This week, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I’d like to tell you about my friend Gretchen. She is a single parent, not by choice. Her youngest child, Bryan, is autistic and largely nonverbal. He was also diagnosed with juvenile diabetes about a year ago. Gretchen was my neighbor for nine years, until we moved to Northern California. I’ve known Bryan since he was born.
When Bryan was small, about three years old, Gretchen came over to ask if we would quit shutting our dining room drape at night. When we asked why, she told us that Bryan loved things that spun, and enjoyed watching our ceiling fan from his living room. Of course we never closed our dining room drape again. And it inspired our birthday and Christmas gifts to him from then on.
Bryan also liked to look at our DVD collection. Not watch the movies themselves, just look at the cases. He would take one from the shelf, look it over very carefully, and then put it back exactly where it came from. My husband and I felt very privileged when Bryan recognized us and smiled at us. Soon he would wave at us as well. Those were very special moments. In time Bryan trusted us enough to say, “Hi, yes, no,” and “bye.”
Bryan is 13 now. Gretchen has worked hard with him, and with the school district, to obtain the best education she can from a small town with limited resources. She also works hard with people who don’t understand that autistic doesn’t mean mentally challenged, or that his outbursts mean that he is a brat. We all pray that one day we can open the key to his wonderful mind.
One day at the park I turned off my wheelchair, and he came over and pushed the power button back on and tried to move the chair with the joystick. I caught his eye, and he laughed. There’s a good mind and a sense of humor in there. He can play his Nintendo DS with the best of them.
When Gretchen found that Bryan was excessively thirsty, and wetting his bed, she got him to the doctor right away and found he had diabetes. He was referred to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, five hours away, a huge obstacle for someone who doesn’t drive. The first few months she had to be there every couple of weeks to take classes on diabetes care and learn how to test Bryan’s blood, give him insulin shots, and calculate the carbohydrates in his food. Somehow she made it happen.
Did I mention she has a part-time job at Kmart, and the father makes only token child support payments? I wish I had answers for her when her ex-husband refuses to pay child support. or accuses her of being a bad mother. I’ve never had to give her an answer to the question why God gave her a child like Bryan, because she’s never asked. I thank God for mothers like Gretchen, who love their children unconditionally. Not all of us are made of such strong stuff, and that’s all right, too. God understands, and that’s why he sent us Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus came to live among us as a human, to experience our joys and our pains, our delights and our sorrows. And he left us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Counselor, on whom we can lean when things seem overwhelming, as if we just can’t find our way.
Jesus also opened up the gift of prayer with the simple “Our Father.” God doesn’t expect great words from us. As Paul writes in the letter to the Romans, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26 All we must do is open our hearts to God; our requests are known.
Dear Lord, thank you for all the mothers, the stepmothers, the sisters, the aunts, the grandmothers, and all those who act as mothers, who love and care for children. So many of our children need so much love, and sometimes it seems as if there just isn’t enough to go around. Thank you for those women who find it in their hearts to give just a little bit more, so that these special children know the wonder of your world and your love. In the name of your beloved Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen