The ripples of love
I remember the day like it was yesterday, even though it happened almost sixteen years ago. We had a very new baby girl, and I had just returned home from my first appointment with an asthma/allergy specialist for the Boy Wonder. As a young momma I had never encountered a doctor quite like this one. He had to have been in his eighties, and he (not his nurse or staff) made personal phone calls to all his patients just to check in with them. Growing up Southern and a coach’s daughter, it was just assumed that any male offspring would be involved in sports. After the visit with Dr. Goldberg, we quickly learned those dreams might not be the reality for both of our sons. From birth, the Boy Wonder had breathing struggles which culminated in our once finding him completely purple and breathless in the backyard, which is what finally prompted the doctor’s visit. The diagnosis: pediatric intrinsic asthma. There was a slim (very slim) chance that he would outgrow it, but for that afternoon, I cried for all things my sweet boy might miss out on. I was heartbroken for him.
Looking back now, how I wish that was the worst news any of my children would ever encounter.
With a good management plan, those tears shed in my living room were for naught, because he was able to play sports and live a fairly normal life (with the help of a bunch of medications). I remember the first day in intensive care the morning after the bus crash. The medical team was very concerned about his labored breathing until I explained his asthma. He did have severely bruised lungs, but thankfully neither was collapsed. For several summers, he even attended a summer camp just for kids with asthma and allergies. Ironically after his last summer at Camp We-No-Wheeze which happened to be the same year as our darkest day, almost all of his symptoms simply vanished. He hasn’t had one struggle with breathing since.
Yet, through it all (and by all I mean everything that my children have dealt with to this point), I have never once lost sight of the fact there are millions of parents who receive diagnoses that aren’t going to magically disappear, aren’t going to have a surgery or three dozen that will make it better, or aren’t nearly as easily managed with some medications. For some, their family struggles will consume almost every aspect of life that many (including me) take for granted. I was grieving future milestones for my chubby-cheeked toddler, while they will embrace each milestone met.
Please do not misunderstand my message as some of the best advice I have ever been given was “don’t apologize for being your child’s momma.” It is okay to grieve the little stuff . . . period. I’m not going to ever judge you or tell you “that is a first world problem” or remind you to count your blessings when you are feeling low, and neither should anyone else.
My point is looking back and looking forward, I know there are much bigger problems that many endure, some publicly and just as many privately. These families daily face moments when they are reminded how precious life truly is, how much is out of their control, and how often times, raising a child with a difference (any difference) is just as isolating as it is exhausting. Many milestones for these families are bittersweet. Some are never achieved, but many are in amazing, spectacular, and inspirational ways as the children in these families stop the world with their awesomeness. It is for the missed milestones, the hearts of mommas and daddies grieve. For all my friends who experience these moments of dreams deferred, my heart aches.
Recently I realized the ache in a momma’s heart creates ripples that vacillate out in enduring ways. The moment caused a lump to be stuck in my throat the night of graduation. Our school has a tradition whereby the graduates deliver flowers to their mommas. It is a simple and sweet gesture. The ripple that washed over me with a tidal wave of love was not the one pictured in my most recent blog, although that is when my son gave me my flower. My heart echoed God’s joy when he and one of his best friends since birth decided to give flowers to the mom of a former classmate.
There were a lot of perplexed looks in the audience when the two of them grabbed a bouquet they had purchased and went looking through the crowd for this momma. I quickly scanned our entourage of over twenty strong, and there wasn’t a dry eye among us. We all knew that it was a milestone being reached in another way and on another day for her son, but that doesn’t mean his absence didn’t hurt and wasn’t noticed. Those two sweet boys wanted to acknowledge the gift she had been in their life, never missing a game or concert even when their childhood friend could no longer attend school with them. Sure he would be graduating a few weeks later, but the plans they all had back in junior high weren’t the ones that played out in real life, before autism and mental health were nothing more than words they had heard.
Watching the ripples of love from my heart pour out in action through the Boy Wonder and his lifelong buddy was one of the most precious moments of my life. Not for one second did I mind sharing my son with another mom, and I know the momma of the other amazing didn’t either. Our boys were truly men, gentlemen actually, filled with compassion and integrity. They understood the sting of crushed dreams, and for one small second, they hoped to wash away a hurt, if for just a moment. Waves of love and pride and gratitude washed over me as a tender reminder of the Father’s love for each of us, and in one tiny glimpse, all got to see the men He was shaping them to be. These are my boys (all three of them), and for that, I couldn’t be more proud.