“Milk”: I Know What I’m Fighting For… What Are You Fighting For?

“Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk…” That’s what my 17-month-old daughter Katherine kept repeating in my left ear as I held her close and paced up and down the hallway of the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She was on NPO, which comes from a Latin term meaning “nothing by mouth”, and she had not had anything to eat or drink because she was supposed to have multiple procedures done that day at 12:00PM. However, we were experiencing a delay and it was almost 1:30PM. My little girl was thirsty.

We took a small break from the pacing, so my wife and I could sign what turned out to be the last consent form… this one coming from the anesthesiologist. Just like the previous doctors that stopped by to see us, we were informed of all the risks associated with our daughter’s procedures. We once again signed the form and gave our consent. My eyes were starting to tear up, so I tried to look for a different hallway to take my daughter where my wife couldn’t see us. I didn’t want her to see the tears that were starting to fill up my eyes, fall down on my cheeks. You’re supposed to be strong in the hospital (at least that’s what I tell myself) and I wanted to show strength, but the consent forms broke me. I wish they would just do the procedures and not tell you all of the risks involved. I wanted to protect my daughter from those risks, but I couldn’t. All I could do was pray, so I prayed and I whispered in her ear “everything is going to be alright” and her response back to me was “Milk”.

I then thought back to one of my favorite movies, Cinderella Man. It’s based on a true story about boxing champion, Jim J. Braddock. Braddock was an incredible fighter and life was good for him and his family until the Great Depression hit. Jim was able to score some fights during the depression, but due to a broken hand, he got booed out of the ring. The boxing commission then revoked his boxing license for being such an embarrassment to the sport. This led to Jim not being able to pay the electricity bill and keep the heat on for his family, which caused his children to start getting sick due to the cold weather. They were also running low on food and could not afford to buy any more milk.

Now comes the second chance. The challenger who was supposed to fight the #2 heavyweight contender in the world, Corn Griffin, got hurt the day before their scheduled bout and had to back out. No boxer out there would fill in for the injured challenger and take on Corn Griffin with only one day’s notice, except for Jim Braddock. Since Braddock was willing to take the match, the boxing commission agreed to let him fight again. He was expected to lose badly and not make it past the first round. With an empty stomach, Jim showed up to the fight a day later and knocked Corn Griffin out in the third round. This stunning upset gave Jim the opportunity to continue fighting and he ended up getting a shot at the title. Prior to winning the heavyweight championship, a reporter asked Jim, “What’s changed, Jimmy? I mean, you couldn’t win a fight for love or money, right? How do you explain your comeback?” Jim goes on to answer the question and sums up his response with,

Jim: “And this time around, I know what I’m fighting for.”

Reporter: “Yeah? What’s that, Jimmy?”

Jim: “Milk”.

I think it makes all the difference in the world when we know what we’re fighting for. Simon Sinek is great at teaching this and he says that everyone has a ‘Why’, which is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires people to do what they do. My ‘Why’ has changed through the different seasons of my life and I always get a little lost when this happens. However, it always tracks me back down. I know when my ‘Why’ finds me because it wakes me up in the morning and sometimes in the middle of the night before my alarm clock has the chance to. It’s the fire in my belly that makes me think I can run through a brick wall. I’m obviously physically not able to do that, but in my mind, I feel like it’s possible and that’s all that matters. When life starts to get tough, I can still hear my daughter asking me for “Milk” in my left ear and I start fighting back because I know what I’m fighting for. That was the worst feeling in my life not being able to give my daughter something she wanted and that’s what milk represents to me. It represents being able to give my family everything they want and need to make all of their hopes and dreams come true. And it also means to actually give my kids milk when they ask for it. Especially my daughter, I hate telling her no.

After her procedures were done that day, she quickly asked again for “Milk” and we didn’t have to say no this time. I don’t know who was happier… my wife and I, or Katherine.

What are you fighting for?

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9 thoughts on ““Milk”: I Know What I’m Fighting For… What Are You Fighting For?”

  1. You are one heck of a fighter John! Standing in your corner, praying and cheering you and your precious family on!

  2. I loved that movie! It was very inspirational, very much like you are John. I am so proud to know you and call you my friend❤️

  3. You are the reason Katherine is a fighter… its in her blood. You have become not only a wonderful husband, but a Father that I admire. What are you fighting for? Family. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t say to myself “my brother is the best Dad I know”. We are fortunate that we both have our parents to thank for that. I love you brother. Inspiring story and I enjoyed reading it, thank you for sharing.

  4. Well said. I will think of this next time my little one does her sign language for “more” and/or points to her milk. Best wishes to you and your family.

  5. In your corner of the ring as you take to your blog to let us in to your life. God bless you my friend and your family! Never give up the fight… and give that sweet baby girl a hug and kiss from us here in Texas!

  6. I’m not sure what is more exciting… being able to give Kat that milk (and 3 popsicles) or watching you over the last few weeks getting fired up about sharing your heart. I am so proud of you. I love you!

  7. John
    Your family and your extended family are all in this fight with you and God is with you every step of the way. “Faith , hope and love are the 3 things he gave us, and the greatest is love”
    Your words are truly inspiring and a great gift to Katherine when she can read them!
    Hope to see you in Nashville soon

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