It’s 3:45 in the morning.
He’s up so she’s up. Another early morning wake-up call courtesy of autism.
He can’t tell time so when he wakes up he assumes it’s time to start his morning.
She is so tired and weary, begging God to give her enough grace to make it through the day. Before the day is over she will cook all his meals, give him his meds, change his sheets, dress him, change him, bathe him, do load after load of laundry, entertain him, and take care of his every need from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed.
All the typical things a mom does for a newborn, right?
Except her son is nineteen years old. Physically he is a man, intellectually he is just a baby in many ways. It gets harder with the passing of each year.
She holds her tongue and bites back the tears when a friend complains that she hasn’t had a vacation in a couple of years. Her last vacation was ten years ago and resulted in her husband getting deathly sick.
She would cry but that would require energy she just doesn’t have.
On top of everything else, her husband has chronic health issues of his own. In the past two years he has lost his kidneys and his left foot. She has become not only her son’s caregiver, but in many ways, her husbands as well. Somehow they both continue work full-time because they feel God has called them to serve other families like theirs.
But she is exhausted.
Her emotional tank is depleted, and compassion fatigue threatens to envelop her.
Before this day is over, she will mentor and counsel many other special needs moms who need her help as well, with no mention or regard of her own needs.
When I was growing up, my heroes were sports figures. I idolized Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and anyone on the Pittsburg Steelers or the Cincinnati Reds. I confused greatness with athletic talent.
Boy was I ever wrong.
Greatness is living your life as a caregiver because you genuinely feel that God has chosen and called you to that walk in life. Greatness is dying to yourself every day and laying down your own wants and desires as you serve others. Greatness is being the hands and feet of Jesus to your own family, and then to others as well.
No, she won’t get any medals to hang around her neck. But tonight, like every night, after she gets her son out of the bath, he will wrap his still wet arms around her neck, and kiss her on the cheek.
She will take that around her neck any day over a medal.
My wife has become my hero and I am in awe of her. She is everything I am not, and at the same time, she is everything I wish I was. Nothing I can do for her on Mother’s Day can express my love and admiration enough.
I have a message for all the moms raising a child with special needs or a disability. I know you sometimes look enviously on Facebook at the other moms and their “perfect Facebook families.” I know sometimes you long for a simpler life, or the life you imagined you would have had before your child was born. I know sometimes you feel all alone, misunderstood, and how you crave community and a sense of belonging. I know you wonder how you’re going to make it through another day sometimes.
But you do. You get up every day with self-determination and grit, and you face your giants head on right before you punch them in the face.
You are a special needs mom. Ain’t no one tougher, stronger, or more resilient.
And every time you love unconditionally or serve sacrificially, all of heaven stands up to applaud and give you a standing ovation.
Well done moms!