When Life Shatters

The call comes. I’m standing in the barn and my muscles lose their strength. My heart, this mother-heart that beats within me, wants to find him and cuddle him close and whisper words of comfort.

He’s the boy that made motherhood real for this child-less me. I had claimed children through the years, but this one, this rough thirteen-year-old, he picked me.

I remember the day that he was running late and I was in the kitchen. The door burst open, without a knock, and he kicked off sneakers and grabbed boots and dropped a bag on the floor. He was gone before I could blink, his voice echoing in the now empty hall, “Hi, Mom. Bye, Mom!”

I stared at the remains of the tornado that had blown through my entryway and laughed tears of joy. I finally had a son.

But as much as I loved him and accepted him as mine, I wasn’t the only mother in his life. There was another, who bore him and birthed him and raised him those first thirteen years without me. In fact, she didn’t even know that I shared him at all.

He grew taller and broader. A farm boy. Muscles and rough hands and a heart soft as putty.

I knew things weren’t good at home. But I said little and cooked more and poured cups of coffee and scraped up the dirt that he left trailed on my floor.

There was the phone call that one time and I could hear her yelling, even as he ducked his head and covered the earpiece. Cheeks flushed, this almost-grown boy handed the phone to my husband. I felt sad and heartbroken as the conversation went on. Alcohol makes people say things they don’t even mean.

My husband, he’s brave. More brave than I. He said the things that are real. “Your son is a good boy. Treat him right.”

We prayed prayers of comfort and I saw the tears he blinked away.  I touched his arm as I poured coffee and his eyes danced away the sorrow, “Got any more sugar? There’s barely enough for a cup here,” he said, all tough.

We laughed at the five pounds in the glass jar on the table. All traces of tears disappeared but my mother-heart remembered.

Then the call came.

Alcohol does more than just make people say things they don’t mean. It also kills.

We met him for lunch. He, such a mixture of tough and broken. They found her that morning. The boy-man forced to try and keep his mother alive. The doctor said, “We couldn’t save her.” And it’s over.

God, what are you doing? I want to scream. I know she wasn’t the best mother, but she was his and there was always the hope of someday. But now it’s gone and he’s here. Sixteen and motherless.

His eyes meet mine from across the table. And truth comes.

God knew. He knew when the end was near. He knew when the heart would stop beating. And he made provision for the little boy inside this grown man’s body. He gave him me.

We leave the restaurant and I want to hug him tight and never let go. But I wave and say, “I love you” and pray that will be enough to keep turning his gaze back to the God who loves him even more than I.

How many hurting children are you walking past? Watch for them. Love on them. When life shatters they may just need your kitchen table to sit at and your smile to heal them and your love to tell them about the Redeemer of all. 


  1. Wonderful Natasha.

    Your mother heart, the way it loves and welcomes and spills over into words… is beautiful.
    God’s work in you is beautiful.
    Thank you for giving us a glimpse.

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