I know this child. I was she. With few role models to begin the journey, I faced my own mirror and saw a ‘dancer’.
There was no textbook for how family could raise a disabled child with confidence and opportunity. In the late 50s and early 60s few families had the support of established organizations nor were encouraged to meet with one another to share their struggles and successes.
Blessed as a child I knew few limits. My memory takes me to friendships and fun. My memory takes me to travel, family, school and all things that nurture the imagination of a child. The limits that were obvious became challenges (puzzles) to solve. The world was before me and all I wanted to do was move through it with the spirit’s music and rhythm. There were plenty of times when I needed that music to cushion and calm. Every child has to face the hard edges of growing up. These edges were particularly unique for me (as they are for any child growing up with a disability) – I entered the world of medicine, doctors and surgery at a very young age. Recovery from multiple surgeries was hard but to go without I could not have moved forward. So, there was never a question – recovery it was. With encouragement and love from parents and friends, I made my way through those young years and into an adult life filled with opportunity.
“Dancing” takes on many forms and the steps change throughout a lifetime. Ordained an Episcopal priest, I have the honor to lead the steps in faith’s dance, through the grace offered by God’s spirit. Now retired, I am testing the next steps in this dance. Again, the textbooks are few for what the road ahead should look like, which is a good thing because my style would most likely challenge any expectation. As many readers know, I have recently moved. Along with settling in a new home, I am meeting new doctors and other practitioners on a regular basis. To my surprise, there have been several moments when I have been thrown back to hard edges of my childhood. While recently meeting with a new physician, I made mention of how grateful I was to be so ‘healthy’. Her response – ‘yes, you have few immediate health problems which is good. You are in pretty good shape to be so ‘broken’. ‘Broken‘ – a word I have never thought of when describing myself. I may be able to understand her intent but the word used was hurtful.
That same confidence that carried me through childhood, the confidence that knew few limits, is still ever-present – ready to redefine and move ahead with the dance that is before me. I take these new steps grateful that I know the difference between being healthy and being whole. Like the image of this tiny dancer — it is not about seeing the broken – if that is all we see than we miss the beauty before us. She has all she needs.
I know that child, I am she.
You cannot learn about Love,
love appears on the wings of grace. Rumi
These words ring true as I settle to rest tonight. Grace has surrounded me all this week. Action taken with love intended is filled with risk and some self-guessing until one can look back and feel a sense of peace.
Lilly’s week has been good. In return my week has had more moments of relief and comfort. Even though I had been considering what would be best for Lilly and myself, when a decision began to form, it felt like time moved at a hurried pace. Sometimes the things we have the most control over can feel completely out of control when movement begins.
Last Sunday certainly had that feeling. When I hung up my phone from giving the ‘go-ahead’ for the rest of Lilly’s belongings to be picked up, I shuttered as I realized that thoughts were becoming decisions which were forming actions. She was doing well and therefore probably moving to this new home. Tears rose from within, bringing with them memories of other goodbyes and hard transitions. It was difficult to believe that another goodbye was so near.
I have not seen Lilly since a week ago tonight. To say that I miss her would be an understatement. Few words sufficiently describe this type of change in one’s life. As with any other loss, it is ‘time’s’ gift to see that the sun rises and sets each day. Being responsible for that daily task would be much too complicated while carrying such sadness. Yet it is exactly the transition from one day to the next that has helped me move forward in both my grief and healing.
One week later I am ‘living’ into the decision I made for Lilly. Her new home is filled with everything I would have wanted for her and for the people receiving her. I have been blessed to hear from Tom and Terri (the couple who now have Lils) with updates and I can share their delight in being with such a remarkable creature. She is playing with high energy, excited to exercise and be one of a pack again. Her appetite is back and they will watch her carefully to make certain this continues. Her resilience has always been her strength and a good example for all of us.
While Lilly lives into each moment with her new surroundings and friends, I have also been realizing my new-found freedom. I leave my apartment with no worries for Lilly’s sense of security and comfort. I am truly free to sit with friends on a front porch that looks out over miles of mountains or find a quiet corner to read and write. It has been a good week – living into each moment -with this new life and home.
Tonight I prepare for bed grateful for the passing of this week and feeling my spirit lifted. I have known love throughout my life and grace has always been near. This time is no different. Grace has led me here – this far. And grace will lead me on…
One week left – moving van reserved, boxes filling, and copious calls being made. No matter how organized I had hoped to be, at this moment the list grows and time shortens. The retirement community has been gracious. No charge for the guest apartment! My friends can stay in a beautiful apartment down the hall from my new home. This means they will be more than comfortable – a good thing because they will have driven six hours, helped unload and put up with me (a ball of emotion).
There is a moment in any large project I undertake when I am humbled by the people who surround me to support and assist. The exchange between myself and those who catch my vision or rally to my aid is often filled with grace and humor. The most difficult part for me? To SIT and watch as my directions are taken. I cannot touch any of the objects being unwrapped and placed in drawers, cabinets or hung on walls. When my directions begin to sound like demands I know it is time to stop, to take a break for a walk outside or to share a glass of wine. May I have the insight to know when those moments are needed.
The last days are here. This time next week Lilly and I will be sleeping in our new apartment and waking to the sun’s light as it crests over the mountains. There have been more unexpected challenges than I thought possible. Yet, with family and dear friends, what seemed impossible has been accomplished.
Surrounded by grace – I continue to give thanks.
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