Sunday, May 5, 2019

It is a gift to be seen.

My first-born (by a minute and a half but still) graduated from college yesterday. I have watched as for four years he has met obstacles with grace. He has overcome challenges with perseverance. He has pushed through physical limitations with a smile and an encouraging word for every single person on his campus. I am as proud of these attributes as I am the fact that he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Dramatic writing and a minor in political science. No, I am not as proud. I am more proud.

I fully intended to spend my morning today trying to describe what yesterday meant to us -- in 5,000 or so words because the enormity of the emotion demands that (smile). But Benjamin's sister -- the triplet that does NOT have Cerebral Palsy -- has put the day into words in a far more beautiful way than I ever could. I am so grateful she is letting me share:

Sunday words by Claire (By my amazing precious girl)

As my brother rolled across the graduation stage, eyes bright, mouth open in a wide grin, his PCA (Personal care attendant) followed, and accepted his diploma. Slowly, beginning with the last row of faculty onstage, the entire auditorium stood up. My parents stood to my left, and I glanced at them out of the corner of my eye as I snapped photos as fast as I could. Tears freely fell down both of their faces, and as my mom held her camera to her eye, smile almost identical to Benjamin’s, her whole body shook with sobs.

As we all sat back down, my dad and I gripped my mom’s hands as the tears kept falling. I looked at the two of them, my strong parents, and felt the tears catch in my throat, too.

As I saw them cry at my brother’s graduation, I saw them crying when they held my brothers in their arms and received a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.

I saw them crying as my mom lay in the hospital and wondered if her babies would make it.

I saw them crying as they sat beside our isolettes in the NICU, watching as nurses cared for us in the first few weeks of our lives, when they just wanted to be home as a family.  

I saw them crying as they watched me hit milestones which Benjamin never would.

I saw them crying after IEP meetings, therapy sessions, and pre-op appointments. Moments that reminded them how hard this road would always be.

I saw my dad crying as he drove past Little League fields, grieving the loss of a life he thought he would have.

I saw my mom crying when churches turned us away, afraid of disability, afraid of their own humanity.

I saw my dad coming home to us after leaving my mom and brother in the hospital, eyes red with tears and exhaustion, hugging us hard and wiping our tears, as well as his own.

I saw them crying in all of the moments I never saw, the moments where they must have processed what Cerebral Palsy meant, when they saw other children with the same diagnosis, when they wondered what my brothers would be capable of and watched in amazement as they constantly surprised them with their determination.

I saw them crying with joy when my brothers walked to meet Mickey Mouse, when Aladdin made us all feel special, when my brothers played beside their peers on the accessible playground my mom worked so hard to get built.

I saw on my parents’ faces, in those few seconds, the tears of 22 years of hoping and praying and crying and grieving and rejoicing and fighting for victory. As a sibling whose whole life has been touched by disability, it’s easy for me to sometimes forget that, for my parents, a world once existed without Cerebral Palsy. They walked through all of this for the first time before I could even pronounce the words. Yesterday made me remember that. They once held us, such tiny babies that one of us fit in their palms, and now they stand beside us, in our caps and gowns, celebrating college degrees.

I can not begin to understand what these 22 years have been for them. So I look to them with admiration, with adoration, and the understanding that the joy we hold in our hands today was forged by many other days of tears. And it makes me want to hug them hard.

May we, those of us walking alongside (or even within) special needs families, do better to recognize what we see in the eyes of the parents in our midst, and then let’s hug them hard.

Thank you for seeing us, Claire. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words so much of what we were feeling. Thank you for always always being free with your hugs. We love you so (and can not wait until next weekend when we celebrate two more college graduations!!)!!!

Carol - The Blessings Counter