Giving Thanks for Life and Breath

Gretchen and Little Man

Life is fragile.

I wake up every day believing that we will all be alive and well when night comes.  I expect us to be safe and relatively healthy.  I get tired and lose my perspective – I speak sharply, or with an edge of unkindness.  I am unloving in my words or actions. I take it all for granted –  this full life, these amazing children.

Then something happens to make me stop short. I’m slapped in the face with the reality that it could all change in heartbeat.  I miss a car accident by seconds, my son rolls the farm truck over an embankment, somebody loses a child and I know it could have been mine.

Sunday I glimpsed this all anew and I’m struck again with the reality that I cannot protect my children from all harm. I am not sovereign; I really have no power at all.  Only Jesus has power over life and death.

We have a canvas bag filled with children’s Bibles and Bible story books that we carry to church.  Little Man was being a bit pesky and loud during the sermon.  As he looked through the bag, he found a small Ziploc bag of hard candies which he promptly pulled out and shared with his siblings.  He was on my lap with a butterscotch in his mouth when time froze for a moment. He stood in front of me making a loud rasping sound.  I thought he was playing again; I had put my finger to his lips to remind him to be quiet at least ten times since the sermon started. Then he made the sound again and Russ and I realized he was choking.

Sitting in front of us with her family, was our dear friend, Gretchen.  She and Sweet Pea grew up together and her life has woven through ours for nearly twelve years.  Gretchen is not only our friend, but a gifted paramedic.  When she heard the sound, she turned around, saw Little Man grab his throat, stood up on her chair to try to climb over.  Russ saw her coming and handed Little Man to her.  As she stood on top of the chair, she began to strike him hard between his shoulder blades, but the candy did not pop out.

Somewhere in the midst of this, our pastor stopped speaking, trying to figure out what was going on.  I have no idea what I was thinking, in this room of several hundred, but I said out loud, “Sorry, we’re having a choking incident.”  Then the three of us rushed out of the room carrying Little Man.  Once we were in the foyer, Gretchen did the Heimlich manuever on him, hit him again a few times, then the candy came out and he began to vomit.  We were all on the floor, kneeling around him.  He began to talk, but was clearly stunned and a little confused.  I pulled him close and held him.  I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or vomit myself.  The only thing I did know is that I was shaking and couldn’t stand up.

I know this all happened very quickly, but it seemed that my baby was not breathing for a long time.  At one point I looked up and saw several doctors from our congregation coming to check on Little Man, Sweet Pea was near, Russ was by my side.  Someone gave me wet paper towels to clean Little Man up.

In time (who knows how long?), I got Little Man a drink of water.  As we walked to get a cup, he said, “Mommy, I was afraid I was going to die.”  Oh my, I could have dropped to my knees all over again, but since I was holding him and I am the mommy, I assured him that Jesus kept him safe and that Gretchen was there to help.  But in my heart, I was thinking, “I was afraid you were going to die too.”

Of course, with a paramedic and two EMTs sitting in front of us, five doctors in the congregation, and Sweet Pea (a doctor in less than a year) sitting just down the row, I know he would have been okay.  Somebody would have gotten the candy out.  Gretchen had her bag and even oxygen in her truck — he would have been fine.  Right?

But, every time I think of those moments, my eyes fill with tears.  I am so thankful to have my Little Man; I want to keep him close.  I’ve noticed that he is sticking close to me too.  Several times he has told me, “Mommy, I love you the best in the world.”

I am deeply, profoundly, tearfully thankful for my children.  I want to protect them and keep them safe.  I can do my best, but their lives are in the hands of the One I trust with all my heart.  He loves us, in hardship and loss as well as in the joyful moments.  I trust Him. It is all grace to me.

Little Man – home one month

#141 – 150 giving thanks

hugs from Little Man this morning

Eby’s arms around my neck

Gretchen

friends who have found their calling

piano scales, up and down

the morning moon over the hills

clean pillow cases

lotion on sweet brown cheeks

1st grade math

a cooler day – high in the eighties

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Encourage one another,

Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Barb G
    September 13, 2011

    Oh, dear God, thank You for Gretchen. Thank You for showing Mommies how precious our kids are, how only You are sovereign, and in Your great love You bless us with these. Thank You, Lord, for continuing to bless my sister with her son for another day.

    (((hugs))) from a Mommy whose heart is in her throat.

    Reply
  2. Julie
    September 13, 2011

    Oh Lisa! Your poor heart! I got all sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I know those heart-stopping moments too well. I am so glad you were surrounded by godly people who knew their stuff. So thankful God spared his life.

    It is a really tough realization that we can't protect them from hurt. We spend so much energy assuring them that we are safe and we will protect them…we try, but we can only do our best. We must trust them to God's care.

    Saying a prayer of thanksgiving right now.

    Reply
  3. Lauren
    September 13, 2011

    We were sitting near you at least 2 1/2 years ago when that same thing happened–I think to your older little boy–and Gretchen Heimlech'd him to safety too. For that very reason I never give my kids hard candy!

    Reply
  4. Melissa YoYo
    September 13, 2011

    Oh I had to choke back tears on this one!

    Reply
  5. Donna
    September 13, 2011

    Praising God with you!!

