01.30.15 I’ve just returned from a week in Berkeley, entertaining and corralling three grandkids, as Mom tried to complete a major work project in her home office. The days were splendid for walking in the afternoons to nearby parks, a piano lesson, and to and from school. The kids waited for me to say every morning, “another beautiful California sunshiny day!” The roses and magnolias, the amazing bird songs, the soft and smooth coastal air, are a tonic in the midst of this long winter back home. Lucky me, to be there in January; to be there at all, just being a Mother.
On my run in the mornings, I passed by this figurine, snuggled into a garden. After the heartbreaking phone call from my dear friend, telling me that her first grandchild, a baby boy, was born dead, this statue looked like a mother, bleeding. I have another friend who moved away from her lovely home across the lake to live in Chicago, with her daughter and grandchildren, after the son-in-law committed suicide. And, old friends, who lost their young adult children. All mothers with bleeding hearts.
My granddaughter is reading books about Greek mythology. She can tell you the names of the gods and all the convoluted epic stories that explain “Life” with clear cause and effect. I knew there were ones about mothers who’ve lost their children. Niobe’s Tragedy, said to be one of the most tragic dramas in Greek mythology, is one of them. Homer tells the story in the Iliad. It begins as a tale of hubris when Niobe, a mortal woman, boasted she was better than the gods because she had given birth to fourteen children. The twins of Leto, Apollo’s mother, take great offense and descend to Earth to punish Niobe by slaying all her children. Devastated, Niobe flees to Mount Sipylus where she weeps for days and days without stopping. Zeus eventually took pity on her and turned her to stone to spare her more agony. It is said that her stone body continued to weep and her endless tears formed the river, Achelous.
Only Greek myth can express this profound pain and every mother trembles somewhere deep inside when this happens to one of us. Spring cannot come too soon for those who are weeping.