Mother’s Day — a day to reflect on maternal love. A strong, even passionate drive to nurture and protect the vulnerable.
The strong desire to protect the vulnerable can surely be called a form of maternal love – not just limited to females and not just in humans. We see it everywhere. In some species male animals take on the role of nurturer and protector of young animals. In other species both parents nurture their young. Maternal love is sometimes mysterious; missing where is should be, yet emerging with an awesome intensity when we don’t expect it.
One thing is sure. No matter who we get it from, we’ve all needed maternal love. It provides more than just nourishment when we are too young to feed ourselves. It also provides affection; and a sense of well-being, belonging, and safety. Whether human or non-human, the adult is formed from the child, something that we all see and understand. And without maternal love, regardless of who it comes from, the adult struggles to find happiness and peace if that maternal love was missing in the early years.
Every year we celebrate mothers, including those who fill that role even if they did not give birth. And, we are right to do so.
Mother’s Day 2021
This Mother’s Day, let’s also celebrate those people who embrace the vulnerable of other species, those whose circle of compassion is wide. Let’s celebrate the sanctuary operators who nurture traumatized animals who have escaped animal agriculture, research, or the captivity industry. Let’s think of all those who rescue, who go to great lengths to find the lost dog, or stray cat and bring them into warmth and safety. Let’s think too of the wildlife rehabilitators who nurture wild beings back to health so that they can have their free lives restored to them. Let’s honour the activists and advocates who push against the exploiters, who raise their voices to protest those who harm animals for profit or pleasure – and who work so hard to change the policies that protect the exploiters and not the victims. These passionate protectors surely demonstrate fierce and essential maternal love.
This Mother’s Day, I invite you all to recognize and say ‘thank you’ to one such person, someone who gives that great gift of maternal love.
Celebrating Barry Kent MacKay
I know that each of us knows someone like this, someone who has demonstrated an abundance of maternal love for the vulnerable. In the animal protection movement, we are fortunate to know many such people.
This year, I’m going to thank and celebrate a dear friend, colleague, and fellow Board member, Barry Kent MacKay. Barry is an essential contributor to all of our work for wildlife. He is a brilliant naturalist, avid birder, and gifted artist. Most importantly, he is compassionate and deeply loving to all living beings. He is absolutely dedicated to changing the laws and policies that allow wild animals to be exploited so badly. He is tireless and skilled in his advocacy.
It was Phylis E. MacKay, Barry’s mother, who first introduced him in his childhood to wildlife rehabilitation. Phylis was an early, self-taught rehabilitator of injured and orphaned animals and birds, well before this was a common practice.
Remembering Phylis E. MacKay
Phylis first attempted to save orphans when someone brought her baby cottontails. Unfortunately, they did not survive. But the experience made her resolved to educate herself on the specific needs of those in her care. And so she did.
“…kids, and soon adults, kept bringing injured or orphaned animals to my mother as word-of-mouth spread that here was a lady with a special knack for caring for living animals, and a willingness to do so.”
“I give my mother credit for instilling in me my love for all animals and my dedication to protecting them. My mother taught me that every life matters. I’ve lived by that principle my entire life. But most of all, she left me with a life-time of powerful memories, good, bad, joyous and sad, and very often triumphant, about a life that was, in all, quite out of the ordinary.”
“Pushed by circumstances, shaped by both nature and nurture, my mother lived her life, and I was a significant part of it. It was a hard, but good, life, well lived with love, strength, achievement and courage, and I cannot tell you how proud I am to be her son.”
So, for this Mother’s Day I am personally celebrating and thanking both the mother and the son, two people with a deep love for our wild neighbours, and who saved and nurtured countless lives.