The most courageous folks I have ever met are people who are raising children who are living with a special needs. Despite the howling winds of grief and the darkness of anger that attempt to swallow them whole, these brave mothers, fathers, grandparent and caregivers are able to keep the candle of hope lit for their child.
Through my time on Earth I have learned so much from these wonderful people who have endured more than I will ever fully understand. Our experience inside the spectrum of Autism has been nothing compared to what a lot of caregivers go through. I marvel at the strength and unconditional love I have witnessed from the loved ones of people living with a special need – especially the ones who have to do it all alone. They are my heroes.
This is for them:
A mother is sitting at a kitchen table next to her little son play on the floor.
He is staring out their basement apartment window while grinding his four-year old jaw around in rapid circles.
His face glows as he watches a group of red birds fly from pine tree to pine tree outside.
The boy starts rocking back and forth excitedly.
“Mmmmmmmm!” He blurts.
“I’m right here, baby.” she says. “Always and forever…”
This mother knows that is her cue to join him on the floor.
This mother never will understand why he adores birds so much, but she loves how he looks while he watches them.
He is so alive whenever he sees them fly.
The birds make him so happy.
He loves the love songs they sing to him.
She keeps brushing back his long wavy brown hair that keeps falling in his beaming eyes.
Her son is her everything.
He is the star that she orbits.
She knows that she was born was to be the mother of this little boy.
Her perfect little boy.
Her beautiful little autistic boy.
Suddenly the birds are gone.
His smile and happy eyes quickly melt away.
Screaming for the birds to come back.
His arms are flapping while her heart is breaking.
This mother will not cry in front of him.
He will never know her to be anything but strong.
Her breakdown will come later – once he is asleep.
Then and only then she will bury her face down into the pillow top of her double bed and shriek.
The mother will let out a muffled cry out to God for help.
She will beg angels to surround her son.
Before her son came she never believed in God.
God had been a fairy tale that she was convinvced people forced themselves to believe in.
Now, she has nobody else to turn to –
Everybody else has left her to solely care for this special child.
They were alone.
Her son’s father slipped away one night soon after the diagnosis came in.
This was all too much for me”. He had said while calmly slurping down his last bites of Ramen Noodles.
Then he was gone.
The only people to watch out for him now were her, God, and the birds
Inside of him is a soul so bright that it can’t be hidden under the shadow of his diagnosis.
Nobody else saw him for what he was.
Other people saw him as broken – as something that needed mending.
This mother sees past the wall that autism tried to build between them.
“I see you in there” she would whisper to him while holding him during one of his tantrums.
The doctors said that it was the deep pressure of her hugs that would calm her son down when he was upset.\
She knew better – it wasn’t the pressure of her arms, it was her love that did it.
She will love him for infinity.
Will he ever know how important he is to her?
Or will he just keep looking for the birds?
After the weeping fades this mother will then utter the same mantra she has been saying since her little baby was diagnosed autism six months earlier.
“Protect him, Oh Lord. I can’t do this on my own….”
She will repeat this until she fades into her own sleep, although her slumber is often anything but restful.
It is filled with a reoccurring nightmare of being separated from her child inside a complex labyrinth.
She can hear him yell for her, but she never finds him.
They are both lost in the maze.
On some nights this mother will sleep without dreaming – those are the best kind of sleeps.
Just peaceful darkness and the deepest kind of silence.
In the morning she will wake up to his screaming.
The wall of worry falls upon her all over again.
How will I pay for his therapy bills this month?
When will my friends stop avoiding me?
What did I do to deserve this?
When will my son get better?
Is he ever going to be able to know how much I love him?
How can I do this another day?
Why can’t anybody else understand what it is we are going through here?
She crawls out of bed and walks into her son’s bed room.
He is writhing around on his mattress as if he were being shaken by a invisible demon.
This mother lays down in bed next to him and starts to brush his hair from his eyes.
He is craning is neck from side to side.
His eyes frantically look around the room.
He is looking for something.
This mother knows what he needs.
She produces a stuffed red bird she had in her pocket.
Gently she glides the bird over his head.
The bird flutters back and forth.
His face lights up.
The crying stops.
The bird soars above him.
In his mind he is flying with it over the mountains – touching the clouds and laughing.
Up in the atmosphere is where he is the happiest.
All the boy’s fears and anger fade away.
He is free of the coils around his heart.
This child knows that his momma loves him.
He wishes beyond anything that he could tell her that.
Someday he will be able to.
Right now she is watching her beautiful son smile up at the bird she is holding.
She will not quit.
She will not stop.
She will not lose hope.
She will love him for infinity.
Their eyes meet for a moment.
Silently they speak to to each other with their soft smiles.
“I’m flying, Momma”
“I know, my baby. I know.”
“Stay with me, Momma.”
“Always and forever.”
The stuffed the red bird flies above him.
Outside the mother could hear the red birds began to sing them a love song.
“Hold on, momma.” The red birds sang.
“Hope is coming.”