***Warning*** Box of Tissues May Be Needed! At least for me…
What follows was originally a bulletin article I wrote in April 2005. I am changing the tenses and modifying what was originally written to reflect the new reality.
I cried when I first wrote this. I suspect I’ll cry a bit as I edit and write today. It’s one of those things I just can’t do without shedding a tear or two. Maybe one day I’ll write about an everyday occurrence that always gives me pause and if I don’t shed a tear, at the very least I end up with a big lump in my throat.
But that’s another day.
In the meantime, there will be a part two to this blog article where I will explore my thoughts on Cole’s biggest special day. We will talk about my newfound belief in what the Holy Spirit does and the comfort that thought gives me. I am not positive I can prove it, but I am positive you can’t disprove it.
How’s that for confidence?
So read away. I’ll have something else to say at the end…
At the time I originally wrote this, Cole was my middle child. He was fifteen years old. He was quite small in comparison to other kids his age. He was a delightful boy who always had a ready smile on his face and a laughing glint in his eyes.
He often caught us completely off guard with extremely funny comments or expressions. Several months before this writing, he announced that he wanted a girlfriend. A quite normal desire for a fifteen year old male of our particular species. What was funny was his next three words: “Get me one.”
On the Saturday before I wrote this, we watched him compete in three athletic endeavors. Both of his brothers, his grandparents, and assorted collection of friends, and of course, both parents were there to cheer him on.
For three weeks or so prior to that Saturday, we were barraged with an endless supply of the same question. Over and over again, we were asked, “Are you coming to my special day?”
And so we gathered with a great number of people to watch the Special Olympics at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, otherwise known as Cole’s Special Day.
This, I believe, was our fourth time. The first was a killer.
We arrived that particular year and it was an exceptionally hard shock to my system. I’ve always known Cole had Cerebral Palsy. I’ve always known he was different. I’ve always known that the world saw him as handicapped or worse. What I didn’t know, what I didn’t understand, what I didn’t expect to see was how well Cole fit in with all of those special athletes who were, well, so different.
In many respects, life was never the same. When you are the parent of a child like Cole, you often tell yourself little lies. “He’ll catch up.” “He’ll get better.” That first Special Olympics was the day the chickens came home to roost.
Cole was different and the difference matters to some folks. But not to me. Not to me.
I learned much from Cole and the other very special participants of the Special Olympics. Their motto, shouted at the top of their voices as the games are declared open, never failed to make me emotional. “Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Thank you, son, for teaching me so much!
And you did, Cole. You gave me a lifetime of learning how to celebrate what was different, rejoicing over small milestones, and basking in your unconditional love.
One of my greatest regrets is not always having the patience I should have.
I miss you so very much. And at the same time, I am glad you are now with a Father who has no human limitations in love, patience, mercy, or grace.
Tears are streaming down my face as I write this…
There are days in which I feel no hope in ever seeing you again–not because I disbelieve in God or the heaven you inhabit, whole and perfect. No, I lack hope some days because I know my own flaws and failures. I know my own argument with God. I know my own angry rebellion.
But I am trying.
I am trying to live life like you did. I am trying to live the motto you so enthusiastically shouted out on your special game days…
Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.