A sick mom was sitting in a waiting room when a group of older women took an interest in her son. After asking him a question and hearing his answer, one of the ladies turned to the mother with some unwelcome parenting advice. The mom was faced with a tough decision, and eventually, she decided it was time to speak up.
Erica Doyle, a young Pennsylvania mom, had been struggling with a lot. For over four months straight, she had been sick all the time, thanks to her uncontrolled asthma. She was having “one of those days” when she headed out to an appointment, feeling especially “like crap.” Sadly, one woman would make it worse.
As Erica sat in the waiting room with her young son Jensen, a group of older women began talking to her little boy. As the ladies doted on the cute little guy, they asked him questions about his life. His answer to one inquiry, however, apparently struck a chord with one of the women, who decided to speak her mind to an unsuspecting Erica.
After asking Jensen if he had any brothers or sisters, he responded, “No, but I have lots of cousins.” The answer cut Erica deeply because, although she appears to be a mother-of-one, she’s not. Of course, the truth she carries in her heart isn’t easily seen by outsiders, so the woman had no idea the can of worms she opened with her next remark.
“You’ll regret that,” Erica heard, realizing the words were meant for her. Stunned, she said, “Excuse me?” Boldly, the woman turned in Erica’s direction and again told the young mother that she would regret not having siblings for her son. “He needs a sister or brother. It’s good for kids not to be an only child,” she said. That’s when a rush of emotion came over Erica, who had a very difficult decision to make.
Jensen isn’t an only child. Although the toddler doesn’t quite understand it, he lost a sibling just months before. As the woman made her hurtful remark to Erica, the young mom should have been 34 weeks pregnant. Unfortunately, the day she was supposed to hear her unborn baby’s heartbeat for the first time, she was instead told her child had quietly passed away in her womb.
What’s more, it had taken seven years for Erica to become pregnant with Jensen. No one would have faulted Erica, who had already faced both infertility and loss, for reacting in anger to the woman casting judgment against her. Instead, she simply smiled and said, “Thanks for the advice.” However, the words cut deep, and eventually, Erica knew it was time to speak up.
After returning home, she took to social media and shared the heartbreaking encounter, as well as a couple of valuable lessons. “I wanted to choose anger. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs,” she admitted. “But I chose kindness, even though sometimes internalizing the pain hurts more than telling off a perfect stranger.”
The following day, as this unnamed woman went about her business, likely dishing out unwanted advice to others, Erica was crying in a gift shop. Ever since losing her second child, Erica has been drawn to butterflies. After hearing that her unborn baby was no longer alive, she had a tiny orange butterfly follow her through the parking lot.
It fluttered around the grieving mom’s head, all the way to the car. The next day, another tiny orange butterfly landed right on her nose and just sat there, as if it were giving her a kiss. Then, the following day, while going for a drive, an orange butterfly outside of her car seemingly stayed by Erica’s window for miles. With the three butterfly encounters, the butterfly became a symbol of hope for Erica.
So, the day after the cruel remark, Erica stood in a gift shop and bawled after discovering a windchime adorned with butterflies and words that spoke to her heart: “These chimes are but the echo, Of the Heavenly Bells above, That rang in celebration, As God welcomed me with love, So when you hear them playing, In the gentle unseen wind, Let them serve as a reminder, We will meet again.”
Erica Doyle concluded her post with important words of encouragement for others: “Keep being strong my friends! We all survive each day somehow. And, tomorrow is a new day with new hope and new joys.” And, the next day, she discovered just that when she found the windchime. Erica Doyle’s intention was to encourage others to be kind to those who unknowingly weren’t very kind to us, but she taught us so much more.
As cliche as it sounds, Erica proved you can’t judge a book by its cover. We can’t see what struggles others are facing. All too often, we don’t know the whole story when we draw conclusions about complete strangers. Just as importantly, Erica also showed those who are struggling that, even in the worst of times, we will survive and find “new hope and new joys” in unexpected places.