Tears born of pain and frustration streamed down my face as chocolate milk soaked into the towel. Facing yet another challenge, although minor, seemed to fit the line-up of the week.
“Are you gonna yell, Mommy?”
My son stood beside me still holding his cup and milk carton and I knew I had a choice to make. Boiling, festering emotions welled up inside as my mind traveled back a little over a week ago.
“It’s a boy!” Hairs had stood on end all along my arm as my mom shouted the news into the telephone. Quickly grabbing a pen and paper, I jotted down all the important information. With dismay I saw all the commitments penciled in on the calendar and made mental note to see if we could squeeze in a visit to the proud new parents living three hours away. Staci had been a youth group student when my husband and I were leaders and we were friends with her parents. Over the years our relationship had changed and we now considered her and her husband friends as well.
The next day brought a series of phone calls that progressively chipped away at our joy. Complications had surfaced a few hours after Ethan’s birth. At first they did not seem too serious and the mood was hopeful, but after several more hours that hope became a memory. Ethan had a rare birth defect and the choices were few.
With much prayer and heart rendering release, Ethan flew into the arms of Jesus just two days after filling Nick and Staci’s arms.
Sobs shattered the stillness as Nick lifted the tiny white casket onto his shoulder. Staci was behind him clutching the white roses tied in baby blue ribbon from their son’s casket, a casket full of dreams that were now shattered and broken.
As mourners slowly streamed out of the church, my eyes rested on the memory table. Ethan’s tiny booties sat on top of his little gown, a gift from the nurses. Other mementos such as a lock of his hair and his hospital band were already lovingly placed in his baby book, a book forever to remain with empty pages. It’s amazing to me how such a short life has had such a lasting impact.
I dropped the cloth and pulled my son close.
“No, Honey, Mommy’s not going to yell.”
Inhaling deeply, I reveled in the wonderful smells of grilled cheese, dirt, and sweat lingering in his hair. Acutely aware of the pressure of his body, I squeezed him a little tighter and handed him another towel.
“Why are your eyes wet, Mommy?”
Trembling lips twisted into a smile and added to my wet face as I explained, “Because Staci would give anything to be cleaning up Ethan’s chocolate milk right now.”
I know my son didn’t understand the words, but saying them out loud cemented their full meaning to my soul. I now understood the incredible blessing of spilled milk.