I remember holding him in my arms for the first time just minutes after cutting his cord in the delivery room.
I would place his sleeping form on my chest, his head gently laying across my shoulder, as we sat in my chair at night. I would rest contentedly when, as an infant, he would curl up against me on the bed and nuzzle his head in the crook of my arm.
I would hold him in my lap as a toddler wrapping my arms around him as I prayed and sang over him. When he was a young boy, I still carried him everywhere because of his crippled feet.
Now, as he gets ready to turn 18 next month, we sit together on the swing on our deck every night with my arm slung around his shoulders.
I don’t want to ever let go. I could hold him forever.
For years I feared and worried over whether he would ever be able or capable to leave our home and live independently. Now I find a quiet contentment and peace that he will still be with us even as an adult.
He has become my sanctuary, where I go to encounter the presence of God in my house.
I had dreams for my son. Big dreams. I had dreams for us and the things we would do together.
My son never became the son I imagined that first night when he was born. The dream of those things we would do together died because of his special needs.
I never became the dad I wanted to become. But I like to think that because of my son, I’m becoming the dad God intended me to be. My son’s life has become my greatest gift.
I have no idea what life holds for me, and for him, in the next year or the next decade. But I’m learning to live it one day at a time, and treasure every day that God wakes me up and allows me to be his dad.
The day before he was born, I wrote my son a letter. In that letter I told him what a life of success and significance would look like. I told him what I envisioned and imagined for his life. I was going to give it to him when he became a man.
I found that old letter a couple of years ago, read it again, and tore it up.
How wrong I had been. How badly I missed that mark. How little I knew then about what success really looks like.
Now I look at the hair on his chin, his legs and his chest and realize my little boy is now a man. I still don’t want to ever let go.
So I wrote him a new letter now. A letter he will never be able to read himself, but a letter that needed to be written.
A letter cannot hold enough words to describe what your life has done for mine.
This side of heaven, you will never read my words for yourself. This world has disabled your mind and body. But this world cannot disable your soul. God has placed his spirit in you and it remains intact. I know you have a direct connection to the Spirit of God and my prayer is that He will somehow let you know what I already know.
My son you are a world changer. You certainly changed mine. You, by your very life, are pointing people to Jesus and bringing more people into the Kingdom of God.
Before you were born, I wrote you a letter. In that letter, I gave you my definition of what success really meant. I was going to give it to you when you became a man.
In that letter, I explained what I thought was important in life and the things I felt you needed to know. I told you in that letter what living a life of success and significance meant.
I pulled that old letter out and I read it again. I sure missed the mark in that original letter. I’m not even going to give it to you. I ripped it up and I’m writing you this new one instead.
Turns out, my son, that you have been the teacher. I have simply been the pupil. You saved me from myself, son.
The impact of your life will go on for generations long after we both are in heaven playing basketball with each other.
You have become my Garden of Gethsemane, my Mount Sinai, and my burning bush where I go to meet God. Your life has been the whirlwind of the storm where God speaks to me. You have been through so much in your life so far. You didn’t get to choose this for your life; it was given to you.
Many are the nights I begged God to give me your pain, your struggles, your special needs. Many are the nights I asked him to take everything you have that is a challenge to you and to give it to me instead.
God in his sovereignty chose a higher purpose for your life.
I am sure many times that I might have failed you as your dad. But know this son. Not one time have you ever failed me as a son. There is nothing you could have done, or ever could do, that will make me love you more than I already love you.
I needed the manifest presence of God in my life, so God gave me you. You didn’t need healing; I was the one who needed healing.
What is success? What is it that in the end really matters and has any significance?
Success is living a life that honors God, glorifies His name, and points others to a relationship with Him.
Well done, my son. Well done, His good and faithful servant.
(* I published this piece originally last month at Not Alone, specialneedsparenting.net)