Gold Star Mother Has Learned to Embrace Her Title With Pride
I confess that labels are hard for me. Not that I don’t love several brands whose label signifies something special. I do have dreams of owning a true Chanel dress and a brand-new pair of Dior shoes. But I choose, instead, clothes that conceal the label just as my only pair of Yves Saint Laurent shoes are devoid an outer marker. It is just a weird quirk of mine, this label aversion. There is one label I love, however, and for which I make an exception. It is the label of “Mom.” I have absolutely loved wearing this label since earning it 27+ years ago.
When my children were young and called for me, “Mooooooooommmmm,” the name actually sent a soothing calm over my being and brought a satisfied smile to my face. I did not dread the name-calling; I very much embraced it. As my son inched closer to adolescence, he replaced the long-winded call with a quick-witted “Mama.” To which I answered by quoting the goofy country song, “Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” and would then happily attend to his summons while enjoying the giggle of my own absurdity.
Both my children have called me “mom,” and no matter the tone, the label for which it stands has been a source of joy for me always. In fact, it is the label of mother that really struck me about Maria (Shriver). I felt an indirect empowerment from her simply because the first word choice in her biographical title is that of mother. Her inclusion showcases the importance of that role for her and touches me because I echo her sentiments and have loved every minute of my maternal work.
Given this little snippet into my label challenges and my love of mothering, one can imagine the wrestling I’ve had with the seal of Gold Star Mom. While I have sometimes used the new moniker in attempt to ward off further conversation about my son and his demise, concurrently I have also been hiding from it. Quite frankly the Gold Star Mom label I never wanted. But then what mother does? In my grief I see the label as solidifying my story, a reality that’s not supposed to be mine–ever! And even with the understanding that this new status symbol acts as a deflector of sorts, I still question its label value and why I would, or should, showcase it.
With Gold Star Mother’s Day on September 30, my mind is fixed on the company of women to which I now belong. It is in recognizing these other women, I have been better able to see myself. As such, I’ve actually had to set my kicking and screaming aside and allow the honor of the label to shine. My resistance is a testament to all of us wearing the brand, for none of us wants to belong to it, let alone wear it! Yet each of us has a story associated with the Gold Star, and beyond our story is the honor of the sacrifice of our child. If I allow it, my Gold Star tells the story of the 400+ people in attendance at the military processional for my son at the National Cemetery where he is interred. It also speaks of the 21-gun salute signifying his Honorable burial and then lingers at the somber Presentation of The Flag from the knee-bended Marine who humbly bestowed me the triangular folded stars and stripes. It tells the story for me.
I am learning, albeit slowly, to wear this Gold Star Mom label with the dignity it is due. Not to shine light upon myself only, but to shine light upon the pathway of honor taken by my son in his short-lived military career. This same recognition glistens brightly for all Gold Star labeled mothers. We wear the label because our fallen are honored by its significance and honoring them is a testament of our undying motherly love. Please consider, this 30th of September, to treat an active military person to something special and please, do it in honor of their mom.
This essay was featured in the Sept. 30th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.