Driving back home from taking Ethan to school this morning, my friends were heavy on my mind. Not all of my friends, but certain.... special ones. The ones that are going down the same road that I was on, just a short while ago. A road too familiar and too fresh in my memory to even speak of very often. But today, for some reason, I felt the need to think about the beginning of this journey. As I felt the memories come to mind, I knew that I would soon be crying. Maybe that is why I don't usually allow myself to take this stroll down memory lane. As soon as the thoughts come up, I do anything to make them go away. Crank up the radio, make a phone call...whatever it takes. But today, I needed to revisit it. So I did.
Back in 2002, we lost my Dad to COPD. Then in 2003, Freddie and I lost a baby. About 3 months after losing the baby, we were once again pregnant. We were shocked and thrilled! We had been dealing with such loss that we were overjoyed at being pregnant again and just KNEW that everything would be alright this time.
Ethan was born on Thursday, May 13, 2004 at 7:07 am. It was the Greatest moment of my life, thus far. He was Perfect! Healthy, fat, sweet....Oh the smell of that newborn baby. I could not kiss him enough. I knew in an instant, that we were to be the Best of friends. He was everything I have ever dreamed of. I adore him.
Two weeks after his birth, we moved to our new military station in Savannah, GA. What a magical city. We got a beautiful little cottage house and life was great. My sister and her family, along with my Mom, were just 4 hours away. This was to be the Best of times.
Two months later, Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. After a tough 10 months, she lost her battle. I remember holding one hand as my sister held the other. We watched her slip away. I felt as though a piece of my soul went with her. From this, I have never recovered.
Things began to get back to a strange normal. Freddie was continually overseas with the military and I had good friends to share life in Savannah with.
As Ethan got older, he began to say words and was a happy child. Everything was going well. Normal.
But as he approached 18 -24 months old, he seemed to be different from the other kids. He started 'changing.' His language decreased. He began to draw away from other children and preferred to play alone. He became very frightened of loud noises. Little things. People (doctors included) would say, "Oh he is fine. He is just doing his own thing. He will catch up." But I worried. As his peers were building little friendships, he was memorizing Wiggles dance moves. He began to lift his heels when he walked. Not exactly toe walking, but sort of like that. When Freddie would get to come home between deployments, he would urge me not to worry. Ethan did so many things well, maybe I was overreacting. I prayed for this to be true.
We then got orders to move to Alabama. Being back near the majority of my extended family sounded great. It would be strange to live there with Mom and Dad gone, but Aunts, Uncles, siblings, cousins, would fill the space. We made the plans to have a new house built. It was beautiful and things were good again.
We made our move and stayed busy getting reacquainted with our family. But I continued to notice the changes in Ethan. Freddie and I discussed this but did not know what to do. So I got on the computer and Googled what we were seeing in Ethan. Autism. Autism came up over and over. I thought "Autism? He doesn't have Autism"...as pictures of Rain-man came to my mind. I knew it had to be something else. I also saw Developmental Delay. THAT must be it! Just a delay.
So we called Early Steps and got him started with Speech Therapy. Ethan's speech improved, but I knew in my heart of hearts that there was something else. So after many evaluations, out of state trips to have multiple EEGs, MRIs, etc... We had conflicting reports. Autism. Absolutely No Autism. We did not know who or what to believe.
So we prayed. I prayed harder than I ever have in my life. We had dealt with so much, surely God wouldn't do this to us and to our little boy. We were in a form of denial and despair. On the outside we held it together pretty well. We would tell friends/family that we had accepted whatever it was that was going on with Ethan. To this day, I cannot say that I truly 'accept' it. We looked good on the outside, but once inside the walls of our perfect life, we would crumble. Freddie grasped to understand what had 'happened' to his son. I grasped to deal with the loss of my Dad, Mom, the baby, and now being 'robbed' of the child that sat right there before me. Devastation would be a fitting word.
So I prayed. I went through cycles of begging the Lord for help, to times of rage at Him for what He was allowing to be. I even went as far as the deal making stage. If God would let this not be our reality, He could give me something instead. Freddie could raise Ethan without me. Total Despair.
I then began to see that life WAS going to be, what it was. Ethan did have Autism. The pity party had to end and we had to get to work. So we got to work. Therapists, Camps, School, Sports.... It became my 'Mission' to do everything I could to help Ethan survive and be happy in life. It is still my life Mission. Freddie and I joined forces, became Ethan's team, and have fought for him and for our family ever since.
