Posts tagged ‘spiritual’

The Little Things for Which I am Grateful

Joining my blogging friends, I am thankful for my family, friends, and our comfortable life. However, the holiday of Thanksgiving also provides a wonderful opportunity to express my appreciation for the “little things” in life. For instance, all of those wonderful times when you get green lights all the way to work! I actually treat traffic as though it is the norm to prevent getting annoyed or anxious. That way, I am super happy (and thankful) for those times when all of the traffic lights are green and it’s like smooth sailing all the way!

There are several other little things for which I am grateful:

curling irons: without them my hair would be frazzly and I’d look like Einstein, (no offense Mr. Einstein, if you are reading this from heaven…)

working pens, preferably in a lively color: who has not had the problem of searching frantically for a pen only to finally drag one out that doesn’t work?

TIVO: there are only a few television programs that I like to watch, and they inevitably are televised during a time I am unable to watch them. TIVO is a life saver AND a time saver because I not only get to watch “my” shows at a convenient time, but can fast forward through the commercials!

reading glasses: yes, I have reached the age of needing reading glasses. How wonderful it is to put them on and not to have to squint!

coin holders in cars: putting all of my spare change in the coin holder serves me well when quarters are needed for a parking meter or a Diet Coke at McDonald’s! (No reprimands, please, I know Diet Coke isn’t healthy, but I love it anyway!)

money found in the dryer: isn’t it exciting when you have emptied out the dryer and several quarters and a dime are sitting there at the bottom? I was SUPER lucky the other day and found a twenty dollar bill! (It was like winning the lottery!)

half and half cream: we go through so much milk in this house that there was a time when there wouldn’t be any left over for…..sob, sob…that first, steaming, wonderful cup of morning tea. My wonderful husband discovered half and half which no one would dare drink. Problem solved!

comfy shoes: there is nothing that stabilizes and calms me more during the day than wearing a pair of warm and snuggy comfortable shoes.

spritz of body spray: not being a perfume person, there is nothing better to lift my spirits than a nice body spray of citrus or apple cinnamon. (Of course, if it is late in the day, it COULD make me hungry…)

I am very thankful for all of these little things in life that have, in some way, added to my happiness in life. Now, if ONLY I had an automatic car starter, (hint, hint, hubby dear.) MAYBE I will get one for Christmas. Then, in the freezing winter, I can walk out to a WARM car with my comfy shoes, stylish hair, smelling of fruit. Ah….I can only dare to dream…

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To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

I Won’t Wear That to Church Anymore

I’m just returning from church.  I go to an inspiring, welcoming church, which I love!  Everyone is friendly, and we make a special effort to include people with disabilities.  We have pew cut-outs throughout the church for people in wheelchairs.  (After all, just because you are in a wheelchair does not mean you want to be relegated to the back row, or, even WORSE, the front row.)  We have a sign language interpreter and large print materials for the church service.  If a person who is totally blind attended, we would no doubt get the materials in Braille.  People with developmental disabilities, as well as people with mental illnesses are welcomed with open arms.  Having the children I do, it has been a God send (literally) for our family.

The congregation members help out during the service in many roles, and today I was helping to serve the Wine.  The people serving communion stand on a step while serving the bread and wine.  Learning from an earlier experience when I fell while trying to get a group together for a photo, I always firmly grip the hand rail while walking down the few steps. (Falling while taking a picture is understandable, but more care needs to be taken with the wine. I am sure it would stain the carpet terribly!) When offering the wine to the congregation members, I frequently have to bend over because I am tall and on a step, and they are often shorter.  Today, after I bent over the first time, I noticed that my shirt parted from my body in the front, and everyone had a clear view down to my belly button. (Well, they COULD have seen my belly button if my big breasts had not gotten in the way.)  I was mortified!  While I do not embarrass easily, once I notice something askew, of course I have to fix it.  So, I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances; I squatted for each person.  Do you know how incredibly hard it is to hold a squat at one particular level and then move that squat up or down depending upon who was next?  If I were athletic, it may have been easy.  But I’m not…    I felt like one of those baby crib toys, all scrunched up (squatting low) and then being pulled straight, (standing tall) and while music plays it slowly moves up to the low squat again.That’s the way I was today; up and down and up and down all to the beat of the choir’s music.

