Our fall favorites are here! 🍂

She lifted the young child into her arms and experienced, for the first time, a love so big her heart could not contain it. Hugging the child close and long wasn’t a choice; it was a compulsion. Tears of joy, underscored with the certainty of heartbreak, also defied choice. Love came unbidden, and as yet, unreciprocated.

But it came in a tidal wave of power—passionate and fierce. This was not the fluffy, sugary, cotton candy emotion that as a young girl she had confused with love. And it seemed as if just yesterday she had been that young girl despite the reality of being a successful middle-aged woman.

The call had come yesterday. She’d only been approved just the week before. The social worker had a child to place with her.

It was the same old story, as a hospital administrator, she’d heard it a heart-numbing number of times. A victim of abuse, born to people too young, too poor, or too high to parent, then bounced from relative to relative, then foster home to foster home. Specialized foster care with adoption as the goal was the new tact.

RELATED: The Bittersweet Beauty of Adoption Love

“She’s no stranger to hospitals,” the social worker warned.

“Neither am I.”

The right man had never come along in her life. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t have a family of her own.

Her intent was to adopt this child.

She used the same cool decisiveness and confidence that made her successful in the workplace to remove herself from the workplace. It took only a few swift communiques to secure an extended leave of absence and liquidate some assets.

This first hug would not be the last. Upon arriving home, it was followed by another, then another. All heart-felt, all long, all just short of bone-crushing. She sat the child on her lap while she read books to her, while she played piano for her, while she surfed the internet with her. While she administered her medications. 

She rocked her to sleep. She rocked her to sleep again when the nightmares came. She held her in the recliner while they both slept so that love would be the first thing the girl saw when she awoke.

RELATED: Surviving the Loss of a Child Means Loving Fiercely and Remembering Bravely

She braided her hair, she taught her to shower, she learned that her little girl had no favorite foods. She took her to the aquarium but discovered she liked the beach better. She took her to concerts in the park but found she liked watching the artists instead.

She took her to the doctor. And then to the specialists. She educated her. There were specialists for that, too.

And occasionally there was the hospital emergency department, the intensive care unit, the home care nurses.

They tried playing dress-up but it was too silly. They attended family get-togethers.  Sometimes they were awkward, but with practice, they were less so. The girl learned to hug. She was taught by her new mom but also by her new cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandparents. Relatives who were there today and every tomorrow.

Her mother held her hand day and night in the hospital, only leaving her side to eat, to spare the patient of the sight and smell of food she wasn’t allowed. There were cards, always there were cards. Get well cards, make-you-laugh cards, and homemade cards from adults and children alike. There were so many friends and family and all of them hugged and some of them kissed. The child hugged them back, sometimes looking to her mother to see if she did it right. She didn’t kiss.

And once she woke up when her mother wasn’t quite quick enough to hide the tears.

The child had never seen nor shed sad tears. Her mother loved to watch movies that she told her daughter were called tearjerkers. The girl passed the tissues often but never used them herself.

The hospital stay was longer this time.

The girl slept more. Her mother took care to open the window blinds during the daytime so if her daughter lost track of whether it was day or night, the sunshine could help her know.

RELATED: I Wasn’t Prepared To Love You or To Lose You

The instruments beeped. The nurses poked. Her mother raised her voice. The nurses cowered. The doctors did her mother’s bidding.

And then they were home.

Safe and secure with all the right sounds and smells. 

Her mother playing piano, her mother’s perfume.

Her mother’s soft crying.

Naturally, without any thought, the girl reached for her mother’s hand and tugged.

The mother quickly dried her eyes. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry for scaring you.”

The girl shook her head. “No, Mama, you just need a hug.”

And the mother leaned into the bed and accepted a long hug that contained more strength than a sickly girl could possibly possess. They embraced, they held hands, they even kissed.

And when the child’s breath ran out, the mother’s heart gave way to a vulnerability, without which love cannot be love, and shattered into shards.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Holly Kaeppel

Holly Kaeppel is a mother of five who resides with her husband in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Penn State with a BS in Human Development and Family Studies and has worked professionally and as a volunteer in various capacities serving children and adolescents.

We Pray for Healing that Doesn’t Always Come

In: Grief, Loss
Woman with folded hands sitting on couch

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing and how most times healing doesn’t happen the way I hope or pray. When I was in high school, God put it on my heart to begin praying for my future husband. It was so weird to pray for someone I didn’t know, but there I was praying in a field where only God alone could see me. Meanwhile, the man who’d be my husband was in a skiing accident and while they tried to save his leg and while he had an entire community praying for him, his leg wasn’t healed. It...

