Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Will Color With You

"Mama, do you want to color with me?" Beverly's son eagerly asked late Monday afternoon as he stood patiently in the doorway.  Without even turning her head, she replied with "not right now, Cooper, mommy is busy." "But mama, you said..." "Cooper, not now," she firmly interrupted.  "I'm busy, so go watch TV or play with your toys until I'm finished." Without a word, he bowed his head and walked slowly out of the room. She never even looked at him, but instead remained intently fixed on the computer screen in front of her.  "So many interruptions," she sighed in frustration. In the other room, her six year old son turned on the TV and silently began to watch cartoons for the fifth time that day.  After about 30 minutes, Cooper decided to see if his mommy was ready to color.  From the living room, he shouted "Mama?" "Cooper, what did I tell you? Not now!" Beverly yelled angrily across the house. "Sorry, mama," he softly replied.  Lonely, frustrated, and bored, Cooper decided to go outside and look for flowers to pick for his mommy.  She never heard the door open and close, and as the stranger muffled Cooper's mouth and dragged him away, his mother sat before her pile of work still focused on tomorrow's deadline.

As she stretched both arms into the air, Beverly caught a glimpse of her watch.  Seeing it was 7:00, she rubbed her eyes and called out Cooper's name.  "Cooper? Are you hungry?  Come in here and let's talk about what you want for dinner," but he didn't answer.  Suddenly remembering how short she had been with him only an hour earlier, pangs of guilt flooded her heart and mind.  "Cooper?" she again said in a louder, more loving voice. "I'm coming to give you big bear hugs," she said as a smiled spread across her face at the thought of him.  As she walked into the empty living room, she glanced around, but Cooper wasn't to be seen. As flickers of amber from the setting sun poured through the windows, Beverly looked under the tables and pulled back the curtains.  Nope, he wasn't there either.  "Well, he remembered to turn the TV off," she thought in appreciation as she headed towards his bedroom.  "Cooper? Where are you?" she asked a bit louder, but again she was met with silence.  "He must have fallen asleep," she sighed.  "Time to wake up, Cooper!" she loudly sang as she jumped in his doorway to scare him, but he wasn't there.  "Cooper?" she yelled as she began moving faster through the house.  As she threw open the bathroom door, and discovered he wasn't there either, her uneasiness increased.  "Cooper? Where are you?" she yelled as her mind began to race.  She went from bedroom to bedroom, closet to pantry, and garage back to living room. A strange and unfamiliar sensation began to move up her spine and in the next moment, she saw the unlocked door.  Her face grew hot as she moved quickly towards the handle. As she flung the door open with hopeful anticipation of seeing him outside, her heart dropped when she saw nothing but the trees blowing in the breeze.  She began to panic.

"COOPER!" she yelled as loudly as she could while running to every side of the house.  As she frantically searched under bushes and toy trucks, she tried desperately to remember something, anything from their last encounter.  She only remembered her stern voice and his quiet retreat from her presence. "Oh, how could I have been so insensitive and harsh?" she scolded herself in jagged remorse.  "God, where is my baby?" she cried aloud as tears began to wet her face.  And with those words, her panic melted into calm collection, her fear into quiet determination.  "I've got to pull it together and find my son," she thought, and as she wiped the tears from her cheeks, she began to search.  From knocking on every neighbor's door to phoning the police, she left nothing out and the once so important deadline of tomorrow had vanished from her mind.  But as the day turned into a week there was still no sign of Cooper until the eighth day since he had gone missing. And then the knock at her door came. Before she even opened the door, Beverly felt the foot shifting and tension on the other side.  It was as if the officers' agony seeped straight through her steel door.  With a deep breath, she pulled it open, and in the instant it took to meet their eyes, she knew.  "Ms. Owens, we have some information about your son," the officer on the left gently spoke.  As she raised her right hand to cover her mouth, her knees began to give way underneath her and their voices grew distant.  It sounded as though they were talking to her from a mile away, and then their faces blurred before her eyes.  Was she falling?  What was happening? "Ms. Owens? Ms. Owens!" she heard them shout in what seemed to be the distance.  And then everything turned black.