I will never wear that shirt to church again…

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Link to my book

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

“All she does is screech and say No! No! No!”

 

The above description fit me perfectly.

Yes, me… perfectly.

Marie came to live with us at the age of 6.  She had been picked up off the street at 4 in the morning, barefoot, in her underwear, looking for food.  We took her in as an emergency foster placement because I knew American Sign Language and Marie was deaf. She looked like a wild animal…disheveled, matted hair, flaming eyes of distrust, so filthy everywhere that even an hour in the tub did not wash off all the grime.  Her teeth were dingy yellow, and her body was emaciated.  Being the “good” middle class mother that I was, I cleaned her as best I could and then I took her to buy some clothes.

In the store, she immediately disappeared.  I impulsively called her name, (as though she could hear me.)  When I finally found her, she was in the candy aisle, shoving candy bars into the pocket of her pants.  I screamed,  “No! No! No!”  She looked at me and ran in the other direction.  I finally tracked her down in the pet aisle, just as she was about to open the cage to the hamsters.  I screeched and said “No! No! No!”, and proceeded to grab her, pick her up, empty the candy bars in her pocket, and tote her back to the car without buying anything. If I thought this would teach her a lesson, it did not.  She was not used to buying anything, so she could not appreciate something she never had.

We ate out for lunch at McDonald’s.  Marie ate her sandwich and drank her milk and threw the wrapper and container on the floor.  No! No! No!

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The next day I gave her a stern talking to (“signing to?)  and told her that we were going shopping for clothes and that she needed to stay with me. As though THAT was going to work!  As soon as we got into the mall, a place she obviously had never seen before, she skirted UP the DOWN escalator, laughing with glee.  Mortified, I screamed and said No! No! No!  and then watched in horror as she slid down the banister of the escalator.  Big scream! No! No! No!  Home we went. 

Once at home, she got an orange to eat.  She grabbed the butcher knife to cut it and I screamed and caught her hand just as it was about to demolish the orange. No! No! No!

The next day we were going to take a walk to the library.  She broke free from the grip I had on her hand, and ran across 4 lanes of traffic. Scream! No! No! No!

Later in the evening, while watching television, Marie climbed onto my husband’s lap, where she attempted to rub his “private parts” and kiss him.  SUPER BIG SCREECH!  No!  No! No! Oh!  This child was so “bad”!  WHAT was I going to do with her?

At the end of the week, I went to Marie’s school where she was part of a dance performance.  I was glad to be able to be there, as her birth mother had never been seen at the school before.  I watched with pride as she danced and twirled, often sneaking a peak at me to see if I was looking.  When the dance was over, I saw her talking (signing) with another student who commented that Marie had a new mom, and how did she like her? Marie looked over at me for a minute and crumpled her nose, telling her that all I ever do is scream and say No! No! No! I was shocked.  I had never thought of it before, but she was right!  I was so busy chasing and correcting her that it would seem like all I did was scold her.  And what was I scolding her for?  For what I, as a middle class mother, think is wrong.  I had never taken into account that Marie had been raised to do all of those things…to steal food, to take what she wanted from stores, to litter, to be sexually promiscuous (at the age of SIX!) and to have no worries about safety, thinking she was invincible.  This young child, who had lived on the streets and managed to survive without any parental care, just parental abuse…WAS invincible! She did what she needed to survive.

I was so embarrassed. Embarrassed because I was judging her by my standards and not stopping to think of what her standards were.  I vowed never to scream No! No! No! again, but to explain things in a loving manner to her.

We do not steal.  If you want something, I can probably buy it for you.

We do not run into streets with cars, use butcher knives, or slide down escalators.  It is not safe.

We do not just throw garbage on the ground, but in our family we pick it up and put it in a garbage can.

And, most of all, there is no need to make money by being “friendly to men”.   We have plenty of money so you don’t have to do that.  And it is not fair that you had to do that instead of just being a little girl. And you never have to do that again.

Marie did not change overnight, but each time she would fall back onto old habits such as stealing or being unsafe, I would lovingly explain why she no longer had to do that.  She had a family that loved her and it was our job to keep her safe.

