I decorated our boys’ room today. They eagerly watched from their new bunk bed as I penned small marks on the wall and pounded in tiny nails. “Thank you for celebrating our room, Mom!” My oldest exclaimed. It will be a sad day for me when he starts correctly using “decorate” over “celebrate”. I kind of adore that he loves to “celebrate” our house.
As I hung up paintings of mountains and bears with the words, “Be brave, little one”, my heart was grieving.
I try to avoid the news. It’s not that I want to be unaware of what’s going on in the world, it’s just that I have an issue with fear. I’m quick to let it grip me, suffocate me, and pull me under.
I think most moms are. We just have so much to lose.
But this week the news has been unavoidable. And as I stretched the measuring tape from nail to nail and hung copper stars on my boys’ wall, I mourned for mamas I do not know.
For 49 mamas shedding endless tears over their babies who were taken from them in an unthinkable act of evil.
And as we all sit in our own homes, grateful it wasn’t us and praying for those it was, I hear news of another Mama. One in the very same city where those 49 were taken. And I read of her own son—only two years old—snatched by an alligator while he dipped his toes into the water at the lagoon’s edge. I read of his Daddy, in brave instinct launching into the water and grabbing the animal, desperately trying to wrangle his helpless boy from the beast’s mouth.
The father lost.
And my heart pounds in my chest as I think of the scene.
They were on vacation. And I think of the mother who will board an airplane to go home, her whole being aching at the empty seat beside her.
I push a curtain rod through a bright blue curtain and hang it over my boys’ window. I picture that mother setting her suitcase down at the front door, walking into his bedroom, and glancing at the pictures hung. The toys still strewn about. The little bed empty.
We read these stories and we weep. We weep for those lost and for those who loved them. And then we weep because our eyes have been brutally opened to just how fragile life is. And it terrifies us.
This week I have had a difficult time focusing. Several times just to clear my mind of the sadness saturating the news, I’ve set aside responsibilities and taken a walk with my boys. I watch them just to watch them. I notice what they stop to notice. A flower blooming among the tall grass. A leaf bug jumping among the pebbles. How the arch of the branches over our path forms a fort. I watch them because I can. Because they are here.
It is events like this week’s that give us a crude reminder of just how fragile life is. It is taken by evil as well as by chance. So much of it is completely out of our control. I write about these 936 weeks that we have with our children. But the difficult truth is this: we are never guaranteed those 936 weeks.
All we have for certain is today. We have today to linger longer in that embrace. To kiss that pudgy little cheek one more time before bed. To sit with her and string beads on a string. To help him construct that new lego set. To help her with the math problem she’s been struggling with, or to take her mind off of it with a trip to the ice cream shop.
We have today to speak truth over them. To tell them how brave and beautiful and wonderful they are.
We have today to set down the to-do list, turn off the cell phone, and take a walk together.
When we get to tomorrow, if the one who holds our heart is not there with us, what would we wish we had done with them today?
May we not allow fear to steal today away from us, for today is all we have for certain. Let us use what we have right now, this rotation of the earth, to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) Today is our gift, to enjoy and to give. It is too short for regret and too precious for fear.
Whatever tomorrow brings, may it find us grateful that today we chose to hold hands a little longer, to read a book together under a big shaded tree, to lie in the grass next to our loved one and stare up at the clouds as they give way to the stars.
This week as you grieve for those grieving and say prayers for strangers, the stories and blog posts and media coverage will fade. But let us not forget the way it has opened our eyes. Let us not forget how it made our hearts suffocate when we thought of our own loved ones there one moment and gone the next. May we stop waiting on tomorrow to live for what really matters most. Let us not forget that today is all we have for certain, and live every little bit of it full of gratitude and awe for the gift that it is.