The most important lessons seem to take a lifetime to learn.
But I learned many of those lessons in only 10 days—the 10 days my son, Christopher Louis Jones Jr., was alive with me on Earth. In his short lifetime, Junior opened my eyes to a better, richer way of living for which I’m grateful every day.
Here’s what my son taught me and can teach you, as well:
Junior taught me to be more compassionate, considerate, and kind. Born prematurely and with severe genetic birth defects, Junior was perfect in my eyes and in his father’s eyes, as well. Are there people in your life with whom you can choose to see differently, through a lens of pure love?
Junior taught me to be less judgmental of others, because you never really know what anyone else is going through on a day-to-day basis. When you’re frustrated with a co-worker or growing impatient with another driver in traffic, try to remember: That person might be ill, might be grieving, or might be struggling with a major decision.
Junior taught me to be brave. After he passed away, I discovered a layer of badass fearlessness that propels me to go after every dream I’ve ever had. So, when people see that I’m the actress, model, author, television host, public relations expert, business owner, world-renowned speaker, and whatever other dream God lays on my heart from now until eternity, they’ll have my baby boy to thank for me getting off my behind and going for it. Is fear holding you back from something? How can you free yourself to live without regrets?
Junior taught me to be aware of everything around me. At one point, Junior’s doctors told us that because of his small chin size, his tongue couldn’t lie flat in his mouth, which could’ve caused his tongue to fall back and cover his airway. I never paid attention to people’s chins before—but Lord knows I do now. Take time each day to put down your phone, close your laptop, and just observe the people, places, sights, sounds, and smells around you for five solid minutes. I promise you, you’ll be amazed at how noticing the tiny details enriches your life!
Junior taught me to live my truth in its entire manifestation. My truth is that just because my son died, it doesn’t mean I’m not a mom. And just because the miracle we desired didn’t go the way we planned doesn’t mean a miracle didn’t take place. These are my truths, and I live in them and embrace them every day of my life. Are you living your truth fully, or are you distracted by what “they” say you should do or who you should be? Do you value the opinions of others over what you know deep in your own heart?
My baby’s death taught me to cherish every single moment. Being a parent of a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, you watch several monitors, and you listen to every sound those monitors make all day, every day. You hang on to any sign of hope, and your emotions fluctuate for as long as you can take it until you fall asleep, wake up, and start the cycle all over again.
You become accustomed to your child’s medical status changing from minute to minute, sometimes second to second. And in the midst of those time-keeping measures, you learn to hold onto every second as though it is the only second that will ever matter. Slow down! When you’re stressed or overworked, ask yourself what will really matter six months from now, or even six days from now. Focus on the people and activities that make you feel peaceful and whole.
I’ve learned to be gentler with myself and with others. God freely gives grace to all of us to get it right. And even when we don’t, He extends it again and again and again. There’s no reason why I can’t extend that same grace to myself and others. Do you tend to be hard on yourself? Consider keeping a journal in which you congratulate yourself for the many positive things you do each day, and refer to your notes when you’re feeling down on yourself.
Finally, my baby taught me to love deeply, enjoy experiences fully, and live life purposefully. I have learned to never take any person, thing, or experience for granted. Tomorrow is not promised, and each person has the awesome responsibility of cherishing each day as it comes. Make a habit of saying “I love you” to your friends and family whenever you part ways; hug freely; and carve out specific times each week to prioritize the people, places, and practices that matter most to you.
My son taught me many lessons that usually take people years to learn. I’m blessed to have had almost nine months to learn from Junior.
Author: Danielle Jones
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May