(with apologies to Laura Numeroff)
Every year Dragon Con descends upon Atlanta. This is not a rogue meeting of twelve Dungeons and Dragons dudes. It is a huge, well coordinated event that draws thousands of people to parade down Peachtree in their most outrageous Sci-finery. There are zombie cheerleaders, the ubiquitous storm troopers and steampunks galore. Those people know how to let their freak flags fly!!
I was doing yet another load of endless summer laundry. It would seem that there was a FIFA soccer team living here not just three people if you looked at the pile of clothing in the laundry room, stacked up into a four foot pyramid smelling of sweat, pool chlorine and sun tan lotion. I grumbled under my breath as I stepped over the dog to shove the neatly folded clothes into my teenage son’s armoire. I swung open the door and sighed as I was staring at several empty soda cans and a dish growing something furry and penicillin-like.
The past week has been a roller coaster of emotion with the last week of elementary school for my younger son. It was also finals week for my older son’s first year of high school. We have been running full steam ahead this week in all directions with the house and our poor dog being woefully neglected. Lately I have had something akin to panic bubbling in my head as time seems to have sped up exponentially. I don’t like it one bit and I want to push pause for just a little while to savor time with them while we are all happy and healthy and here together.
This past week was spring break for the boys and I. Their dad had made mention of a trip to the beach for them, so I began to make the most of my time off and fill my calendar with appointments and dinners with friends I get to see far too infrequently. The original plan was for them to leave on Monday, but Monday turned into Tuesday, possibly some time in the afternoon. This vague timeline used to drive me crazy when I was married (and to be honest, in the early years after the divorce) because I am a planner and I make no apologies for it. When you are juggling 2 kids, school, sports, a slightly nutty dog, and working full-time, I don’t have the luxury of flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to life. Although sometimes I get a little crazy and don’t decide what we are having for dinner until that same day. I’m a free spirit, I know.
Eileen’s story begins on Monday- Nov 17, 2008.
Eileen is a young, vibrant, healthy wife, mother, daughter and friend. After her normal Monday workout, Eileen noticed slight discomfort in her right thigh. On that Tuesday morning, she and Jason noticed a small bump on her right thigh and the pain was becoming intense. They went to the ER and doctors believed it was a strained muscle, gave her a prescription and was sent home. By Wednesday 11-19, the pain was increasing and her right leg began to swell, they went back to the hospital and more tests were initiated. She was admitted for test and spent the night with high doses of pain medication, her leg continued to swell. By Thursday afternoon, her condition was getting worse, and she was flown to the Emory main campus in Atlanta. The diagnosis is necrotizing faciitis.
My daughter Madeline was given the unfortunate diagnosis of autism at age two. I was scared but also confused. Madeline did not seem to fit the label. I believed the therapists and I waited for the worst. The worst did not come. I took Madeline to doctors, therapists and to a special school. Although the label was not removed immediately, Madeline made progress, lots of it and quickly. By second grade Madeline no longer needed therapy or special ed. It seemed odd that she should be considered special needs when no one who met her thought there was anything wrong with her. Today we don’t tell friends about the diagnosis she was given years ago. It just doesn’t fit. I’m not sure it ever did. It wasn’t dramatic. It just happened over time-no special diet or supplement, the waters didn’t part and no clap of thunder. It was a miracle-a great one.
When Madeline was nine I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Since the day he was born Keenan has been adored by the whole family. I never dreamed anything would be wrong with my son. I had already lived through the scare of a child with a special need, so I foolishly believed I would be spared anymore hardships in life-sounds silly now. As Keenan grew older he did not develop as his peers did. It became evident that Keenan had autism. I hoped and prayed that things would turn out the way they had with Madeline. That this was just a scare or that Keenan was just a slow starter. I waited and worried. Keenan got older and the issues became greater. We took Keenan to therapists. We tried diets and supplements. We prayed and prayed. Each day that my miracle was delayed I became a little more discouraged. It became impossible to pretend that he would be fine. We arranged our lives around keeping Keenan happy. Despite our best efforts most days still ended up with Keenan having more than one meltdown -similar to tantrums but scarier. How could God withhold what my son needed or what I needed? We needed a miracle and it wasn’t coming.
Keenan has autism. I wish I could say that he doesn’t. So if I can’t tell you that the miracle I longed for came, I can tell you about the miracle I did not see coming. In the dark days when we weren’t sure if Keenan would ever communicate I never considered that maybe I needed a heart change. Actually, I would have told you that it would be impossible for me to want anything other than for my precious son to be healed. My desire for Keenan to get better woke me up nights begging, pleading, weeping. I am and at that time, a believer. However, my happiness weighed only on how Keenan was doing every moment. If the present was good, I was good. If he was in the middle of a meltdown, well, so was I. My joy was not in my Lord. I did not give much thought about my salvation. I chose heaven over hell for obvious reasons.
But here is where my miracle came. My mind kept going over the term ‘hope of heaven’. What does that mean? That is when I began to really understand that the healing of my son may not be in my time. My happiness, my joy, could no longer be dependent upon that. I took a moment to realize God is perfect and he has perfect hearing. Since I had been praying 24/7 for healing for Keenan, I could trust that my Heavenly Father had heard me. So for experiment sake, I changed my prayer life from begging, pleading weeping to listening. I didn’t want to and I wasn’t very good at it. But my Awesome God honored my effort and responded with an undeniable answer of ‘Rest in Me’, ‘Trust Me’. Oh, I didn’t want to. It was the first answer I had received but it wasn’t’ the one I had wanted. Over time I did begin to Rest in Him and Trust Him. I do consider this to be a miracle. I had become so self absorbed about the pain and heartbreak I was facing. I had begun to think that God’s goodness relied only on whether he would take care of me and my hurting child. I am still a pretty selfish person and thinking of others still takes discipline. My miracle was when My Sovereign Lord reminded me of His Greatness. Although Keenan still holds the key to my heart, my eyes are where they should be, on Heaven. Hope of Heaven-Keenan will be made perfect, as will I-which in all actuality is a bigger stretch!!
I had let Archie, our Old English Sheepdog, out while I poured a big cup of coffee to kick start this grey and rainy Sunday morning. No one else was up yet, and I always relish the quiet before the chaos. That was not to be this particular morning. As I was stirring my half and half into my daily dose of awake, I heard the thump-thump of Eric’s footsteps coming downstairs. “Oh well” I thought, “good bye quiet, hello breakfast.” I set down my cup to hug Eric good morning and it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard Archie scratch at the backdoor, his m.o. to let me know he wanted back in. I pulled the door open and looked around the yard, searching behind the large oaks and Leland cypress trees. No Archie. Then the gate caught my eye, swung wide open to the world outside our backyard. Archie was gone.