We randomly watched the movie Philomena last night. I had no idea what it was about, but remembered a friend saying how great it was. And it was. Excellent, as a matter of fact, and worth the watch.

Philomena, now an older woman, finds herself lost in thoughts of a little boy – her little boy – on what would’ve been his 50th birthday. Having given birth to him, an illegitimate child, as an Irish Catholic teenager in a much less forgiving time, she was sent to live and work in a Catholic unwed mother’s home run by nuns. Allowed to see her son just an hour per day, he was adopted out suddenly, and without her knowledge, as a toddler.

This is a true story, in that Philomena was a real person, and so was her son. But it’s also a true story in a broader sense. A story of love and loss, of holding tight and letting go.

The story of motherhood.

The moment any woman finds out she’s going to be a mother, there is an understanding that she will eventually have to let go of that child, and ultimately lose it. We hope against hope that the letting go will be upon sending them off to college, or down a wedding aisle; we pray that the loss will be upon our own home-going and not theirs. But, even not knowing for sure, we sign on. We love, long and deep, pouring as much into every day as we can, as if it was our last.

Or, at least, we should.

That’s what the Philomenas of the mothering world would tell you.

You know, the Philomenas who choose the letting go at the very start, and (at least the ones I know) experience a loss they didn’t see coming, so profound it threatens to derail them completely. They’d tell you that the clump of cells that was cleared from their womb was actually really a life, and you’d better love the one you have in your hands with all you’ve got…and maybe a little extra for her baby. Or the Philomenas who experience the loss, unbidden and unwanted, at some point during pregnancy, and have to figure out how to let their children go. They’d tell you to relish every single heartbeat. And then there are the Philomenas who’ve lost their child on this side of their womb. The ones who loved with everything they had, but not for nearly enough time. Perhaps they’d tell you to pay attention. To get your face out of your smartphone and into your child’s world while you can. Or maybe the Philomena who made the choice, years ago, to suffer her own loss, so her child could have better…maybe she’d tell you to do all you can to give your own child that life, because people like her are counting on you.

All of these women, even without their child beside them, are still mothers. It’s impossible to experience such astounding loss without first experiencing profound love. Mothering is not for the wimpy, the timid, or the pie-in-the-sky.

Or maybe it is.

Maybe it’s for all of us, to grow us in ways we never imagined. To take the wimpy and timid, and make them strong and fierce. To take the pie-in-the-sky and ground them in That which is unshakable.

Love does that.

Sacrifice does that.

Trust and forgiveness do that, too.

Love and loss…holding tight and letting go. It’s the story of motherhood. And, even if you’re not a mother, Philomena would tell you that it’s also the story of life. A story for every mother, whether they have children or not.

Because, well, we all mother someone, don’t we?


You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.” Matthew 5:7 MSG