by Jeanie Fritz
I adore my son’s chubby little hands. At 20 months, Isaiah has learned to give a high-five. After noticing that worshippers raise their hands during church, he frequently raises his hands when we sing during our family devotions. Isaiah has learned to point at each of his fingers while we count to five. He beams when he sees how proud we are that he is learning to count. Whenever Isaiah does something positive, we frequently clap and say, “Good job!” When he is happy or satisfied, he likes to clap too.
Those chubby little hands—those little fingers pointing out pictures in books, insistent that each image be identified—those little dimples at the knuckles—oh, how I love my sweet little boy! And when he reaches out and grabs my arm, of course, I want to hold his little hand forever. But, I can’t. A day will come, in just a few years, when my son will no longer physically reach for me. I have him for just a little while.
My son has been entrusted to me. Every day I have with Isaiah is a treasure, a gift from God. Yes, I am frustrated when he wakes up crying for the third night in a row. (Toddlers are supposed to sleep through the night, right?) He requires constant attention to keep him safe. I’m frustrated when he repeatedly tries to climb atop the kitchen table, or when he pulls the cooking pans out of the cupboards. However, I cherish every day I get to hold my son’s hand because I should have two sons on this earth, but I have only Isaiah.
Isaiah’s baby brother, Aaron, was taken from us in 2017 after a complicated pregnancy. Aaron was born sleeping when Trisomy-18, a terminal chromosomal condition, ended his life in the womb. Other than the many months he kicked and squirmed inside me, I had only one day with Aaron on this earth. He, too, was a gift from God; but God didn’t let me keep Aaron, not even for one week.
Aaron’s death has taught me the importance of mothering joyfully. Yes, I grieve Aaron’s loss more than anyone will ever know. I grieve the loss of my first baby, who was taken from us through a first trimester miscarriage. Why must I have more children in Heaven than I have on earth? And it hurts me when people try to comfort me with “Well, at least you have Isaiah.” I know when people say this, they are well-meaning and don’t want to see me suffer, but it makes me want to say, “Which one of your children would you not have wanted to keep?” It’s the grief talking. I’m learning to surrender it to God.
Still, if I had not lost Aaron, I might be taking Isaiah for granted now. In the trenches of toddler parenting, I might be wishing this tedious stage away. It’s natural to just want your child to get to the next stage of self-sufficiency. After all, I will rejoice when Isaiah is finally toilet-trained. But after experiencing infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth, I now realize more than ever that Isaiah is my miracle from God. Every day that I get to hold Isaiah’s little hand is one marked by gratitude and joy.
It’s funny how the death of a loved one makes us realize things about life that we would never have learned simply by living. Jesus said that God is not a God of the dead, but of the living (Luke 20:38). What He said is hard to understand. I’m not sure, but I think that Jesus may have meant that we should live each day deliberately, knowing that it is only through God that we live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28). We must continue to bring glory to God even through our grief and suffering.
I don’t want to mess up this parenting thing. I need loads of courage and wisdom, and even more grace. I so want to raise a Godly son. I want him to be a leader with character, who is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. I hope my son’s dimpled and peanut-butter-smudged hands will one day be marked with the work lines and callouses of manhood. I want to raise a man who capably and faithfully serves the Lord Jesus, his family, and his community.
Ultimately, however, Isaiah belongs to his own choices and God’s sovereign will. Just as I had to release Aaron to God, I must also place Isaiah’s future in God’s hands.
And today, I will enjoy finger painting with my son and kneading playdough together. I will clean up the smudges on the windowpanes with joy and patience, knowing that I’m a very blessed woman to have those little finger prints all over my windows and my heart.