A Cup of Cold Water

My firstborn and me, July 1971, at Gramma Rosie's pool

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. 
St. Matthew 10: 42

On those long, summer days of childhood, nothing could call me indoors until Mom hollered for dinner. Even on those blistering, itchy, humid vacations in Kentucky, I felt no thirst. Play was my drink until that sweaty glass of cold milk appeared on the table. Then, sudden thirst had its fill.
            Mom served my sisters and me Twin Pines delivered in the milk chute. The dairy industry thrived on the likes of us O’Brien girls—four glasses each a day, times five. Mom worried over the bill.

She was skeptical of the chlorine smell from our city faucets, and frowned at the rotten egg odor from Kentucky wells. I wager she would shake her head today at our modern fetish for bottled H2O.
A genuine southerner, Mom’s water was iced tea with a teaspoon of sugar. She’d savor the dregs like they were some magic potion for inner peace. “Now, don’t you touch my tea,” she’d say to my sisters and me. It was a test of obedience I dared challenge only once.
Unlike the typical southerner, Mom never bought Pepsi or Coca-Cola. On special occasions, she permitted us a glass of icy, slightly sweetened Lipton or Red Rose. Thus, I didn’t develop a taste for unflavored water.
It was after my travail of labor and delivery in childbirth when I gladly accepted a cold cup of water. The first swallow was heaven to my parched mouth and throat. My firstborn’s cry and the nurse’s white uniform remain connected with that quenching drink. It felt like she’d saved my life.
Yet, it’s difficult to change a camel’s habits. In caring for my infant and household, I forgot to drink. Alas, my attempt to breastfeed failed due to inexperience and lack of support. Four years later, I found La Leche League and prepared for my second child.
Although I couldn’t embrace some of their ideas, I found La Leche companionship and knowledge as necessary as Sunday morning worship service. The women helped me overcome my challenges and handicaps with the will and skill to successfully breastfeed my two younger daughters. The group was like the nurse who gave me a cup of cold water when I needed it.
Dear Reader, as my firstborn’s birthday approaches, I meditate upon the nurse’s vocation and kindness, how good health and encouragement come from what seems a small, insignificant thing. Since our daughter passed, I see my barren landscape of loss grows greener from cups of cold water given by God’s disciples. With each cup, they save my life again.
As St. Augustine wrote: “Does not a certain flame rise up as if from that cold water which even inflames the cold breasts of men to perform acts of mercy in the hope of heavenly reward?”