Keep Reading

My Mom Was My Best Friend and Now that She’s Gone, I’m Lonely

In: Grief, Loss
Mother and grown daughter walk by water

I have always struggled to make and keep friends. This struggle has only become more pronounced in adulthood as everyone around me, including myself, must balance the demands of family, work, and other responsibilities. When I had my mom around, I didn’t feel the absence of friends. My mother was my best friend—the one I vented to, gabbed over coffee with, and saw all the best movies with. During my late 20s, my mother’s health began to decline rapidly. As an older mom, she had overcome a bout of polio as a child, so her body began to display post-polio...

Keep Reading

To the Parents Facing a Child’s Illness: You Are Strong

In: Grief, Kids, Motherhood
Toddler with cast and IV looking out window

If you are the parents who just sat for hours in a cold doctor’s office to hear that your child has a life-threatening illness, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who can’t bring yourself to decorate or celebrate the unknown because you don’t know if they’ll ever come home, you are so strong.  If you are the parents who travel or relocate to deliver your child in one of the best hospitals with hopes it will change the outcome, you are so strong. If you are the parents who learn all the medical terminology so you understand...

Keep Reading

My Sister Was Killed by a Drunk Driver and Her Loss Left a Gaping Hole

In: Grief, Loss
Woman kneeling at grave

Dark clouds hang over my hometown. I am reminded of my mother’s death many years ago. I lived in foster care without knowing my bloodline. It felt like the end. I longed for family closeness. After researching my ancestry, I discovered that my father has many children. My younger sister, Marva, was a remarkable woman. Despite being a single mother, she was kind, strong, and hardworking. Her compassionate heart touched countless people. We share an unbreakable bond. During our last walk together, an unexpected vehicle drove close to us. My sister quickly grabbed my arm. Protectively, she pulled me close...

Keep Reading

What Happens When Your Perfect Life Explodes?

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Marriage, Motherhood
Sad woman by window with her head in hands

One day you’re living your best life, writing articles about how perfect your marriage is, and the next, BOOM, life as you know it completely changes. I was blindsided by information that my husband had been lying to me for three years about certain aspects of our lives. I felt like I had been hit in the gut by the biggest rock you could imagine. What has followed has been a snowball of events and new information that has changed the course of my and my kids’ lives. So what do you do when your perfect explodes? This is one...

Keep Reading

Sweet Baby, I Wish I Could Have Met You

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Toddler standing at table with lit candles, color photo

Miscarriage. It floods my head with devastating memories. It seems like it happened so long ago, yet I can still feel the roller coaster of emotions I was taken on. My husband and I were ready to start a family, and I was fortunate enough to get pregnant right away. Holding that pregnancy test with my hands shaking and voice trembling, I was scared and excited.  I was ready to be a mom. Even though seeing those two lines so quickly left me shocked, I was ready to meet my baby. When I found out there was a little human growing...

Keep Reading

Just For a Moment, I Thought I Saw You Again

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking down autumn path

I was on my way to the dollar store as they were opening, still flush with excitement that I had made a condo reservation the night before. We moved just a few months ago, and John and I had kind of been tiptoeing around the notion of our yearly early autumn/my birthday week on the white sands of Pensacola Beach, not at all sure of it being a possibility this year. The early morning excursion to the dollar store was to purchase the symbolic “vacation salt and pepper shakers” duo that we have taken along with us every year for...

Keep Reading

I Lost a Baby and My Heart Will Always Hurt

In: Grief, Loss
Woman walking down autumn path, black and white image

I love having a TV show to watch. I get home from work and need 20-30 minutes to myself. It’s a reprieve from the day. A way to reset my mind. I love to sit at night when everyone is cleaning up or taking showers and watch something. I usually have my typical round of repeats. Gilmore Girls, Madam Secretary, White Collar, Covert Affairs, etc.  Recently I finished a time travel drama and was at a loss for what to watch next. I rarely watch new shows as I don’t really find anything that fits my just chill, don’t want to...

Keep Reading

Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes

In: Grief, Living
Two women eating, color photo

When I was growing up, my dad’s Kentucky roots were very evident in our kitchen, especially the summertime meals he prepared. I can still see him at the stove preparing those Southern specialties: a mess of green beans and ham, corn fried in a skillet, fried okra, hot stuff (a mixture of tomatoes, onion, and hot peppers), fried round steak and gravy, and fried green tomatoes. While preparing the dishes, he would often cut the end of a hot pepper and coax us to stick our tongues on the end. “It’s not that hot.” It always was, and we fell...

Keep Reading

Watching My Mom Lose Her Best Friend Is Hard

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss
Two women walking, color photo

Today, my mom lost one of her best friends. Today the news came. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Traumatically. Ripping a hole in the heart of her world and the world of all who knew and loved her. Today I realized so many things. Things I already know but always lose sight of. Things like, nothing is ever guaranteed. Things like, you never know when it will be your last text . . . your last hug . . . your last power walk . . . your last everything with a person who is so deeply connected to your heart and soul...

Keep Reading