Today I found an old picture frame. I decided to take out the photo which was inside and scan it into the computer. But when I opened the back, I gasped!
Behind that picture was another; one of our first-born son, P.J., giving high-fives with a girl at church.
My heart flooded with emotion; and I ran to show Paul this special treasure.
Why is this photo so precious! It was taken at our church after a wedding. P.J. was about 17 months old then; so this is one of the last pictures of him before….. our loss.
March is P.J.’s birth month… and on March 1, I found this picture. His birthday is often a bittersweet time… P.J. (Paul, Jr.) was born to us while we lived in Arkansas. When he was 18 months old, we moved to Missouri. Shortly thereafter, he contracted a horrible, lingering illness. A few months later, he was gone.
We had moved, and he got ill right afterwards; so nobody there in Missouri really got to “know” my precious son. When we lost him, there was no “memorial service”; so it felt like we alone grieved. Of course, my family and extended family had seen him; they got to hold him shortly after his birth, and had seen him at Christmas when he was about 9 months old. But since we lived far away, we’d never had much time together…and I felt that they hadn’t ever really gotten the opportunity to “Know” him. Although they were sad for us; how do you grieve for someone you’ve never known?
I was thankful for all the time that I had shared with him and the memories we had made. I thanked God over and over that I had been able to be a “stay-at-home Mom” and Paul had worked mostly from his office at home during that time. P.J. was never sent to Daycare; so we didn’t miss a moment of his precious infancy and his toddler days. I am certain that no mother and child ever had as much fun together as we. We walked in the park daily with a friend and her daughter. We walked around our neighborhood, where a lady (yes, in town) kept ducks. Then P.J. would come home and play with his stuffed duck. He had 3 favorite stuffed animals… a duck, a rabbit, and of course, a teddy bear. He liked the dog that lived behind the privacy fence next door–a huge German shepherd that was at least twice as tall as he was. He wasn’t the least bit intimidated; even when “Rex” was out loose. Later, he would point at every privacy fence he saw, and authoritatively announce, “Dog!” Surprisingly, regardless of the location of the fence, he was usually right! By 15 months old, he had figured out that he should wave to Americans, but bow to Koreans. Unless they were the Korean kids, who, speaking English as they did, deserved the “wave”. He loved music and had a strong affinity for all things black. Cordless phone, TV remote, headphones, camcorder, camera… You name it. If it was black, he liked it. He loved reading story books; “Spot Goes Splash” was an early favorite. By 7-8 months, I would start telling a story from one of his favorite books, and he would crawl to the right book for that story. The strong bond we had and the precious memories we had created helped carry us through the dark times to come.
Wasn’t he adorable?
The rest of the story is…maybe different than what you thought.
P.J. didn’t pass away. But, the son we had known and cherished was gone…lost to autism.
No longer did he play with his beloved rabbit, kiss his duck, and pat his bear to sleep in the rocking chair. No longer did he give “high fives” to the other children at church. No longer did he talk. I missed hearing his voice, saying, “I want apple juice”; and I would have done anything to hear him shout “Ball!” (as he had a few months earlier when he picked up his baked potato and threw it across a restaurant. Smile.) No longer did he give kisses. No longer did he look in our eyes and call us “momma” or “daddy”; many times he didn’t even respond to his name being called.
We stopped calling him “P.J.” (Some said it was a “baby-ish” name; and since he had ‘delays’, we didn’t want to add a baby-ish name to the mix…) But more than that, “P.J.” was gone. His personality was gone. Everything that had made P.J. be “P.J.” was gone. Days, weeks and months passed without seeing a smile on his face. (I’m sure the people who looked at my face said the same about me.) But how could I smile? My son was gone. I grieved for a long time. I felt like I was grieving the loss of a child; while at the same time being responsible for the care of a special needs child–one who was a stranger to me, though.
We began calling our son by his given name, David. It’s meaning: “Beloved”. And, as the years have passed, God has shown us time and time again that not only is David “beloved”; we are, too. When the hurt was too bad, God comforted us. When the stress of having an special-needs child was too heavy, He gave us strength and rest. Time after time, He sent just the right person–teacher, therapist, doctor, friend–our way at just the right time.
He proved true what our pastor had told us years before: “When Karen in weak, Paul is strong. When Paul is weak, Karen is strong. When Paul AND Karen are weak, GOD IS STRONG!”
“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed…(Psalms)” We know by experience that this is true.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or danger (or AUTISM)? No! Nothing will ever be able to separate from the love of God…(Romans) We know by experience that this is true.
Does time heal all wounds? Don’t believe that for a second. Time makes bitter old ladies of us. Only Jesus heals our wounds. He alone gives peace that the world cannot understand and joy that no one can take away…
A friend gave me a card a few days after his diagnosis was finally made; it read: “Don’t put a period where God has only placed a comma.” Sage advice coming from a Hallmark card. There was/IS more to David’s life than just a diagnosis. God knew about the things He had planned for David’s future–bicycling and roller-blading, hiking and TaeKwondo, swimming and woodworking, piano and guitar, music and eating kimchi, roller-coasters on 2 continents, learning and enjoying each day. I kind of wonder what God has up his sleeve for the next 18 years, and more…
Happy Birthday-month, David!