Mothering Sunday – 15 March 2015
peaking before the sudden and unexpected death of his own daughter, Peaches, Bob Geldof said, “I don’t see how you come back from the loss of a child; I don’t see how because they’re the repository of everything human. It’s all the hope, all the good stuff, all the future; all possible love goes into them.” Peaches Geldof had struggled to come to terms with the loss of her mother at the age of eleven. The Geldof family have experienced great tragedy, and have shown great love in the face of that tragedy.
In 1995 Paula Yates left her husband Bob Geldof for Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of the rock band INXS. Geldof and Yates divorced in 1996, and Yates and Hutchence had a child, Tiger Lily. In November 1997, Hutchence was found hanged in a hotel room in Sydney. After Paula Yates’ death from a drink and drug overdose in 2000, four year old Tiger Lily was left an orphan. A friend phoned Geldof on the day of Paula’s death to explain what had happened and ask if he could look after Tiger Lily; the friend had only meant for a short time while things were organised, but Geldof’s immediate reaction was that of course he would care for her and that she should be raised with her sisters, his daughters. Geldof became Tiger Lily’s legal guardian, and when Prima Baby magazine asked its readers to nominate the best celebrity mum, Bob Geldof was the surprise write in choice with four per cent of the vote. The magazine awarded Geldof a new title of “honorary Mum”. He formally adopted Tiger Lily in 2007.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
Of the seven last words of Christ, these are the most personal and the most human. The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a human being – a grown up man who had been Mary’s little boy. As Mary witnessed the crucifixion of her son, did she recall the words of Simeon: “And a sword will piece your own soul too” (Luke 2:35)?
The other six last words of Christ were all about building the kingdom of God: there are themes of forgiveness, redemption and fulfilment of scripture. But in this statement, in his dying moments, Jesus didn’t neglect his other role as a son. Here he was, fulfilling his Father’s plan, preparing to die and bring about victory over death, but he still remembered his mother, watching from the foot of the cross and enduring the pain and horror of the death of a child. He gave the two people he loved and cared for most to each other, so that they could love and care for each other in his physical absence.
It is only when we admit the horror that we can acknowledge the hope. Faced with the tragedy of the death of his ex-wife and mother of his children, Bob Geldof reacted with love. Geldof’s relationship with Tiger Lily’s parents is well documented: he argued with Michael Hutchence on the telephone in the hours before his death; at the time she died Paula was involved in a bitter legal battle with Geldof over custody of their daughters. But in the face of the horror of death, there was love, and hope for the future. As Desmond Tutu has said: “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, victory is ours through him who loved us.”
esus showed his humanity and love on the cross and asked his beloved friend and his beloved mother to look after each other. Paula Yates, whose death was sudden and accidental, did not have the opportunity to make provision for her daughter, Tiger Lily. But out of love for Paula, her ex-husband took care of Tiger Lily and raised her as his own daughter. In our daily care of our loved ones, we show our love for each other and for Christ. There are many who have taken on a caring role for the children of friends who have died. On Mothering Sunday, we remember the children who have lost their mothers and those mothers who have lost a child, and the need they have of our love and care. We remember too the hope and the promise of the resurrection, which could not have happened without Good Friday, and the words of the lover to her beloved in the Hebrew Song of Songs: love is strong as death.