By Elizabeth Stack

Easter always makes me feel like anything is possible. That miracles and new beginnings are just around the corner, waiting to be experienced. This Easter was no different. And neither was my first Easter as a mother.

Ten years ago on Easter Sunday, I stood in church crying tears of pure joy, grateful for the blessings God had given my family. Our son, Win, had just been born 7weeks earlier — 10 weeks before his due date — weighing only 3 pounds, 13 ounces. Yet somehow, miraculously, sweet Win had thrived from the minute he graced this earth. He never experienced any of the issues typically faced by preemies his age and size. In fact, the doctors were so amazed by his progress, they deemed him ready to go home after just three short weeks in the Neonatal ICU. His miraculous health was the reason for my tears and gratitude that Easter Sunday. We truly had reason to celebrate.

But sadly, three short weeks later, I was crying very different tears. On May 3rd, Win’s scheduled due date, God welcomed Win into His loving arms and we kissed our sweet baby boy goodbye for the very last time.

Now, with the gift of perspective, my tears are different yet again. They still sting with the pain of loss and grief, knowing that our family is not complete without Win here. But they are also tears of joy once again. Now, I am better able to appreciate the amazing gift God gave us ten years ago: TIME.

We know that some might see Win’s early arrival as a sad thing — a tragedy even — as some might blame his early arrival for his all-too-early departure. But not us.

We believe with all of our hearts that God sent Win to us ten weeks early so that we could enjoy him…know him….love him. And that we did.

Had he arrived on May 3rd as scheduled, we may have never had that luxury. He could have come into this world and left it on the very same day. He could have passed through our hands and our hearts almost like a ghost before he took the joyous journey into heaven.

Thankfully, that was not his fate. Or ours.

For whatever reason, God blessed us with the amazing opportunity – if only for ten short weeks – to get to know Win and to love him. We got to know and appreciate that he had a sweet and quiet personality that was reminiscent of an ‘old soul.’ We got to laugh at how long and skinny he was and how much he looked like Julius Hodge (an NC State basketball player at the time who was tall and lanky). Without that time, we may have never known that Win, his younger brother and I all three have the same funny shaped ear or that half of his younger sister’s hairline when she was born looked just like his, while the other half was just like their brother’s. We learned that Win was strong and brave and a fighter.

Because Win was able to come home from the hospital so early, we didn’t have to get to know and love him within the hospital walls separated by apparatuses and hospital gowns. Instead, we were able to introduce him to the countless family and friends who still love him today. We were able to take pictures of him and with him – an enormous treasure beyond compare. He was able to sleep in his own crib – the same crib that his baby brother and sister later slept in. We were able to snuggle in bed together. We had time together at home as a family and were able to do those things families do.

Because of the time we were given with Win, we were also blessed with the opportunity to create memories and traditions we still honor today. For Win’s one-month birthday, we celebrated at home with cupcakes. Every year since, we’ve enjoyed those same cupcakes on his birthday. It’s hard to believe he would have been 10 this past February. Win, my mom and I also walked in the March of Dimes’ WalkAmerica (now known as the March for Babies). After he came home from the hospital, I kept seeing television commercials promoting the Walk and the March of Dimes’ mission of helping moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. I reasoned the repeated commercials were a sign from God and signed up to participate. Now, 10 years later, the Walk for Win family team has participated every year since in honor of Win. Together we’ve raised approximately $50,000 to support the March of Dimes’ important research. Research that has given other families that oh-so-precious gift of time. And us the gift of keeping Win’s memory alive.

Because of Win, I know time is an amazingly powerful gift. I appreciate how fleeting it is and just how quickly it flies. I know that none of us are promised tomorrow and how very important savoring every moment is.

I also know that I’m lousy at taking my own advice. I know what I should do, but like every other mother on the planet, time is passing before my very eyes. I have two children at home that I am so very blessed to be able to raise and yet, I can’t tell you the last meaningful thing we did. Our family rushes from work to school to activities to church…you get the picture. But we aren’t really spending the quality time together that I know is so important.

And so, on this Easter — ripe with the possibility of new beginnings — I prayed that God will give me the wisdom (and whatever else I need, because I definitely need a lot of help) to remember the importance of time, to spend more quality time with my children and to do a better job of savoring the time I have with all of the people I love. Because I know all too well that it can end in the blink of an eye.

Elizabeth is the working mother of three wonderful kids – two that she and her husband are blessed to be able to raise and one that God is raising for them. She has recently started her own blog, which you can visit Assured by her faith in God and His divine will for our lives, she strives to live her life by the motto, “I don’t know what fine looks like, but I know it will be just fine,” knowing that — when we trust in God — no matter how dark the cloud overhead may be, there are always silver linings to discover as we travel the road to where we are supposed to be.