Unless you know a child with special needs, it may be hard to relate. Mostly, it may be hard to imagine just what you’re missing. Every parent prays for a healthy normal child. Every parent wants their child to look and act like all the other children. Difference is the greatest fear. Please God, not my child. And then, graciously, God decides not to answer your prayers – or so you think. This is how our family became blessed with my grandson who has autism. And recently, celebrating his tenth birthday, we got to see, a little more clearly, just what God had in mind.
As his friends and classmates arrived, my daughter greeted each one. She’s like a mamma bear to my grandson, his number 1 advocate and protector. I am always amazed at how she handles the most common tasks for him, like haircuts and dentist appointments, because, for him, nothing is common. Better you than me I always say. Lucky for me, I just get to hand out the strawberry syrup, his favorite.
As I introduced myself to one of the parents, her son said with a sweet bright smile, Thank you for inviting me. His mom explained how she gets a full report on my grandson daily: Good day today! Or, Had a rough time today. Later I would see he was one of two boys who had brought a handmade card – yes, handmade.
Many of the kids have been with my grandson for years now. They know and accept him. But, this past year something happened to connect them all in a new way. At one of the children’s school birthday parties, my grandson spontaneously took out a portable keyboard and started playing Happy Birthday! – not with single notes but in full chords. No one even knew he could play! After that, he started playing more and more and, over the months, had become a bit of a rock star, complete with all the cool moves, attracting quite a following!
Watching my grandson open gifts, I spoke with the mom whose son had brought the other handmade card. He’d gone looking for a keyboard on line so he could draw one special. He and several others sat close right in front. Then suddenly, it happened. In that unforeseen moment, I simply knew my beautiful grandson was one of them and that he was going to be ok. You see, the fear at the other end of life for those who love such a child is who will care for them when we are gone? It felt to me like the first signs to an answer had just appeared in those cards arriving special delivery by those young, boyish, hands.
Connection. Something had stirred my grandson to play music that day and his friends had responded. Now, difference was not being erased but, rather, celebrated. Now, together, some new song was being created – not just for the keyboard. And, I remembered the one I’d sung to him since he was born borrowed from Bernadette Farrell, God made me as I am…part of creation’s plan…no one else could ever be the part of God’s plan that’s me.
Perhaps all the beautiful souls, from God’s so-called unanswered prayers, are here to awaken in each of us a new song, a new way of looking, seeing, loving, connecting. Perhaps they are God’s special emissaries sent to engrave upon our own unsuspecting hearts a slightly irregular keyboard with unlined, multi-colored, block lettering. How perfect.
And, just think…we would have prayed not to have this…!
So often difference hides in the shadows of our fear. At his party, I saw my beautiful grandson standing wide open in the sun. He had found his place, a home, etched on the faces of his friends and especially…on those handmade cards.