She's a mother! She protects, cherishes, nurtures, the helpless she has taken into her care, under her wing. Isn't that the essence of mothering?
I have another friend, married but childless. She has taken a parish into her care, created opportunities for people to take care of each other and the homeless. In generating new programs, she has generated new life. Isn't generating new life, caring for it until your last breath, mothering?
I have countless friends, widows with grown children and grandchildren, who continue to take care of others, teaching others to read, making food for funeral breakfasts, and potluck suppers, collecting diapers for poor or unwed young mothers, visiting the sick in hospitals and nursing homes. They're still mothers, even if their own children and grand-children don't physically need them as much as they used to. They know their mission is to unconditionally love those who need love till their last breath.
What of the great poets like Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who never had a child but created great enduring works that feed our hungry souls? Or the great saints like Mother Teresa who worked to save the lives of so many?
What of those who have physical children but have no idea of how to care for them? Maybe you had such a physical mother. Who are the women who have truly mothered you and given you emotional safety, spiritual life? Are you loving others as they have loved you?
Every woman, whether she has physical children or not, is called to give life to others. And doing so, deserves to be considered a mother.
Sometimes we forget that God is Mother as well as Father, Who loves us and cares for us, nourishes and protects us, till our last breath, and gives us life beyond the grave: "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name." (Isaiah 40: 15-16.)