Then there was the time when, walking in the mall with a soft drink in her hand, she unwrapped the straw and threw the paper on the ground. My eyes widened, and she laughed when she saw my reaction.  “I was just teasing you” she signed.  “I know I don’t litter in this family….” 

No more screaming from me…

 

 

Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

 

 

 

 

Beyond One’s Own Problems

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I work with a social/educational/recreational group for teens with disabilities.  When first getting this group together at the beginning of the school year, I asked them what they wanted to do as part of our program.  Every single one of them said they wanted to “help other people”.  Here are students with a variety of disabilities and medical needs, and they wanted to help others! They were mature enough to look beyond their own problems to the problems of others.

Various suggestions were tossed about; opening a soup kitchen, visiting with the elderly in nursing homes, working at the local pet shelter, and so forth.  I suggested the easiest thing to do would be something we could do as a group within our program.  They chose making sandwiches for the homeless.

Every other Saturday we meet.  Yesterday we had some social skills activities, some recreation, (does anyone remember the game Simon?), and then they all baked cookies and made sandwiches.  As they were working, they chatted happily, teen music playing in the background.  When one song came on, they all broke out into what I call “dancing like you are riding a horse”.  (I am sure all teens will know what I am talking about, even if parents don’t.)  As soon as the song stopped, they all went back to their sandwich making. It was hilarious!

They worked as a team and made 165 sandwiches and twelve dozen cookies. As they worked, they talked about who might get to eat them, what kind of bad luck may have fallen upon that person and so forth.  They talked with much empathy, and not once during their conversation did they mention their own problems.  They were caring about the problems of others.

After the sandwiches were made, I drove up to Traveler’s Aid, a local spot where the homeless hang out.  The kids got out of the car to bring the sandwiches and cookies in.  They helped each other.  One girl in a wheelchair held a box of sandwiches on her lap while a girl who is blind held onto the wheelchair as her sighted guide.  (Instead of a using a guide dog, she was using a guide wheelchair!)  I stood back as they went into the building and delivered the goods. They were so proud.  The large group of people milling about parted like the Red Sea, and left them easy access to the front desk where they would be dropping the food off.  They walked and wheeled to the front desk which, fortunately, was wheelchair accessible.  The crowd murmured appreciatively, politely, thankfully.  The kids faces beamed as they turned around and came back to the van.  They were no longer disabled, but capable of helping others.  Suddenly, their problems were not as bad as the people who thanked them; people without shelter and food.

 

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

I Have Raised My Children Right in The Most Important Area

I am sure that every parent questions how they have raised their children. I know I have.  I have not been strict enough in making them eat all of their vegetables and clean their rooms, (mainly because I don’t eat all of my vegetables and clean my room.) I know to some people  this is a major parenting faux pas.  However, I have raised my children right in the most important area…caring for others.

I volunteer with a recreational group of adults with and without disabilities.  We have a bowling league, then go out to dinner together, then have an activity at night, such as Bingo, Family Feud, or a visiting musician.  All of my children have come with me to this group,  starting with Francis when he was a baby and the group purchased a portable crib so I could bring him camping with us.  My children have been raised socializing with people with disabilities so that any disability is not knew to them.

Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, has been my latest child to attend with me.  One of his “peeps” (as his calls his “parts’) I call the Game Show Host.  Angel is the one who calls the numbers for Bingo, or reads the questions for Family Feud.  He is hilariously similar to a game show host, right down to kissing the female “contestants” during a game of Family Feud. From the minute he starts an activity to the minute he finishes, we are all in stitches laughing.  Silly laughing.  Innocent laughing.  Heart beating fast with cheeks that hurt from laughing laughing. He is terrific, and I am so proud that he has learned to manage his disability in order to make others happy.

The happiest moment of all happened on Christmas Day.  All of our family festivities are on Christmas even, and Christmas Day is always a lazy one for us.  In fact, the children and I usually go to the movies.  Angel asked if it was okay if he invited a friend to the movies, and of course I said yes.  When we got there,  waiting for us expectantly, was Lisa, a 65 year old woman with a disability; the “friend” which he had invited.  She was dressed for Christmas…Christmas sweater, Santa Claus earrings, a Santa Hat and bright red lipstick. She was glowing as she hugged us all.  It seems that she has no family and had sat in her apartment alone for Christmas Eve.  Somehow Angel knew this, prompting his request that she come with us on Christmas Day.

