The dates I marked on top of my homemade spaghetti sauce are a lie, a simple and innocent attempt at self-deception. I thought maybe if I put 10/1/11 on the little brass lids I would be able to use the sauce without hesitation, without a second thought. And yet, there I stood, pasta boiling on the stove, staring into my pantry at the beautifully canned sauce on the shelves. The false date was powerless against my memory. I paused for a moment as I reached for the bottle, and my thoughts instantly spiraled back to September 29th, the actual day the sauce was canned, and the day my precious Jonah died.
I made so many simple choices that day. I chose to spend the morning canning tomatoes with my dear friend Katie, while Jonah played with her children. I chose to throw some fruit snacks in the diaper bag for Jonah in case he got hungry. I chose to watch Katie's kids while she drove down the street to pick up her daughter from dance class. Each choice was similar to those of previous days and weeks, and yet these mundane choices culminated in the most traumatic and heart wrenching hours of my life. How I wish I could choose differently now.
The lasting evidence of these choices is 6 mason jars full of spaghetti sauce, a silent kitchen, and lingering questions. I question whether I felt a premonition to stay home that day. I question my judgement in giving Jonah fruit snacks. I ask God why Katie had to leave me with her two small children and Jonah for those few intense and critical minutes. I ask Him if this would have happened regardless of my choices, if it was His will. I wonder if I could have made better choices. If things could be different today? If Jonah could be here with me? All of these "ifs" have the power to run my mind ragged, and torture my soul. Sometimes I let them, but most of the time I try to stop and think and pray.
When I pray there is something steady and constant in my soul that rejects the accusatory nature of these questions. I remind myself that the choices I made that day were rooted in love and kindness. I love being with Katie, and feeling the spirit in her home. I loved Jonah and tried to prepare for our day together. As a mother I did the best I could each day for Jonah. I loved him deeply. I put his needs before my own. I tried each day to show him the beauty of the world, and to protect him. That September day was no different. When he began to choke I tried to make the best choices I could to save him. When his beautiful spirit left this world I had to make a choice to have faith and hope. Each day I live without him I find that I have to deliberately choose happiness. It does not come naturally.
It was not in my power to predict the heartache my simple choices would bring that day, but I am grateful that those choices are balanced by the thousands of good and meaningful choices I made in Jonah's short life. It would be easy to freeze in fear as I face an uncertain and vulnerable future, as I make daily choices...but I am granted peace as I understand that I can only try my best and love those around me while we weather the trials of life together.
Who knew that so much thought and emotion could be bottled up in a jar of spaghetti sauce?
Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. Miguel Angel Ruiz