Sunday, February 26, 2012


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


  1. Julie, I think living with the ifs of life is so hard. I look at things in my own life and there are many ifs that can haunt me if I let them. I am glad you have the wisdom to stop them from tearing you apart. (((hugs)))

    1. I reflect on so many of the choices from that day too. Tragedy brings with it many haunting friends. I find myself clinging to the moments when peace and assurance have let me know I can let the questions go.

  2. Julie, I think it's so brave of you to share your thoughts of Jonah's passing. As parents we plague ourselves with the guilt of many choices, but I loved how you said your decisions were made out of love and kindness. We do the best we can each day, and pray that we can accept whatever God's plan for us is. I think you are amazing.

  3. Julie, I wish there were some way that I could express to you how your words have helped me. Once again you say things that resonate with my heart. My daughter Laura has told me that we can not hope for a better past. And yet at times I feel stuck in that place. Thank you for helping me with your gentle, peaceful words. You are a gift to all of us who read your blog. I see that you have grown a heart now that is big enough to envelop us all.