We all laughed at the funny movie, and enjoyed a large popcorn, (mmmmmmm…movie theater fake butter popcorn!)  After the movie, we went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. (Duh!  Chinese restaurants are open…)  We had a lively conversation about anything and everything funny, and she beamed the whole time.  When we left her outside at her car to go home, she burst into tears.  She thanked us profusely. She said she was so lonely at Christmas, when everyone else had a family, that she had contemplated suicide because she had no one.  She said this was her best Christmas EVER!  Try as I might not to, tears slid down my cheek also.  Tears of sympathy for her and of pride for my son…a son who is seriously disabled himself, but who was still able to find the ability to care deeply for the feelings of this wonderful, lonely woman.

Yes, I have raised him right…

Is God at Fault for the Tragedy in Connecticut?

Like the rest of the nation, I have been saddened by the tragedy at the school in Connecticut.  All of those poor children and adults who are dead.  It is very mesmerizing for the nation, and feelings are raw, trying to find someone to blame to make sense of it all.  People are blaming God.

I have learned in my own life that tragedies happen every day.  Children are terminally ill.  Children are struck by cars and killed.  Parents abuse children beyond the scope of the normal imagination, (just ask my own beautiful children.)  Tsunamis strike.  Floods devastate. FAmines consumer whole countries. Earthquakes destroy communities and people.  Murders and domestic abuse happens.  I am sure that you can think of many, many more tragedies  that have happened, and many more will.  It is awful.  It is saddening.  It is unbelievable, and as humans we naturally look for someone to blame.  Maybe there IS someone to blame in some circumstances, but God is not to blame.  To attribute His involvement with us to cause every disaster is ludicrous. For which disasters should He take blame…natural ones?  man-made ones?  And how large of a disaster should he take blame?  Where many people are killed?  Where only one is killed?  Where people are very ill and suffering?  Where I get laid off from a job and have no money?  Where I have blister on my big toe?

My point is, it is not God’s fault.  We are placed on earth with our own free wills; on an earth that has always experienced natural disasters.  We are actually lucky that we have not been wiped out completely by a wayward asteroid similar to the one that made the dinosaur distinct!  But if we were to be destroyed, the ultimate tragedy, it would not be God’s fault.  He loves us.  We are all His children. He mourns when a child is severely hurt, a woman is a victim of domestic abuse, when houses and lives are destroyed by natural disasters, and when people are suffering. But if He were to intervene, then we would be but His puppets placed on this roller coaster of ride called earth. God may be Almighty, but that does not mean that he takes over for His children or his earthly creation.  That would  not fit the description of “life”.

Yes, I am greatly saddened by the Connecticut massacre.  People may disagree with me vehemently, but I have empathy for the actions of the killer, who obviously was mentally ill. To have reached this stage of his life with such bad thoughts, (similar to the demons which cause violent actions from two of my own children,)  is a also a tragedy. This incident took not only the lives of the children and adults murdered, but the life of a young man who will forever be vilified for his actions. It is a tragedy all around, and God is mourning with us.

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A Christmas Gift from Above


We adopted Dinora from Guatemala at the age of 6 weeks, and I was so thrilled to have a daughter!!!  She came with a variety of diseases common in s 3
rd World Country, scabies, intestinal parasites and malnutrition.  But we loved her and fed her and she blossomed into an adorable baby with big black eyes and shiny black hair.

At the age of six months, it became apparent that Dinora was deaf.  She had not yet started to babble like other babies her age, but she also did not turn to her name, or looked at the dog when she barked, or seem to notice the footsteps of me coming into her bedroom.  She would be laying there awake when I walked in, (and, believe me, I am not light on my fight.)  When she finally would see me, she would startle.  She had not heard me.  The day I knew it for sure was a day she was sitting next to me on the floor while I was doing the dishes.  I accidentally dropped a huge lobster pot I was cleaning and it made a horrendous clang on the floor.  Dinora happily sat there playing, her back to the pan.  She did not startle.  She did not cry.  She did not hear it.

