Thinking of the mothers who have lost their children

05/10/2014 12:00 AM

05/09/2014 7:29 PM

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

— Jeremiah 31:15

Three years before I was born, my mother gave birth to her seventh son, whom my father proudly named Johnnie Zero.

I would never get to know him, because he died in the hospital two days after his birth. No one knows exactly why.

In his short life, he made an impression on the family, as he was fondly talked about a lot while I was growing up, and even until now. Just two weeks ago at a family gathering, my older sister was recalling the day Johnnie Zero was born.

Every time my brothers and sisters told the story, which they swore was the truth, they’d mentioned that when the baby boy was only a day old he was lying on his stomach and at one point raised his head and looked around.

Then, they’d add, “He took a good look at the world, and just decided he didn’t want to stay.”

My mother, who raised 11 other children, would always show her sadness on hearing that story being retold, for that loss was forever with her.

On this Mother’s Day, I think of all the mothers who have had to bear the pain of losing a child, whether through illness, accidents or violence. I particularly feel for those moms whose children have been murdered.

I’ve gotten to know several families who are bonded together because they have that one thing in common. The very fact that there is a need for an organization called Parents of Murdered Children is sobering.

Just last week I told the story of a grandmother who raised her daughter’s four children after their mother had been murdered. Despite the family’s pain that has lingered the past 14 years since that tragic event, there is joy in that household this day.

You see, the youngest child, who says she lives her life for her deceased mother, is graduating from high school this year as valedictorian of her class.

I’ve often talked about the occasions when I’ve been in courtrooms and watched as two mothers were crying: one because her son was dead; the other because her son had killed him. Two children lost, even though one remained alive.

Recently I have been lamenting what has become a sickening trend that seems to get worse each year. A growing number of small children are being killed by their mothers’ boyfriends to whom they were entrusted while the mother was away working. I simply can’t understand this phenomenon.

I certainly can’t forget the mothers around the world who are losing children to famine and war and stupid ideology.

Thousands of children have been slain in the Syrian conflict, and in South Sudan many kids are among the thousands of civilians who have been slaughtered.

Hundreds of mothers in Nigeria are mourning the loss of their slain children and the kidnapping of more than 250 girls by a militant group opposed to “western education” in general and to any education for girls.

The group’s leader says the girls would be sold as slaves or into marriage for $12. It is hard to imagine that such ignorance and brutality could exist in this day, but it does.

Of course my heart aches for those mothers of South Korea whose children drowned when an overloaded ferry capsized and sank last month. Many of the young people on board, students on a school outing, were texting their mothers as the boat was going down.

Gratefully there are many happy moms on this day who are sharing with their children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, all over the world there are too many Rachels weeping, because their children are gone.

About Bob Ray Sanders

Bob Ray Sanders


Bob Ray Sanders is often criticized for writing about things he could not have experienced because, some readers say, "he can't be that old." The truth is Bob Ray has been a professional journalist for 40 years and in three media: newspaper, television and radio.

A Fort Worth native who knows and cares about his community, and those with whom he shares this planet, this is a columnist who is not afraid to speak out on behalf of downtrodden people or the abused Earth.

Email Bob Ray at

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