in a brief yet meaningful way. And when you look at the responses it prompted, it’s apparent that there were different reasons why. Some wanted to share their own feelings about their own lost mothers. Some wanted to offer their support to others who might be in pain. And some were merely grateful to be acknowledged – to be given the recognition that Mother’s Day is not necessarily a day of celebration for everyone. The responses varied. But at heart they all stemmed from the same impulse, our unquenchable desire to communicate our feelings to other humans.
It’s often said that social media is about making meaningful connections, about developing relationships with individuals you wouldn’t normally encounter in your local environment. But there’s a different kind of connection that social media also makes possible. Connecting to strangers. People with whom you have no real relationship and probably never will. People with whom you have absolutely nothing in common, except for this – a shared emotion. A shared feeling, a shared experience. A shared bit of the humanity that’s common to us all.
In its own strange way, social media unites us. We’ve all heard of revolutionary movements being organized through Twitter. We’re all aware of the grassroots activism that’s transpiring every day on the internet. We all know how social media is changing our lives, how it’s connecting people all around the world, how it brings people together, how it makes their voices heard.
And what we’re discovering is that we are not alone. There are millions upon millions of others just like us, in all the countries of the world, who are living and loving and laughing and crying and hurting and dying. We no longer have to be alone with our feelings. We can touch, and be touched. We can share our sorrow. We can share our pain. We can find comfort and support in the hearts of strangers. We can find strength in the swell of humanity that surrounds us, in the knowledge that in some of the most essential ways, we are not many, but one.
It’s a powerful age. And a beautiful one. For the first time in history, we can reach out to our fellow humans, all of them. Knowing that they can respond to us. Knowing that they will reach back.