We then made the rounds of the doctors.  She flunked regular hearing tests, and had a brain stem evoked response test.  Her brain did not respond up to 90 decibels.  The doctor informed me that she was severely hearing impaired and that we would try hearing aids to maximize her hearing, although they would not be strong enough for her to hear normally.  They took the impressions for her ear molds.

That evening, our family went for a pre-Christmas visit to a shrine beautifully decorated with Christmas lights.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I had a two year old son who was legally blind, and now I had an infant daughter who was deaf.

There was a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes surrounded by prayer water and many large candles.  There was also a large display of crutches and wheelchairs of people who had been healed by her.  I helped my son, Francis, who was 2 1/2 years old, light a candle. Because it was almost Christmas, and the only candles he had seen were on a birthday cake, he merrily sang “Happy Birthday Dear Jesus”.  I remember saying a non-de-script prayer, still upset that Dinora was deaf.  I still thanked God,  but was not quite as enthusiastic as usual.

The next morning, the dog barked and Dinora woke up!  I thought it was a coincidence until I started to walk into her room and she turned to smile at me. She had heard my footsteps!  I started talking to her and she started babbling back.  Only a day earlier she had been fitted with ear molds for hearing aids!  I excitedly called the doctor, who agreed to see her that day.  Her hearing was tested and it was normal!  Neither I nor the doctor could believe it.  He said in his 29 years as an ear doctor he had never seen anything like it.  He told me that it had to be an “Christmas miracle from Above”.  The visit the night before to the shrine came to mind.  A miracle HAD occurred, and I was  embarrassed because I had not thanked God more enthusiastically the night before. He had granted me a miracle even though I did not ask for one.

Dinora is now 28 years old and has had perfect hearing ever since that day! And I have lived life with a peaceful,generous heart because I know, without any doubt, that God is with me.

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I KNOW there is a heaven.

I generally try to write upbeat posts…that with whatever difficulties we have, there is always something good to find.  This post will be different than the rest…it will be about my younger brother’s death.  It won’t be upbeat, but there is something good that has come out of it.  I KNOW there is a heaven. Without a doubt.  Proof positive.

My brother, for those who are unfamiliar with my “life story”, was born during the Rubella days.  My mother somehow contracted German measles while she was pregnant with him and he was born legally blind, severely hearing impaired, (almost deaf by the time he died,) severely developmentally delayed, with a cleft palate.  His life with us is what taught me such tolerance for individuals with disabilities.  My brother was disabled, but he was a joy to be around.  He had simple pleasures that made him smile, and to me, he life was as worthwhile as anyone else’s.

He was wholly incorporated into our family life and he did everything with us.  When we traveled extensively, his favorite activity was paying the toll at the toll booth.  My father would drive up to the booth so Curtis’ hand could reach the booth, and give him the money to put in.  He took great joy in reaching out to feel the basket and put the money in.  I swear my father always took the turnpikes with tolls solely so Curtis could have fun paying.

Around the time I grew up and got married, Curtis developed schizophrenia.  The simple pleasures he had in life were replaced by demons and aliens telling him to do things.  Curtis, ever the obedient soul, started to wander the streets in the middle of the night doing what these voices instructed, and there came a time when my parents had to place him in a group home.  We were fortunate in the fact that it was a wonderful group home, full of caring staff, and they took excellent care of him.  Every Saturday my mother, my kids and I would pick Curtis up and take him out for the day, usually to the mall to walk around.  He loved malls, especially riding up and down the escalators and elevators.  To be so joyful doing something so ordinary was one of his gifts.

My mother, who was very spiritual and had several supernatural experiences,  passed away two years ago, in November.  (Note a reblog I’ve attached following this one entitled Angels Among Us.)  Although we missed her terribly, my children and I continued our outings with Curtis.  All of my children loved him and would often argue who would sit next to him, or who would be his sighted guide. Their immediate, natural attachment to him amazed me given his severe disabilities and his disfigured head.  (His head was flattened on the back and he had huge ears that stuck straight out to the side.  My daughter who is deaf gave him the “sign” name, one that usually highlights a person’s individual characteristics, of Uncle Ears.)

