Around the time that we learned that there were some pretty significant things wrong with Sam, I found a link on a friends blog to an amazing little story about a trip to Holland. It talks about what it is like to raise a child with a disability. I think of this little story often, but lately, I’ve kind of created my own version.
So, in order to give proper credit and let people know that what I am writing is not my own original thought, it was inspired by “Welcome to Holland“by Emily Kingsley. However, I feel the need to write my own version, with a few modifications below!
I have always wanted to be a mom. I was the oldest of five children and my whole life, all I wanted was to have a gaggle of children of my very own! In highschool, I told everyone I was going to have 10 kids. When most kids my age were dreaming up amazing careers, I only thought about being a mom! When I met my wonderful husband, he talked me down to 5, or at least to take it one child at a time!
My first three children pretty much came without incident. They were healthy and happy and hit all the milestones on time or ahead. I thought I was becoming a pro! I used to joke that my first 3 kids were my first batch of cookies and they were my practice ones so that the next batch would be perfect! I mean, think about all you learn in parenting 3 kids-I was an expert!!
And then I became pregnant with my 4th baby. I was so prepared. John was just graduating from law school, he had a great job lined up, we had just bought a home in the same small town I grew up in. Life was going to be so smooth from then on. Nothing could have been further from the truth. And although life has not been easy, by any stretch of the imagination, I am thankful for all of it.
Imagine that you were planning a beautiful, exotic trip to a white sand beach in Mexico. You’ve been before, several times, in fact, so you know what to expect! You are excited to lounge on the beach in the warm sun and feel the sand between your toes. You pack several swim suits, a few pull over sun dresses and your favorite flip flops. You are ready to enjoy every minute of this blessed vacation, because you know from past experience that the minutes will tick away all too fast and your vacation will be over all too soon! This time you are prepared. You know the places you will eat at again, which beaches you want to watch the sunset from and you can hardly wait for the day to arrive.
With bags packed and wearing your favorite summer outfit, you board the plane that will take you to Puerto Vallarta. Nothing can quite prepare you for stepping off the plane, in mid December in Switzerland. It’s cold and snowing and the wind rips right through the thin capri’s you are wearing. You look around, waiting for someone to tell you there has been a mistake and they will fix it right away. You check everything, trying to understand how this is happening, but hoping that it really isn’t. You are not prepared for this.
Soon, you realize that this vacation will be different than what you planned. Rather than relaxing on a hot beach, you will be hiking the Matterhorn and you’ve never hiked a day in your life. You know nothing about thick wool boots with spikes on them or the ropes and pulleys you’ll need to climb many rocky summits. You have never dealt with the cold and the elements in this way and you feel nothing but fear and trepidation. What if you can’t handle it? What if you fail? What if it gets the better of you? Those doubts and those fears can be a very deep dark hole that you wonder if you’ll ever climb out of again.
So, you do what you can. You find the right equipment and you very clumsily learn to use it. You buy the right clothes and find others who have learned to hike this same terrain. They are a Godsend to you, not only because they can do it, but because you actually see joy in their eyes and that gives you hope. Maybe, just maybe, someday you will learn to love this new adventure as well. During quiet moments, perhaps at night when you have put your hiking tools away, you let your mind wander back to life before you arrived in Switzerland. You were able to do so many other things and now you feel consumed by snow and ice and cold. You think about that trip to Mexico that you didn’t get to take and you feel a deep sense of loss. In fact, it takes a very long time before that sense of loss doesn’t make you sick to your stomach.
But those self-indulging moments are few and then you stick out your chin and get back to work. You feel determined to learn all you can about hiking and surviving the cold! You feel a sense of passion at not only wanting to survive, but to someday find great joy in what you are doing. You work and you work and you fall more than you actually climb, but eventually, you discover a strength inside that you never knew you had. You realize that you are learning to climb and now you don’t fall near as much. And there are even brief moments, when the sun sets just right and you’ve conquered a particularly hard cliff that you look out and see an amazing world around you. You see a landscape that you would have never seen in Mexico. You see a world that many never get the chance to see and words are lost as you stand and take it all in. Your joy is complete in those moments and then, you get back to work.
And eventually, even if it takes years, your old life and your dream vacation and this new reality all merge together into a comfortable place. It becomes home and you find peace with what you now have. You learn to thank God for the littlest of things and you notice others in a way that you never knew how to look at them before. And as those heights teach you to climb and climb and climb, you realize that you have been given the power and the gift, to touch heaven, just a little each and every day.