At the sound of a loud beep coming from her alarm clock, Beverly reached out from under the covers and hit the oversized snooze button.  As she groggily yawned, stretched, and slowly opened one eye, the details of her dream began flashing before her eyes.  As each one came quickly on top of the other, she threw off the soft down covers and ran through the hallway.  "Cooper?" she eagerly yelled in hopeful expectation that the terrifying images in her mind were the nightmare they appeared to be.  "What, mama?" he answered as she reached his doorway.  He sat in the middle of his room contently playing with his medium sized red fire truck.  "Good morning, mama!" he said with a smile as he looked up to meet her now watering eyes. "Oh, Cooper, good morning. Mommy loves you so much!" she said as she knelt down to wrap herself around him in a tight hug.  He began to laugh and gently pry his way out of her firmly wrapped arms, but his efforts were no match for the strength behind her newly found grateful heart.  "Oh, thank you God, that that was just a bad dream," she silently prayed.  With that prayer, she vowed to never put her work before him, and certainly to always color with him.  More importantly, however, she promised herself and God to never worry about tomorrow when today is the only guarantee.  With another sigh of relief, Beverly led her seven year old son to the kitchen for coloring, pancakes, and snuggling.  It had all been just a bad dream.  Or, was it?

What if, through that dream, God was giving Beverly a second chance to love better?  What if, through the momentary terror she experienced as she woke, she was given a new perspective on what is and is not important?  Have you ever turned your child away when they want to spend time with you?  I know I have.  Have you ever grown frustrated by a child's interruption of the important things you have to get done by tomorrow?  Has your workload ever been so great that you literally don't have time for your kids? If so, then you may need a new perspective on what's important.  Why would I have made up such a sad story to illustrate my point, you may wonder.  But, I wonder - why wouldn't I? Isn't that what it usually takes?  Sadly, the joy of coloring with our child doesn't become a precious commodity until the child is gone.  An extra five minutes of playing with our children doesn't become necessary until someone we care about loses their own child.  Until a toddler suddenly and inexplicably passes in his sleep or a small child is killed in an accident, a deadline for work remains vitally important and for our attention, the child still living must wait.  We have the wrong perspective and the wrong priorities if, when our children ask us to color with them, we tell them "no" because of tomorrow's deadline.  Tomorrow's deadline means nothing if today someone we love passes away.

I don't want to wake up tomorrow and know that I could have spent time with my son but chose not to because of something that my deadline at work required.  I want to honor God by loving my child relentlessly, and I want to honor the parents out there who have lost a child by loving my own more sweetly.  When the grieving mother says to take nothing for granted, it's because she can feel something we who still have a child cannot - the pain of burying a son or daughter too soon, the quiet house that no longer vibrates with a little one's cry, and the absence of her child's physical embrace.  If given one more day, she would never dare deny her child a hug or rush him out of her presence.  She would cast off all work related concerns and live the day for loving her child.  If her child asked, "mommy, will you color with me?" she would answer without reservation, "I will color with you."

Tomorrow isn't guaranteed, and though we find comfort in packing this knowledge deeply away into the dark recesses of our minds, untimely deaths have a way of bringing it center stage.  Let us not wait for the death of someone else's child to be reminded to love our own.  Let us welcome interruptions as though they would never come again, and let not the sun go down until our children are secure in the knowledge of our love and devotion.  To Amber and Kie, who have both lost a child, I honor your broken hearts and your child's memory by choosing to take nothing for granted, and when Ashton comes to me asking, "mommy, will you color with me," I will answer him with "I will color with you."

Take the time to be with your children because just as your tomorrow isn't guaranteed, neither is theirs.  To all who have lost a child too soon, I pray that God heals your hurting heart and turns your pain into beauty.  

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself..." Matthew 6:34

Image taken from www.punnybop.com

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