We continued to take him out and he appeared to have his same zest for life until October of last year.  All of a sudden, his skills began to decline. Numerous medical tests were done and he was determined to be perfectly healthy.  At the mall, although he always had shuffled along when he walked, his shuffling turned to dragging his feet, then losing his balance, then having to use a wheelchair to get around.  Again medical tests.  No medical reason for his decline.

I remember guiltily the last time I took him to his favorite mall.  He was in his wheelchair, but I left the footrests in the car, assuming he could pick his feet up or shuffle them along.  I knew I was in trouble when I purchased his favorite ice cream with strawberry sauce. Because  he had lost the ability to feed himself,  I spoon fed it to him. He started to spit it out.  He didn’t want it!  His favorite thing to eat!  I new I needed to get him to a hospital, but had to bring him back to the group home first because they had his medical records. When I tried to push the wheelchair, his feet stuck to the ground. He did not lift them or shuffle along.  They just hung there.  If I pushed it forward, his feet would get stuck under the wheelchair.  With tears stinging my eyes, I did the only thing I could do to get him out of the mall.  I turned around and pulled the wheelchair backwards.  I could hear the thump thump thump of his feet on the ground and I started to cry in ernest. I had to pick him up to put him in my car, and he slumped over to the side with only the seatbelt keeping him from falling over.  It was obvious he had declined to the point that neither I nor the group home could take care of him. We took him to the hospital where he was admitted and again found to have no medical problems so he was placed in a nursing home. It was difficult to find a nursing home that would take him due to his numerous scary diagnosis; deaf, blind, schizophrenic.  He ended up in a less than perfect quality facility.  Due to frequent attacks of anxiety, when I first visited him I found him in restraints and his hospital bed mattress on the floor.  They were concerned that he would fall out of bed, so the had removed the actual bed and just left the mattress. He was alone, and a tray of food uneaten, (unseen by him) was in the corner of the room. They would come in and poke and prod him, give him medicine and needles, never treated him like a valuable human being.  He could not hear what they would say, the needle would pinch him, a blood pressure cuff would take readings, the thermometer would be used to take his temperature, and all of this would come at him out of the darkness and he did not know what was going on.  No wonder he was anxious!

Recognizing that with the swiftness of his decline he did not have much longer to live, I made the decision to stay with him at all times. I had to preserve his dignity.  We had done all we could so he could live a happy, dignified life, I could not abandon him at the end of that life.  With my being there, he no longer needed the restraints. My husband valiantly cared for all of the kiddos at home while I took care of my brother.   I spent my days sitting in his private room trying to coax some food into him.  When he wouldn’t eat the food they gave him, I would bring ice cream, pudding, applesauce and other things I knew he would like. I would lay on the floor next to him and rub his back or his arm, like we used to do.  If he could not see or hear me, I am sure that he could tell by my touch that I was there.

Within a week, we knew that he was fading away quickly.  My brother, who despite his disabilities had been as healthy as a horse his whole life, was dying and there was no medical reason for it.  Then I learned the reason; on his last night, while I was rubbing his arm, he turned to me, opened his eyes so wide it seemed as though he could see me, and he said plain as day, without the almost unintelligible garbled speech he used to have, “Mom is calling for me.  I will be going to heaven soon.” Then he shut his eyes and never opened them again. He died exactly one year to the date as my mother.

Yes, there is a heaven.  I know because my brother told me.

For those who might want to read more about my incredible family, the e-book The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane is available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and I-Books.

Angels Among Us

First blogged January, 2010

My mother passed away several months ago and it has taken me this long to write about it.  She was the most wonderful mother in the whole world, (and I am not just saying that because that is what one is expected to say about their deceased mother.)  In addition to being kind and loving, she was also very spiritual.

I remember when I was four years old and we lived in Opalaka, Florida, right behind the Hialeah Race Track.  We had a cement swimming pool in the backyard which my father built, and next to it was a palm tree my mother had planted crooked so it was growing sideways.  I had a green parakeet whose name I certainly don’t remember, and I loved watching Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo on our little black and white tv with the rabbit ears antenna.  My brother was born one day in March, and life suddenly changed for our family.  My brother was born with serious disabilities due to Rubella Syndrome, (supposedly my mother had been exposed to someone with German Measles.)  With a cleft palate, he could not nurse or drink from a bottle, so he was fed by a large eye dropper. He could not such on a pacifier and he cried constantly.  He was blind and deaf and was obviously going to be severely developmentally delayed. My joyful childhood was suddenly overshadowed by a sadness of which I had never seen from my mother.  I would witness her throw herself across her bed and sob. A deep sadness enveloped our family. I looked at my little brother, who looked so innocent and little to cause such a fuss.

