When Kelly was born with Down syndrome in 1984, the mother of an eight-year-old boy with Downs visited us in the hospital. She said to me, "Believe it or not, the day will come when the first thing that comes into your mind when you wake up in the morning is not 'I am the mother of a mentally retarded child.'"
That day came, though I can't tell you exactly when it was.
Today I wonder if the first thing I think upon waking will ever not be "I have cancer."
This is not a blog about cancer, and it's not going to turn into one, but it is a blog about parents with children of all ages and how we as individuals, and as families, cope with life-changing events like serious illness and death. So that's what I will be writing about in the days to come. We must now work through with Kelly the hard bumps in the road that lie ahead.
More than one parent has told me, I can never die! Others have confessed their prayers that their children die before them, so desperate are we to always be there, as we have always been there, for our kids with special needs.
But we can't.
Jerry and I started Down Home Ranch in part as our own response to this eternal dilemma, and thanks be to God that we did. Kelly is surrounded by a veritable host of friends, buddies, staff members, and others who love and support her. They have worked out their own ways of coping and helping each other through these hard times. It is time for her community to take a bigger role in doing just that.
Which is not to forget our family, of course. Kelly has the great blessing of three wonderful older sisters who love her and are there for her. I will encourage Kelly in the months to come to shift her focus gradually away from me and to her sisters for the family support she will always need and enjoy, and I am explicit in explaining to my other daughters why this is so: Should my surgery and chemo be ideally successful, we shall all rejoice, but at 70 the handwriting is on the wall, and realities are emerging. It is only a matter of time.
This morning two of my daughters, Jerry, and I met with Fr. Larry after Mass for the Sacrament of Healing, the laying on of hands, and the anointing of oil. I made my confession on Thursday. I know that my Redeemer liveth.
At the Desert Solitude Retreat in Cedar Brake in 2011, I experienced the love and the joy that God holds for each of us, and came to understand that Christ did indeed pay the full ransom for me. I had understood the claims of the church intellectually, but had never before felt that soul-penetrating Presence.
"All is accomplished," was the message.
And I came to know that the Lord is indeed the Shepherd of my soul.
Thanks be to God.