Every time I watch my son’s chest rise and fall in steady rhythm, I am reminded of the profound miracle it is for his lungs to be filled with the breath of life, even as he sleeps.
When I look back at early pictures of him, I smile in awe at the way my son has effortlessly grown and developed to be the amazing, one-year-old boy he is now.
A few months ago, we had some rough nights as Ellis was battling a nasty cold and having trouble getting air past all the green in his nose. I felt like a Momma bird with her chick tucked under her wing as my little love ended up being able to sleep best when he was propped up on my shoulder. Every time he woke, crying, I was shaken from my less-than-deep sleep by a wave of thankfulness that he was alive and well as he let himself be heard.
When Ellis was just a newborn, I heard that some babies spit up more than others. I was quite concerned, for our little love was obviously on the far end of the “more” side as for months, he soaked every burp cloth and decorated every shirt my husband and I wore with sour-smelling splotches. Thankfully, our midwife reassured us that we had nothing to worry about as he continually set weight-gaining records.
One night, however, Ellis began choking on his spit up after filling his belly with momma milk. I waited for a moment as he coughed, but the sounds stopped and his face was turning red. I sprang up and out of bed faster than I ever had before and threw my precious babe over my shoulder. I jumped up and down while slapping my hand on his back — not patting it gently as I usually would. After the longest five seconds of my life, what was blocking his airway spewed all over me, and I have never been so happy to be covered in sour milk. I held my son close to my pounding heart, allowing the deep realization of how much I love him to sink in.
The fact that life is fragile hits you like repeated punches to the gut when you find yourself spending your days chasing an adventure-hungry toddler, gently retrieving the greatest dangers from his little hands and guiding him away from situations that could otherwise end in tragedy. Yet, close calls, bumps and bruises go hand in hand with learning and discovery, and I’ve long given up on the idea that I could protect my son from all harm, knowing full well that many things are simply not in my hands.
Truly beginning to grasp the fact that life is a gift has proven to pose two very different reactions in my heart and mind. I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that you either fall into the trap of digging your claws deep in attempts of gripping and holding on for dear life, or you simply become thankful.
Thankfulness in true sincerity is a weapon stronger than any threat that might arise. Fear of death or harm can find no foothold when you hold life loosely as it was meant to be, and simply revel in the miracle of each day as it comes and passes.
I’ve started wondering why our reaction to the sorrow of others is commonly to lean towards guilt as we make sure to stifle our own joy. We swiftly withdraw ourselves from the conversation while offering our deepest sympathy, often not knowing how else to respond. Perhaps we perceive thankfulness for our own lives’ miracles as a slap in the face of those mourning in moments of grief.
Sadly, I have friends whose wombs have not yet known the joy of carrying a miracle inside though their hearts have been longing for ages. And I know many women whose babies never got to explore this earth before continuing on to greater adventures in Heaven.
But allowing our thankfulness to dissolve as a response to someone else’s joy being robbed would disqualify all of us from ever celebrating a single victory or rejoicing in any abundance we might receive. Even those who wait years for their offspring would be refused a joyful response, for surely someone else is still waiting.
What if instead, we shared in one another’s delights, not only our discomforts? What if others allowed my joy to become their own until their day comes and we both rejoice in their blessing?
One fear of mine has been silenced as I’m finding it impossible for thankfulness and pride to both reside inside, as a proud heart believes it is entitled, whereas a grateful one knows it has earned nothing.
So these days, when I hear stories of sorrow or longing and waiting, I offer the hope of my story instead of hiding my promises fulfilled.
And in a world where life and death coincide, where tears pour from places of both bliss and mourning, I see no choice but the following:
I will never not be thankful.