Once when I was visiting with a friend, I shared with her an experience I’d had some years earlier. It was of a spiritual nature (I’d even call it sacred) amd so much so that I had not previously shared it with anyone. However, this friend was going through a difficult time in her life that made me feel as though it would be helpful to her if I shared this experience.
I told her about the memory I have of praying about my son Alex when I suddenly felt engulfed by hopelessness and sadness. I think he was probably about four years old. By this time the reality of his diagnosis had become clear to us. We were feeling quite apprehensive about all the unknowns and uncertaintities we would be facing in the future due to his autism. I was still grappling with the pain and sorrow that come when you realize you need to let go of the promise and dreams of the child you thought you had. You know, the child that would go to school in regular classes like all the other kids, the one who’d have friends and all go to each other’s birthday parties, play baseball or be in the band, who’d go to college, have jobs, get married, buy a house, and ultimately give me beautiful little grand-babies to hold, sign to, read to, and rock in my rocking chair.
Suddenly your dreams, this future you’ve envisioned, is ripped from you. In this particular instance, though, I was not concentrating on my pain, but Alex’s. I was not looking at his life from my perspective, but his. What would it be like not to have any real friends? Not be picked, ever, to be on someone’s team for kickball at recess? Having EVERYTHING be so hard, all the time. Not even being able to say “My stomach hurts” or “I have a headache.” Not be able to tell me what he’s thinking or feeling, what he believes or dreams about. Not be able to tell me when he’s nervous or anxious or afraid. Is he ever afraid? Of what? I don’t know! Not be able to tell me a kid on the bus bullied him. Not be able to tell me and his dad what he wants for Christmas or his next birthday. Not be able to say, “Good night, Mom, I love you.”
So I was praying and pouring out my heart to God, voicing my concerns and pain at what Alex would face in his life. I though of all the opportunities he’d miss, all the experiences he’d never have. In thinking of how hard, how painful, life might end up being for him, I cried out in anguish to God, “Don’t you love him?” And the answer that instantaneously came to my mind was, “Of course I do . . . that’s why I sent him to you.”
I was immediately humbled. I realized the great trust God was showing by entrusting this sweet, vulnerable spirit to my nurturing care. I actually felt I’d been granted a great privilege to be Alex’s mother here on earth. Each time I recalled my questioning plea and God’s comforting answer, I felt that God was aware of us, me, Alex, all of us.
That is not the end of this story, however. A few years after sharing that experience with my friend, I happened to be skimming through one of my old journals. I came across the entry where I’d recorded that prayer experience. The thing that totally shocked me was this: I had not been praying about Alex, but about one of my other children! This son had been struggling to keep up in his schoolwork and having a difficult time with some other behavioral issues, though nothing really serious. I was so surprised that that prayer was in fact about this other son, not about Alex at all. For years I’d been cherishing that memory that I thought was about Alex. Funny, and strange, how it became transposed in my head from one son to another.
The truth is that God DID send me both of these exceptional spirits. That’s how I feel about all of my children, that they truly are extraordinary people. I am so glad to be the mother of each one of them. That is one reason I always work so hard to do the very best I can; I want to show God my gratitude for the great gifts he has given me, not just in sending Alex to be a part of my family, but in sending me the six wonderful children I have.