There are days that start out like any other, until we get hit with a lesson about life we never saw coming. That’s what happened to me on that ordinary Wednesday morning. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I was about to feel or what I was going to learn when I opened up my Facebook app that day. My friend usually sends me funny memes or cute pictures, but this time when I clicked on her comment, I read, “Please help me pray for this little boy.”
I began to scroll through a page that was dedicated to a five-year-old boy. His name was Lincoln, and he had been fighting stage four cancer for the past two years. As I looked at his smiling face, and the sweet pictures of his family with him, I felt the knot start to form in my throat.
Then I read the post from that morning. It contained a photo of the boy’s mother cradling him, and the words saying that his journey would be over soon, that he would be in God’s arms instead of hers; but she wasn’t going to let go of him until then. I began to picture myself in her place. I snuggle my own sweet sons like that every day, but I couldn’t imagine how it would feel knowing it would be for the last time. That’s when I couldn’t keep the tears in anymore. I began to cry softly for this family I didn’t even know. I scrolled through more posts and saw more photos. I read how much they loved each other, and how much they loved God. Their faith was so strong even during the unimaginable suffering they were facing. They continued to praise God even in the most devastating of circumstances.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
I felt especially moved when I looked at their family picture and it looked just like mine! There was the handsome dad; he had a shaved head with a beard, just like my husband. His mom was a brunette, like me. And there were two little boys, sweet brothers, 3 and 5 years old; just like my sons. I knew they must be best friends like my boys too. I thought about how my younger son copies everything my oldest says and does. They are an inseparable team. I imagined how lost my little one would feel without his big brother. And then I cried some more. I just wanted to hug this sweet momma. I wanted to say something to her that would be meaningful. I knew I couldn’t take her pain away. All I could do was pray for her, so that’s what I did.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
I couldn’t get this family out of my thoughts. I tried to understand. There they were, about to lose their first-born child, at only five years old. And here I was, looking at my two healthy sons as they started off the morning playing together as usual. Should I feel thankful, guilty, sad, relieved? I know it is by the grace of God that I have my two boys to hold, and yet it is that same grace that is taking another little boy from his mother? I would be lying if I said that made sense to me. But I still believe it is true.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
So, I was left with the question…what do I do now? An hour ago, I had never heard of Lincoln, or his family, and now I could never “unknow” them. I know there are children who are sick and suffering, but to see into the faces of a real family, know their names, and read their stories and prayers…it changed me somehow.
The first thing I knew I needed to do was to stop and thank God for another day with my sons. Next, I knew I had to soak up every moment of that day, and record it to my memory. So, I spent the rest of our regular day at home, reflecting on the precious beauty of every minute we were together.
There was nothing remarkable about the day we shared. We went on a bike ride to the park. When we came home my sons helped me fold their laundry, mixed with tickling and laughter and rolling in piles of clothes. Then we ate a regular lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, their favorite.
After lunch, we built a fort in the living room. My boys put on a “show” for me and sang silly songs with their stuffed animals. We watched a few cartoons, played a board game, and hit baseballs in the yard. When it started to rain, we splashed in the puddles and sang “Rain, Rain Go Away.” Then it was time for dinner, and bath time. We snuggled and read books as a family, like we do every night. We said our prayers and everyone went to sleep. It was just a regular day, nothing special…yet everything special!
“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
With every activity we did, every laugh we shared, I thought of Lincoln, and his mom and dad and brother. My heart broke for them. I prayed for them. I knew that the best way I could honor them was to do just what I had done that day, to stop and notice every minute of life, and then savor it with a thankful heart.
That day, I looked differently at the toys left strewn all over the floor. They meant there were children in my house healthy enough to play. When the boys were loud laughing and being silly, or even arguing, it was music to my ears. Children’s noises meant my sons had their brother and best friend, to play and laugh and fight with. When something reminds us how short life can be, everything tends to look a little differently. We see things from a whole new perspective. We appreciate every new day with our loved ones as the gift that is truly is.
The next day I looked at their Facebook page again, and he was gone. His mother’s faith still amazed me as I read the things she said about her sweet baby, the boy she had given over to God’s arms. I still hurt for her, but this little boy and his family had taught me so much, about life, and what it means to have real faith, hope, and love.
Weeks later, I still think of them often. Because of this family, I will live a little differently every day. I will remember sweet Lincoln and how he sang about going to heaven and meeting his Jesus. His little eyes were fixed on spending eternity with his savior. What an example of childlike faith!
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Now, when I think of their family, I will stop when I want to complain and remember to be thankful. I will focus on how blessed I am that my sons are healthy. I will look into their eyes when they talk to me and take a mental picture of those moments. I will snuggle a little longer even when the “to-do” list is calling. I will read one more book, and play one more game. I will hug them tighter and tell them I love them as much as I can. I will pray more for others who are hurting. Most of all, I will try to humbly accept every day of motherhood as a beautiful, sometimes messy, extraordinary, priceless gift from God.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”