Mar 10

As I wince, try to breathe through the pain, and turn my head away, I catch Greta’s expression.

Her shoulders hunch up, she brings her hands up to her chest, and she squinches her face in empathy as she looks from my foot to my face.  Without looking at it, she points gingerly to my foot as the doctor begins to depress the syringe he just stuck between my toes, “Does that hurt Mom?”

I try to smile reassuringly through my gritted teeth, “I does baby, but it’s okay.  The doctor will be done with this part in a minute and then he’s going to keep working on making my toes better.”  I watch her as she scrutinizes me with her three-year-old eyes.

“Oh,” she says, clearly unconvinced.  She glances down at my feet again, then quickly back up to my face when she sees there is still a needle in my foot.

She brightens as she has a thought.  “I can hold your hand Mom,” she says as she steps towards me and extends her little hand up to me.  “I can hold your hand to help you be brave.”

I take her up on this offer and reach out to her.  “Thanks Greta,” I take her soft pudgy hand and squeeze it.  I do feel better, braver.  Much better, much braver.  She straightens her back as she shoulders her chosen burden, squeezes my hand, and we both watch as the doctor works.  She looks across our intertwined hands and smiles at me.  It’s an encouraging smile; it says you can do this.  I meet her eye and smile back.

The doctor pauses to take in the scene: me elevated in the chair, the surgical tray alongside, Greta in her mismatched tights and dress, the two of us holding hands, the tears in my eyes.

“She’s awesome,” he says to me.  He might have tears in his eyes, too.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that sweet before.”

I beam at him.  “I know,” I say.  “I’m so blessed to be her mama.  She’s amazing.”

The doctor resumes his work and Greta gives a little yelp as I squeeze, apparently, a little too hard.

“Sorry Greta!” I exclaim, and we all laugh.

I laugh through my tears and I’m grateful for this little bolt of sunshine who makes everything brighter.

Greta comes with me to many of my appointments; I average 1-2 per week at one of my many specialists.  Phenom keeps her for my hours-long oncology appointments, but I prefer to bring her with me for the shorter ones.  Now that she’s three, she can sit quietly during the important parts.  We entertain the waiting room population of Cincinnati with our book-reading and letter-spotting and games of I-Spy.  She never complains about these sometimes-lengthy car trips, and waits, and consultations, and adult conversations.  I keep snacks and treasures in my purse; she usually has an animal or doll adventuring along with us for the day.  Old folks, in particular, are carried away by her whimsy.  Her trademark stink-eye is inexplicably absent during these waiting room waits.  Her habit of calling all of the secretaries “boss” has won her yet more hearts.  As in, “When is the boss going to say it’s our turn?”  They grin at her and give us more stickers.  We dance to the music we hear.  We lip sync if we know the words.  (Our favorites: Katie Perry’s Roar , Sara Bareielles’ Brave, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.)  You should see Greta’s gusto; it is something to behold.  She is something to behold.  She pushes all of the elevator buttons.  She finds pictures of laughing babies in the magazines; our favorites are the laughing mamas and babies together.  Bonus if the baby is messy.  We laugh a lot.

Since my girls are four years apart, this was the age that Maren was when I was very pregnant with Greta.  I remember waddling around with Maren in the months before my second daughter’s birth, wondering how another little person would incorporate into our family, our days, our giggles, our joy.  I was transfixed with Maren at that age: so inquisitive, smart, vivacious.  She became my friend as she developed her own thoughts and ideas, and started conversations of her own with questions and comments I found interesting.  I find myself entrenched in Greta as we meander the city together.  Our schedule is rarely hurried as I’ve found the key to peaceful living with small people is often as simple as no rushing them.  At this age Maren was full of “finks”: “Mom, I fink you walk to slow.”  Greta already “thinks”: “Mom I think it would be a good idea to do a craft today.”  Her imagination is blooming, her art is recognizable, she’s got lots of girlfriends and makes the boys work super hard to befriend her before she tolerates them.

Her little hand in mine does indeed make me braver, and the world better.  I love you Greta.

Honestly I wanna see you be brave.  –Sara Barielles


  1. You are brave and brilliant, not brilliant, smart (although I am sure your are) brilliant, shining. The way you live your life is a shining example of how each and every one of us can chose joy every day no matter our circumstances. Praying for you and yours to continue to do well today and countless days to come.

  2. Jen powers /

    Lovely. This is all kinds of lovely. I wish I could have been eyewitness to that
    hand holding too. Apple doesn’t far fall from the tree.
    You two are fiercely brave.

  3. Lori6NV /

    This one moved me to tears. You and Greta are both brave, beautiful girls (and Maren, too). Praying for you from afar, as always.

  4. We see you being brave over there with those beautiful girls and Brad. God bless you!!!

  5. KellyE /

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lindsay l /

    Absolutely love this. 🙂

  7. So beautiful. You. Greta. This.

  8. Smiling with tears in my eyes…

  9. Bonnie J /

    Such a sweet post Jen!! Touches my heart as you demonstrate the art of daily living…. A life laid down. Sweet prayers today!!

  10. Emily Smith /

    Having a hand to hold DOES make us braver! God loves us through each other. Thanks for the beautiful post:)

  11. Tiffany Nabozny /

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Love this.