Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Gift of Perspective

Thirteen years ago I got my ass kicked.

Looking back, I needed a good swift one and I will be forever thankful that it happened.

Thirteen years ago, I was a stay at home mother of two healthy, beautiful boys. I had a lovely home and a fabulous husband. I also spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. I truly felt that my my life was HARD. Did you hear me? Things were really, really hard! I had a lot of laundry to do, I wasn't getting much quality sleep and I had to do a lot of grocery shopping. These children demanded three square meals! and constant snacks! Christ! Did I really volunteer for this?

Then along came the boot in the form of baby number 3: Kelly.

My sweet Kelly joined our family and gave us the fundamental gift of perspective. He was born with Down Syndrome and we had no idea of this before he arrived. Our world as we knew it ended.

13 years and one week ago

 We spent a few days feeling stunned, but quickly Kelly found his way into our hearts. He was in the hospital for six days for a suspected heart condition (that resolved on its own) and then we went home and started life as a family of five.

Fast forward to January 2013. For the past couple of weeks I've been having a bit of a pity party.
Once again, here I sit in my warm, comfortable home with my bright and healthy kids and all I can do is feel sorry for myself. I'm not exactly sure what gets me to this place (falling out of routine, winter blues, hormones, or any combination of the three...) but I get caught up in my own shit. I'm ashamed to admit I even uttered the word "bored".

I got a little nudge out of it on Kelly's birthday party. We were reminiscing on what we were doing 13 years ago. What we were doing was struggling. I had just released an 8 1/2 pound baby from my body and immediately had to leave the comfort of my home (where he was born) to have him checked out at the closest teaching hospital over an hour away. At the hospital, he was abruptly taken from me and we were soon given the news: Down Syndrome. After spending a few hours together in shock and mourning, my husband left to take care of our then 3 and 6 year old boys at home. I was left to wander the halls of the hospital alone, dazed and exhausted. I remember finding an isolated hallway and actually lying on the floor, hoping for sleep to come transport me from my nightmare.

Its amazing how our human brain works. We move past these intense experiences and we blessedly heal. If we do things "right", the experiences are stored away and used for growth. But life has a way of rocking us into indifference. We move though our day-to-day and we forget to appreciated the miracles bursting all around us because we are too focused on getting the bills paid or the dinner on the table (again!).

At Kelly's party, I looked at my darling teenage boy and appreciated every glorious piece of him. Thirteen years ago we were terrified of what the future might bring, but we took a step back and lived only for the moment and fell quickly in love. We realized that Kelly's future was no more uncertain than the future of our two other boys, so we stopped worrying and just loved him. The love that we receive back is the purest, most delicious gift and we can not believe how fortunate we are that he chose to come to us.

The day after Kelly's party, I was scrolling through Facebook and discovered that a friend I knew several years ago is currently going through a very difficult time. One of her young children was just diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Slam. That knocked some sense into me real quick. What the hell was I doing complaining? After all our family has been through, I know better!

This little boy whom I don't even know was just my teacher. He will teach his family more than they ever wanted to know and the lessons will be intense and hopefully, miraculous.

So I take a deep breath and shake the foolishness from my brain. I look around me at the same things and situations and people that were right there in front of me the day before and everything looks completely different. Nothing has changed but my attitude, yet it has made all of the difference. I have shifted my perspective. The fabric of my daily existence suddenly seems to come into focus and I now can decipher between the trivial and the essential. This simple shift allows the mundane to fade into the background and I am able to focus on what matters, what brings joy. I make this critical shift more easily because of the difficult times our family has experienced.  These hard life lessons have given our life contrast: the light and the dark. Without the dark, can we really appreciate the true beauty of the the light?

Eckhart Tolle wrote: "If you have not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion."

Kelly started our journey into depth.  A journey that, in my ignorance, I definitely would have refused if given the option. A journey that has led us to one of our greatest treasures.

Happy Birthday, Kelly!


  1. Happy (belated) Birthday Kelly! Great post, Nora, I can really relate to it!

  2. I am glad I read it, I started,then thought well do I want to read this, another story like this? well once I got past the first paragraph and I could not stop reading till I was finished with the whole thing. WOW.... this really touched my heart, not to mention opening my eyes, happy birthday to kelly and he will offer many more years of happiness, GOD bless you and your whole family!!

    1. Hi. Happy Birthday to your son. My grandson has autisum, and he is one of my delights to my life. His brother has ADHD. Quite a combination, but they work quite well together.

      Yes, God does know what he is doing. I have a friend that has Down Syndrome, and she is 53 years old. She is delightful, and so full of innocence and light. And what a laugh she has! My other friend has taken care of her, and many other children that has these abnormalities, but children like that continue to teach us what is really important in life, No?! They can TEACH US, RIGHT???

      Indeed God has given you a great gift, and I'm happy you are happy, and your life is COMPLETE. Thank you for shareing.
      Kay Baxter

    2. Duncan, thank you so much. Your words mean a lot to me.

      Kay, yes Kelly is for sure one of our greatest teachers. I say that to his older brother all the time when he gets frustrated with him.
      Thank you for taking the time to post a reply!