The crying, begging episodes to the Lord have since calmed down. I still pray every day, sometimes all day. I pray for our family, which now includes sweet Ansley. She has completed our family. Her sweet, funny personality is the boost we all needed. She too, I adore.
But one thought comes to mind as I make this trip down memory lane. A particular Church service in Alabama. We had a Great Man of God as our Pastor. His words brought us through what was one of the toughest times in our lives. But this one particular service, I remember the Church was packed and it was hot in there. It is hard to concentrate when you are hot. So as my mind would drift to finding something to fan with, I felt a little different that day. Maybe it was the heat? No. I soon realized that God was speaking to my heart. It was kind of like heavy thoughts that would not go away. I kept pushing them back and trying to find a darn paper to fan with. They would not go away. I finally stopped and listened. I felt as though God was trying to bring Ethan to my mind. He was in the childcare/bible class and having a blast, as always.
I looked at Freddie and saw that he was totally soaking in the wonderful sermon that this Pastor was sharing. But I kept hearing....Ethan. I bowed my head and began to pray. Whatever it is Lord, tell me please. Since the crying, begging stage of praying, I now would simply pray for God to let Ethan have a good and happy life. I did not ask for a Miracle, for him to be Healed, or anything of the sort. Just happy and good. I prayed the rest of the service. Nothing noticeable to anyone else, I don't think. I wasn't even sure what I was praying for in particular, just for Ethan. Ethan. My precious baby boy. My dream come true. Ethan.
As we stood to sing, I felt the word come over me. I still cry as I get to this part of the story, just as I am now. The word was HEALED. I SCREAMED inside my soul...NO!!!!!!! That was not possible! I will not let that despair take me over again. It is not possible for him to be healed! He can get better, but my logical mind knows, there will not be any healing going on. It is what it is. He is what he is. And it is okay. We will make it. He will make it.
I could not escape the words. Over and over and over. I felt myself start to shake at this point. Not crazy shake, but more like a strong tremble. I fought this word with Everything in my soul. It just kept getting louder in my head. I closed my eyes and felt the words wash over me like a waterfall. As much as my mind would not let me believe, my heart knew this was from the Lord. The tears began to roll down my face. At this point it was very evident to Freddie that something was going on with me. He probably was looking for the exits to drag his crazy wife out, that had finally lost it. I opened my eyes and felt my face wet with all of the tears. I felt a sense of peace that I had not known in years. I quickly dried my face and got myself together. Freddie held my hand and squeezed it. He smiled and let me know that whatever It was, that he was there.
Church was over and I couldn't get back to get Ethan quickly enough. I held him closer than I ever had. We 3 went home and snuggled on the couch. I couldn't get close enough to my boys. Could God really mean 'HEALED?'
Of all uncertainties in life, I know this. God knows what He means and Means what He says. I take Him at His Word. I may not understand Him, but I Believe Him.
So today, we are yet at another military base. It is the 4 of us. Life has been good, tough, easy, and crazy. Ethan is in lots of therapy....currently 6 days per week. He is in the 1st grade at a private Christian school. Ethan has regained his speech. He still is not developmentally with his 'typical' peers, but he is quickly getting there. He has his quirks. He stims. He is still afraid of loud noises, but working through it. It upsets him terribly to see the black screen of a tv that is turned off. Quirks. But he is also Funny, smart, has attitude, can read above his peers, likes tae-kwon-do, is a Great swimmer, laughs easily and is well behaved with excellent manners. He is happy, safe, and doing good. All I could have even asked the Lord for.....
But God put The Promise in my heart. He wrote it on the Walls of my heart. HEALED. The progression that Ethan has made and the pace at which he is catching up is MARVELOUS and a dream come true. But God told me HEALED. And I believe Him. I am not asking for "Healed" but that is The Promise. I heard it with my very soul. I know what I know. I heard Him....
So I now pray for God to finish the work he started in Ethan, in me, and in our family. I ask God to use me where I can be of help to anyone else that is going through this. In time, I have come across many situations and people that I have indeed been able to share our story with and been able to help them. For this I am so thankful.
As I go along, from time to time, I will see the word HEALED on a sign, in a book, just randomly in places. It never ceases to ring that 'bell' in my heart as a reminder of The Promise. I have no idea exactly what God has in store for the rest of our lives, but I know He is Faithful and IT is going to be Awesome~