One hundred thirty-five days ago, life drastically changed for our family of six when we were given the recommendation by our state to shelter in place. Three of our household members are considered high risk – they would not fare so well if COVID would enter our home. Because of this, we have chosen to protect our vulnerable by remaining in the “red zone” even though the world around us has opened. We take little risk and have so far avoided this pesky creature. So I have taken it upon myself to make life somewhat “livable” by coming up with an adventure for all of us to do on Fantastic Fridays – something to get us out of the house and yet be a “low-Covid activity.”
To find activities that attract two 87 yr olds, a severely disabled young lady, and a hyperactive seven-year-old is a real task. Since these brief trips add up to our only summer vacation, I have worked hard to plan them. Our last one was July 3rd. I found a five-senses paved nature trail in which Ron and I could push Grandma and Kari in wheelchairs up and down hills – one that was also a great hike for Matthew and Grandpa. It worked, but it was our last outing. That night, Grandma had a heart attack and we sent her off in the ambulance. We spent July 4th hoping and praying we would see her again. Praise God we did. She pulled through but remains weak. It has ended our Fantastic Friday summer outings for the six of us. But this afternoon mom was stable, so while the Grandparents napped, we slipped the kids out for a brief break at a nearby park.
I was reminded on this day, not only how fantastic Fridays can be, but how all life can be if we look through the right lens. Most days my Matthew drains me. He is so busy, so unable to entertain himself, so dangerous on his own, and so hyper that sleep is not his thing. Because we do not want him interacting with others and potentially bring COVID in the house, for 135 days he is all ours with no breaks. But today at the park, he was determined to climb a ladder to the 3rd level of the playground equipment so he could go down the big, long slide. This is the child that has minimal use of his right arm, a weak right leg, no vision on his right side, and little coordination. But today was the day he was determined to overcome all that. With his dad protectively behind him, I witnessed an amazing feat. He did it alone, not just once, but twice. And, of course, the ride down was his reward. In 7 1/2 years, never has he worked harder to overcome. It was his choice, his determination and I got to witness it.
As I watched, the memory of my first meeting Matthew flashed vividly before me. He was 4 months old, in the ICU at CHOP. I was overcome with sheer joy at the immense privilege I had that day of taking this very banged up boy home with me. He was beautiful despite his severe injuries. As the ICU nurses scurried around, going over and over all the medical care that I needed to understand before he could be discharged, I remember just smiling because none of those tasks were frightening to me (I once was an ICU nurse). The emotion that was so powerfully overcoming me was extreme honor that “I get to care for this child!” And seven years later, I know why God had me feel such exhilarating emotions – He knew I would need to be reminded of those thoughts in the midst of how hard these seven plus years would be.
Caring for a special-needs child is not for the faint of heart. And as I mentioned before, there is another dimension, a topic prevalent in our society now. Being a white mom raising a black child means I need to step up to the plate even more to help him overcome this world. We have had several incidents where I’ve seen my son prejudged because of the color of his skin. It hurts and I want to shrivel up and hide him away. But that is not the answer. At a reunion, we were told he certainly was not related. He was my son, so I went outside with him, crying, angry and shocked that in the 21 century this kind of prejudice still exists in our nation. At another family event, two boys ganged up on Matthew because, as one of them said, “I hit him because he is a darky.” Angered and incredibly hurt I took my son from that place determined to never, ever, go back. But the kind of determination my son exhibited today – the kind great enough to overcome the great evil that has damaged him over seven years ago must be the same determination I need to have.
God may have designed our family for a special purpose – I am still trying to come to grips with what that means. In any case, I do want our family to testify to a living God who is all about overcoming peculiar, remarkable ways. We have been issued a unique platform, to proclaim that in our incredible weakness, God is fighting to be strong for us and His power is made perfect in weakness. Every day I get the privilege of being Matthew’s and Kari’s mom. I get to be the caretaker of my parents, I get to pour myself into the lives of those who appear very weak, but who have the strength of a team of oxen because Christ is in them. What a Fantastic Friday!