One day, when the sun was shining brightly and Curtis was asleep, my mother called to me to come sit in the rocking chair with her.  She squeezed me and held onto me tightly, rocking  and crying.  It was a different kind of crying, though.  A happy cry, if I could describe it as such.  From that day on, the gloom lifted from our house and I went back to living my happy childhood with my new baby brother.

Many years later, when I was a young teenager, my mother shared her experience of what happened to her that very day.  The doctors had been encouraging her to put my brother “away”, institutionalize him as was the custom in those days. “Forget about him,” they said, “You can have another child.”  She could not bear to make the thought of doing this.  Then, on that sunny day while rocking in her chair, she told me she was visited by an Angel, a beautiful, bright white Angel.  She told me she could feel the weight of the Angel’s hand on her shoulder, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay.  Although the Angel did not speak, she knew what the message was.  She did not have to worry anymore, her son would be fine, and he was.  He wasn’t fine in that he suddenly became perfectly healthy, but he was fine in that he has led a happy, fulfilling life. Clearly, she had been touched by something spiritual on that day to turn her torrents of tears into smiles of joy over her new baby.

Several years later, while camping high in the mountains, my mother woke up from her sleep and sat up in her sleeping bag.  She was joyous!  She told me she had been to see God, whom she described as a bright and beautiful. She said it felt real, not like a dream at all.  She was confused as to the experience because it seemed as though she was there to help a friend pass over into heaven.  She did not understand because of course her friend was healthy.  It was not until we returned home from vacation that she learned that this friend had died from a brain aneurysm on that very night at that very time.

My mother lived a life of  great happiness and contentment, always seeing the good in people.  Near the end, right before she died, I stayed with her 24 hours a day.  When we knew death was near, the nurses let me lie in bed with her and she passed away in my arms.  I don’t know what I expected when she died.  No…that’s not true…I expected to see some of what she had experienced!  I expected to see her pass into heaven!  I expected there to be some reaction from her body, some knowledge that her lifetime of spirituality would somehow, through osmosis, pass through to me.  But there was nothing.  She just stopped breathing. And there was nothing.

It took me a while to accept her death, and I became angry that there was no sign from God that she was with him.  Realistically I knew this was silly, but I was hugely disappointed.

Christmas time came soon afterwards.  As the parent of 5 children, I had this habit when the children were younger of taking a picture of their sleeping faces on Christmas eve.  As they aged, they hated the existence of these pictures!  (They were usually sucking on a “binky” at the time and girlfriends and boyfriends who saw the pictures in old photo albums would always go “Awwwwwwwwwwww, how CUTE,” the most mortifying thing that could happen to a teenage macho boy!)  This Christmas eve, filled with nostalgia, emptiness and sadness,  I again went into each of their bedrooms and gazed at their sleeping faces.  I was suddenly filled with a great sense of purpose and contentment, much like the type of contentment my mother might have felt when she felt the Angel’s hand upon her shoulder.  These were MY Angels.  These were my children who had endured so much when younger, either with their disabilities or with indescribable child abuse. They have not only survived, but they have THRIVED.  They are happy and loving and successful and they have bright futures as adults.  This is miraculous to me!

The Baptism from HELL

I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time.  Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!

Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth.  He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker.  Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired.  He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world.  Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”.  He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv.  We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.

Then came his Baptism day.  First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate.  THEN, he had to get dressed up.  I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit.  Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit.  Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service.  We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church.  His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest.  My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism.  Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water.  “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!”  he screeched.  “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!”  (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…)  He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments!  There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!)  She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny.  (God bless her!!)  She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism.  (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.)  She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered.  I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of!  When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went.  For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine.  Same day as any other day.

PS.  I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him.  At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes.   He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”.  When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…

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