Face of hope

Face of hope
Courtesy: TIffany Kay Photography

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Lady

Dear lady who sits in front of me at church.....
You don't know me, and I don't really know you. But you have had a profound impact on me. Bear with me as I weave through this post - it's something that's been on my mind for over two years...and I hope in the end you understand.
  I remember one of the first times we sat in the cry room for Mass... it's always an interesting experience watching mothers trying to entertain their toddlers, let their older babies get out their noises and restlessness, and babies eating or being rocked to sleep....week to week it is different.  Some Sundays it's loud and busy... some Sundays it is quiet and calm.  But, such are kids - and how wonderful they are at Mass learning and praying with their parents.  I first noticed your beautiful family because you started to be the "constant"... whether hectic or peaceful, you were always there. Every Sunday. In the front row. Two boys, two girls, mom and dad. The kids always sweet and you and your husband showing such a good example of why we were there - paying attention, teaching, helping, and praying. You may be thinking..."ok,what's the big deal?" I will tell you.

One Sunday, we were sitting in our usual spot, and you were in yours... and something happened.  I saw one of your sons started to have a hard time.  He became uncomfortable, started to move around,  became physically resistant, and ultimately, resulted in a major outburst in which your husband took him out the back door to the hallways. Having grown up around special needs children due to my mom's job, it was not lost on me he was struggling that day with whatever his challenges were, and it didn't phase me as "unusual" by any means.  But then  I noticed  the stares of some of the parents - probably not malicious by any means, but the curiosity  focused on your family certainly not helpful in that situation.  Their discomfort and awkwardness at wondering "what" was going on was obvious. Looking back ahead of my seat, I noticed the tears in your eyes. I saw your other children lean in and comfort you and although it was a really tough moment, I saw you re-focus in prayer and willingly take the hugs from your other children.  I remember feeling so many feelings, but, the one that struck me most was admiration. I watched the whole thing unfold, and both you and your husband showed such resolve. Strength. And Love.  I admired your compassion for your son, and your children's compassion for you.  I admired your husband's strength as he tried to calm him.  I admired your son for pushing forth when he was obviously having a challenging day.  There were many moments that morning I wanted to tell you "You're doing a great job..."... or just reach out and  offer some sort of magical words of wisdom and or gesture of compassion to let you know I cared.  But I didn't.  You may be thinking - why is this important?

 As I said, I had grown up around all different children - as a matter of fact I would even go and give music demonstrations or presentations to some of my mother's students (who had diverse diagnoses) with no qualms whatsoever.  It was such a joy to be around the children she worked with and I never gave a second thought to speaking to or smiling at a special needs child or their parents. But that morning at Mass I was weakened.  We had just recently had our 19 week ultrasound and our daughter was given a very uncertain, and therefore according to the doctors, "doom and gloom" prenatal diagnosis of a congenital brain condition.  We had come off a week of negative appointments and a million "she will never do ______" and "you have four older kids.. this will be too hard on them..." among several other comments on what we "should" do "about her"........  I remember feeling confused and sad, and most of all scared and uncertain.  Not in our resolve to carry her to term and deal with whatever her needs would be, but just about things in general and all the changes that were about to happen to our family.  There was a certain malaise or black cloud that had taken over the pregnancy.  Then we went to Mass that day. I realized your son hadn't been dealt the easiest hand in life but then it made sense to me.  Seeing him have a rough time that morning, but then seeing subsequent Sundays where he would thrive and joyfully draw on his drawing pad, seeing your tears, but then seeing how much grace you and your husband had made me feel strong for the first time since our ultrasound.  I remember thinking "This family is amazing. We are going to be fine. We can get through any challenge with our daughter..."  And that was that. You gave me my voice back.

Now anyone who knows me knows I certainly have a voice. But, no matter how strong someone is, unexpected events in life can certainly throw even the strongest person for a loop.  And it did that for me in the beginning. But you taught me how to get my strength back and how to fight for my daughter.  I don't know if we have even said two words to each other in these years, but, your actions and outward showing of love, vulnerability, and strength all wrapped up into one inspired me.  You inspired me to be the best parent I can to our special needs child.  You inspired me to help guide my older children through our new "normal."  You inspired me to not be afraid of the challenges  and not worry what others may think. You inspired me to know when the bad moments happen to just say "tomorrow is a new day."  Most importantly, you inspired me to never again stay silent when another special needs parent may just need a smile, or a positive comment, or a simple gesture of kindness....especially in those moments that present the most challenges.

So thank you. Thank you for being there each week, good or bad, and thank you for the example you and your beautiful family put forth.  You truly are a shining example for those of us just entering this journey and have touched lives more than you know.

Our little one is now 2 1/2 years old - many challenges for sure, but many many bright successes. Many struggles for her to do what her sisters do with no effort, but many moments of joy when she does accomplish a new skill or milestone.  Many awkward moments of our own when something is bothering her and we just can't figure it out why she's screaming, but many hours of sweet snuggles trying to comfort her and show her our love. Dear lady who sits in front of me at Mass, I want to tell you what I didn't have the courage to do that day - you are just that. Dear. Simply dear. And don't ever forget it.

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