April 09, 2015

Eight is Great!

Bridger has been lying about his age for years.

For the past several years, whenever he has been asked he age, he has enthusiastically replied "8!"

That is his favorite number.

And his dream just came true.  He turned 8.

It is also a very special number in our church.  It is the age that children are baptized.  It is an age that I could not even imagine for the longest time.  I could not imagine it because as a parent of a child with special needs special, you don't look into the future - both because you don't know if you will have one and because there is no way you can create a picture of what the future might look like.

When newly special parents are referred to me for help, one of the first steps I take with them is to help them let go of the future.  Trying to imagine what future milestones, events and images of your family might look like is impossible.  People naturally have a tendency to envision what the future life might look.  An imaginary snapshot can be formed of what life will look like in 5 years - when the kids are out of the "baby gear" stage, or 10 years - when all their kids are in school, in 20 years - when their kids are in college and parents are empty nesters, or 30 years - when they envision they might be jolly grandparents.  There is no future snapshot that can be created for special parents.  They might try and form one, but either it is too painful to piece together or it is impossible to do so because the future picture is so uncertain.  Once you learn to cut the ties to the future and only think about today, coping and reconciling with the present becomes so much easier.

Consequently, I currently don't allow much unproductive thought towards Bridger's future and what events will look like.  For some reason, however, the one event that kept trying to form an image in my mind was his baptism.  What would that look like?  Every time I thought about it I would cry.  Thoughts of that day would cause tears of mourning the "loss" of something that wasn't what it should look like.  Nevertheless, the picture of his baptism day was one that would keep trying to return to my vision of the future.

Bridger's baptism day finally came the last Saturday in March.  It was one of the most beautiful days I have ever experienced.  I was emotionally fragile in the weeks leading up to it.   When Lance, who was going to be one of the speakers for the service, was sharing his prepared remarks with me, my waterworks opened.  In his maturity he is able to share more eloquently his feelings about his brother, and the feelings he was sharing about Bridger and his baptism were beyond tender.

I made a video for his baptism showcasing many of those that have been touched by Bridger.  I showed the video to Bridger - which he then insisted on watching 20 consecutive times.  He was sobbing as he was watching it.  Tears were pouring out of his big blues and he was quivering as he tried to breathe.  He looked at me and asked in his broken English, "Mom, what is happening to me?"  

He didn't understand the source of his emotion that he was feeling so intensely as he watched the video, but I explained to him that he was feeling love.  Seeing all of those images in that video of people that have embraced him and been a part of his life captured the essence of the most pure form of love.

When his special day finally came, Bridger's ecstatic enthusiasm for his baptism overshadowed the sting I was feeling about how "different" this day was going to look from what it "should".

Following the actual baptism and presentation of the video, I got up to the pulpit to speak.  The sight before me was so different from what I had pictured the day to be.  I looked up and saw a chapel full of people that have become so dear to us -- with tears coming from every single eye in the room.  The part that I hadn't pictured for this day was what that chapel was going to look like.  It was full of all of the people that have chosen to be part of Bridger's life -- the people who have chosen to support him directly, or supporting him indirectly by supporting the rest of our family.  As I spoke of examples of how Bridger's life has already been one that has brought people closer to their Savior I watched their eyes running over I couldn't keep mine from doing the same.

His baptism day did not leave place for the sting I had previously felt.  His baptism day wasn't about how different he looked from what that event usually looks like, and his baptism wasn't just his special day either.  It was a special day for everyone seated in that chapel and about how each of us have developed a deeper relationship with our Savior because of Bridger.  It was a spiritual feast and it was greater than anything I could have pictured in my mind.
One of his favoritest people ever - his individual aide from school that he insisted on sitting by during the service.

I am so grateful for all of the people that came, from near and many from far, to support Bridger, me and the rest of my family that day.  Looking across from the pulpit into those faces is not an image I will soon forget.

One of his favorite parts was the green CTR cookies made by a friend - I think he ate. . . 8!

If you ask him, he will still excitedly say he is 8. He is now just finally telling the truth. It is no longer an age for me to face with trepidation, but a reminder of the day that I, and as expressed by all those in attendance, experienced one of the most powerful feelings of love we have ever felt.

It is great to be 8.

Follow the link to the video to see what Love looks like. . .