Every so often a tiny thing can bring you back. It cou be a smell, it could be a familiar song, or even a blue stain.
Mum-of-four Heather Duckworth was scrubbing up a slime mess that her daughter had left behind when she started thinking about another mess she cleaned up.
It was over 14 years ago, her triplets were playing in the sitting room.
"It was almost bedtime. We were so close," she writes. "I was completely exhausted and was a hot mess by this time of night. Life was non-stop with our 2-year old triplets and their 4-year old brother. I had no time for myself and it had probably been at least four days since I had taken a shower.
"Every second of my day was tending to their needs, and although I was completely exhausted, I wouldn't have it any other way. My hands were full, but so was my heart."
As with every evening, they herded the children into the playroom to clean up before bedtime.
"We had some songs playing on the radio and everyone was singing and dancing and picking up their toys.
"I was quickly putting toys away, anxious to get my crew in bed so that maybe I could have a few minutes to shower. When all of a sudden, I heard one of the boys say, 'Uh, Oh.'"
It was a blue pen, one of the boys had picked it up and broken it, spraying blue ink everywhere.
"I gasped as I saw blue splatters across the floor and a thick pool of ink sinking into our carpet – our brand new carpet. I quickly yelled for my husband, who had been doing the dishes, to come and help me. I instantly felt so upset as I grabbed my son and took him to the bathroom to clean him up and my husband started scrubbing those bright blue stains on our carpet.
"Tears of frustration stung my eyes. I was just so tired. And mad. Like really, really angry. I wasn't mad at my son - who was as blue as a Smurf - but upset with myself for leaving that pen out where my toddler could reach it. We had only lived in this house for 6 months and now the carpet was completely ruined."
They scrubbed the carpet, even professional cleaners they called in the next day but they couldn't get the stain out; "it just glared back at me, bright and blue."
"I was so disappointed every time I looked at that stain – it was just so ugly, a striking contrast against our tan carpet. And no matter what we did, that stubborn stain remained. That stain made me feel embarrassed and disappointed. It made me feel angry and it made me feel like such a failure for leaving out the pen where my young son could reach it. That blue stain was just a big fat negative in my life. I hated it.
"The next month, my sweet son, the one who splattered blue ink all over our carpet was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, he passed away."
The stain is still there, unlike her son who tragically passed away.
"My son was gone, but that blue ink stain? It was still there . . . and now . . . it was a constant reminder of my son. It was a constant reminder of my frustration over something so trivial . . . something so unimportant in the scheme of life."
Now the blue stain reminds Duckworth of him everyday.
"That blue stain was a constant reminder that life is messy, but that’s what makes it worth living.
"A constant reminder to not sweat the small stuff.
"A constant reminder that 'things' aren't important, but people are.
"A constant reminder that accidents happen.
"A constant reminder to let go of the little things and hang on tight to what is important.
"Over the years, that stain never did fade. It stayed bright blue on our tan carpet. We learned to hide it well under furniture, but every time I did some deep cleaning and moved the furniture, that stain would be there, staring back at me. It would take my breath away every time I saw it, reminding me of the pain of my loss.
"And that stain that used to be such an eyesore and make me cry in frustration now just makes me thank God for these memories.
"It reminds me that life is messy. There will be spills on the kitchen floor. Goldfish dropped all over the car. Windows broken with baseballs. Laundry overflowing the baskets and dishes filling the sink. Fingerprints on the glass doors and crayons all over the table. And there will be blue ink stains on your brand new carpet.
"But those messes? They come from living and loving and growing and learning. They make me feel grateful. And they are a blessing in disguise.
"And you know what?
"I would have a million blue ink stains on my carpet if it meant I could have one more day with my son."
Such an important reminder that life is for living, not for cleaning.