She Was Sick of Picking Up After Her Husband—Then She Noticed His Leftover Cereal Bowl

By Brie Gowen 

Being in the healthcare field often affords you a window into others’ lives, and often times you might even glimpse things that you would rather not see. As a nurse I am a bedside witness to some of life’s most epic celebrations. Healing, miracles, and renewed strength. But conversely I also see tragedy. I see loss. I see pain. I watch faces collapse into a contorted mask of distraught grief coupled with disbelief and shock. Sometimes in a crying wife’s face I see the bittersweet memory of thirty years pass through tear-filled eyes, and I read a silent sadness there that is so concrete it’s almost palatable to my sympathetic gaze. A bitter taste rises in my throat, and my insides twist with an empathy for harsh loss and loved ones ripped from unexpectant arms.

Seeing the things I see, it affects me. It changes my perspective, and it softens my outlook on the everyday mundane.

I think of yesterday as I rushed towards evening time to straighten an ever messy home. I reached quickly for a stray bowl left on the kitchen bar, and I grimaced at the sugary, milk mixture left inside. It was my husband’s forgotten cereal bowl, and it was one thing I despised more than most others. Something about that syrupy mixture made me wince in disgust, and every time I poured the congealed concoction down the drain I felt like my gorge would rise. It was simply one of those pet-peeve nuisances that tried to make my left eye twitch when I came across it, and kind of like stray, stinky socks it caused my “put-upon” wife persona to emerge with vengeance.

Yet yesterday as I collected the wayward bowl I simply smiled. Smiled. Ha! I poured it down the sink, I grinned at thoughts of a busy, loving man who had forgotten, for the first time in some time actually, to deposit his empty cereal bowl into the sink, and I went about my kitchen cleanup. It wasn’t worth another thought, and certainly not an angry one.

Once upon a time I let the little things bother me, and I made mountains out of mole hills. I turned dirty clothes into something they were not, and I let idiosyncrasies count for far too much. But then one day you look at a balled-up pair of socks left at the foot of the sofa and it hits you, that widowed friend of mine would give anything if her husband was there to leave socks on the floor. 

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Sometimes in life, and especially in marriage, you have to realize you can’t sweat the small stuff or you’re in for decades of discontent. Plus you have to open your eyes to the gifts before you, and understand that so many people would give their left arm to possess the very things you complain about. Because the fact is that while you fret over something like a cereal bowl left behind on the counter top, somewhere a wife mourns the death of her husband that occurred far too soon.

It’s not to say you pull the wool over all worries or don’t communicate your grievances, but rather it’s the decision to put into perspective exactly what’s important, and exactly what is not. It’s grace shown for those you love because it’s also given to you, and appreciation for the relationships you have while you still have them. Because one day they will be gone.

So as silly as it sounds, yeah, you smile at dirty dishes, and you laugh at hair in the sink. It’s certainly preferred over crying at a hospital bedside or watching a coffin being lowered into the ground. In essence, you live each day with the person you love like it’s the last one you’ll have.

You take the moment to look into the eyes of the person you’re kissing goodbye in case it’s the last time. You don’t let the sun set on your wrath, you say you’re sorry first, and you forgive with abundance. You savor time together, say thank you often, and always let them know they count for more than a syrupy cereal bowl any day.

About the Author: Brie Gowen is a 30-something (sliding ever closer to 40-something) wife and mother. When she’s not loving on her hubby, chasing after the toddler or playing princess with her four-year-old, she enjoys cooking, reading and writing down her thoughts to share with others. Brie is also a huge lover of Jesus. She finds immense joy in the peace a relationship with her Savior provides, and she might just tell you about it sometime. She’d love for you to check out her blog at

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