I cried today. That isn’t terribly unusual for me. A typical day involves me tearing up at some point. The tears come easily with empathy. They come out of joy as well.

I wish I could blame the onions.

Today though, I didn’t just tear up, today I wept.

My son says that I have a heart like cotton candy. He first made this observation at the age of five. I’ve never really tried to conceal my emotions in front of him. If I’m sad about something it will likely be obvious. My heart is perhaps overly soft. Delicate? Prone to dissolving. Cotton candy it is.

I wish I could blame the onions.chopped onions on cutting board, photo taken by Michelle Koch

My day was good. My health and that of my family is good. I have a warm home. I have a promising career path. I love my people. I’m happy, truly happy. I began the day with a prayer of gratitude for those blessings. So why all the tears?

I read a blog post written by a mother whose seven-year-old son died unexpectedly. It ripped my heart open. The tears wouldn’t stop as I read while eating my lunch in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.  My heart hurts for this mother and I couldn’t help but imagine myself in the nightmare she’s living. Just the other night my son had out of the blue said he was afraid of dying. I told him because he believed in Jesus as his Savior he had nothing to fear. If he were to die he would go to heaven. He agreed and said heaven sounded nice. I hadn’t thought too much of our conversation until I read this mother’s words of loss. She and her son had often spoken about heaven too. I hope she finds some peace in that now. I know I would, but I also spent some time this afternoon pleading with God that I’d never be asked to endure outliving my baby.

With my eyes red and my heart aching, I was eager to see my son get home from school. He asked if we could play and I agreed without hesitation. Because yet again I’m reminded what a gift time is. He then went outside to play with a friend and I fought the urge to not let him out of my sight. While he was out I watched the national news and the anchor spoke of children dying from the flu. A twelve-year-old whose parents thought he had a cold died in his bed. Again I imagined their heartbreak as my own. Again the tears came.

I wish I could blame the onions.

Then there was a heartwarming story that also made me tear up, but helped to balance out the sadness. I told my husband we needed to watch comedy shows for the remainder of the evening because my heart couldn’t handle another thing. That’s when the local news featured a story of a father with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was diagnosed in 2016 after being slow to recover after a marathon and given 2-5 years life expectancy. He is facing his final months, maybe weeks. With the help of his brother-in-law, this dying father is making videos for his children. All the stories he would’ve shared. All the advice a father is supposed to give a child. Lessons on finances and career choices. Advice on being parents themselves. All of the love and wisdom we all wish to impart to our children, he is desperately passing it on digitally. So very bittersweet.

You couldn’t watch the story and not imagine yourself in that awful predicament and so again the tears came in abundance.

I wish I could blame the onions.

Life’s fragility was the overwhelming theme of the day and it feels entirely overwhelming. Tonight my heart aches for people I don’t know. If my sharing in their pain lessened theirs somehow my somber mood would be worth it. I wish it was just chopping onions that made me cry. But it isn’t. Nearly every time I chop onions my eyes burn and water. It is involuntary.

The same is true for this heart of mine. It feels things. It is involuntary. Some may think a cotton candy heart is a sign of weakness, but I’m here to tell you it takes some grit to feel it all and keep going. Today it felt a lot of hard things. Too many it seems. Tonight it just feels too damn heavy.  Each of those painful things peeled back another layer and by the end of the day, my core feels raw and exposed.

In that vulnerability, I found immense gratitude. A deeper appreciation for the blessings of another day to love my family, to serve them with love, to say yes to play, to another bedtime bible story, and to eat chocolate chip cookies in bed. I savored it all on behalf of those who aren’t as lucky tonight. I loved with focus for I’m fortunate to have the chance to do so.