    Reply
  6. One Thankful Mom
    September 13, 2011

    Lauren – don't remind me! I'm a slow learner, or maybe since it only happened once in 24 years I figured it would never happen again. We got rid of all the hard candy after that incident (which was much milder), but after awhile it crept back in. It's in the trash now; I think we'll stick to giving the kids a piece of gum to chew, which is actually calming since it puts deep pressure into the jaw joints.

    Reply
  7. Paula
    September 13, 2011

    We had a similarly themed incident at our house this weekend… I haven't blogged about it yet while I'm processing what I want to say; probably later this week. My daughter is fine, too, but it sure made me think about everything I have to be thankful for. I'm glad your son is okay.

    Reply
  8. rebekah
    September 13, 2011

    I have done this twice on my little one, and pulled him out of a pool once. How I manage to let him out of my sight ever – I don't know. There's no describing the feeling, although you've come really close in this post.

    The gum thing – we've begun using Rescue Remedy gum, which has a slight calming thing to it in addition to the natural calming of the chewing. I was so anti gum until I realized how it can help my kids (and me for that matter) and then finding the natural Rescue Remedy really helped me into the gum camp. The problem is that it's a bit spendy for gum, so it's for special occasions, which the kids love.

    Reply
  9. One Thankful Mom
    September 13, 2011

    Rebekah, I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this! I think back over my years of being a mom and know that there are so many times God rescued me from making a tragic mistake, or covered me when I did. I remember losing Sweet Pea at a large Fourth of July celebration on a university campus. I turned my head, got distracted, and she was gone. A kind person walked her up the sloping lawn, searching for her family, just as we were searching for her. Terrifying! As for gum, I was a "No Gum" Mom too, until I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder. Now we use gum for calming, during the sermon at church, before a medical or therapy appointment, and other times when calm and quiet are needed. It works!

    Reply
  10. Virginia
    September 13, 2011

    Dear friends of my family lost their 12 year old son this past Thursday to a swollen creek in their neighborhood. It was a terrible and unexplainable tragedy and their loss is so profound. But for Jesus Christ this loss would be unbearable for his family but he loved Jesus and had an authentic faith of his own. He recently said to his mom. " I don't know why people are afraid to die when heaven is such a great place." His memorial service was beautiful. The message was loud and clear that his dear family's loss was Jack's gain. It has been a painful and powerful reminder of the fleetingness of this life and served to encourage me to evaluate what I am building in to my children and communicating to them about what is most important in this life that God has given us for however long. I am praying for wisdom in how to shepherd my children into a deep, authentic and personal faith that, as I know, in a rainstorm and flood…. is really the only thing that will matter.

    Reply
  11. Emily
    September 13, 2011

    Oh! I know that terror. Mine was babysitting as a 20-yr. old. A 5-yr. old gave her toddler brother a piece of her peach with skin on it, and he choked. Back blows did nothing. As he turned blue, I stood up and flashed back to health class instructions. Three heimlichs later, he was puking all over the floor. His sister calmly said, "I don't think he likes peaches." That poor baby took one look at me, and went screaming to his sister. To this day, every time I see that strapping boy (now a big, burly football player), it's all I can do to not say, "I remember the day you almost died." I cannot even think about "What if…" I am just so thankful. So, so thankful.

    Reply
    1. Emily
      September 14, 2011

      Make that a 20-month old. Posted that way too late at night, I guess! I am so glad that Little Man is fine, and that you posted this good reminder for all mamas–we do not know the number of our days or our children's days. May we be faithful to live each one pointing them to grace.

      Reply
  12. One Thankful Mom
    September 13, 2011

    Virginia, thank you for sharing this – I am so sorry for your loss and for Jack's family. As I wrote this post, I thought of the many mothers who have lost children and questioned why some are spared and others are not. I don't know. I only know that we have a loving God who has plans and purposes so far above ours. What a gift that Jack was able to express his faith so clearly to his family. I am praying for them tonight.

    Reply
  13. carrie
    September 14, 2011

    Wow. Praise the Lord for all the people around you and for taking care of your family. When we decided to move to China long term, I had to really surrender the physical safety of my children. Medical care is hard to find and good medical care even harder. The Lord was gentle and firm as He reminded me that they are His children to begin with. Such a hard but important part of our sanctification as mothers!

    Reply
  14. Elaine Evans
    September 14, 2011

    No. Medical help does not mean he'd be ok. Go to caringbridge and visit mariebreda. This beautiful little girl and her family were not so lucky. She was five and choked on a bead in church. The best thing going for your little guy is that the candy would melt. So THANKFUL he is ok. That will be one if those memories that will always make your knees give out.

    Reply
  15. Courtney
    September 14, 2011

    wow, lisa. thanks for the reminder! it's easy to forget in the midst of our busy, full days!

    Reply
  16. Sharon
    September 14, 2011

    So thankful he's o.k. Give us moms perspective, doesn't it!

    Reply
  17. Beth
    September 18, 2011

    Gretchen was one of the paramedics who came to our house when our 16 month old choked on a pinto bean. 5 hours later, surgeons finally got it out and she spent 6 days on a ventilator. Today she is a beautiful almost 4 year old, and we still thank God every day for sparing her life. Praise God your son is safe!

    Reply

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