As parents, how many of us set aside time every week to look back on how the week went, what we could do better, and then plan for the upcoming week? As parents of children with a disability, how many of us even have enough time to do the basics, let alone to reflect? But when we do get a sliver of time, do we spend that time being thankful for the blessings of our crazy lives? Do we even believe that our lives are blessed at all?
Sometimes we have to force ourselves to quiet our minds in order to have a chance at seeing the world with greater clarity. Attending Mass is one surefire way for me. When I pointed to the figure on the top of the crèche, my 20-month old granddaughter, Lyli, exclaimed, “Oooh!”
It didn’t matter to me that her little voice broke the silence at the midpoint of the Mass.
“That’s the angel Gabriel,” I whispered to her. Another, “Oooh”, was the response.
As I securely held her torso while she dangled her legs over the front of the pew, it was in that moment that I was reminded how blessed my life is. To have the opportunity to be with Lyli in all her purity and innocence. To have the opportunity to teach her about the birth of the baby Jesus, about Mary and Joseph, and about faith. I am in awe of this little person who is beaming with energy, excitement and all that is good.
Some days it’s still rather surreal to be a grandparent. My grandparents were always persons who were “old” and I’m certainly not that! I think that’s why I chose to be called “Jiddi” which is the Arabic word for grandfather (on your father’s side). It really has no age connotation to most people which suits me fine.
When Lyli came into the world, a friend of mine told me that my life is now truly blessed to be given a grandchild. I really didn’t understand what that meant at the time. My life seemed anything but blessed having spent more than two decades raising a child with complex disabilities who was plagued by seizures, cerebral palsy, a profound hearing loss, and the inability to speak. A life where we would be on call every minute of every day, where panic rushes to the ER would be the norm, where feeling trapped, afraid, and broke would be a constant. A life that would also require me to somehow find the physical and emotional strength to overcome stage-2 cancer which would forever change me.
Today, during this Sunday Mass, I see the world from a different place. A place where all the stress, the struggles and the strain of the years have been carried away. Not that the storms wouldn’t return some day – they could in a heartbeat. But if they did, it would be different. Not nearly as scary or overwhelming or overpowering.
Today, I understand exactly what my friend meant about being blessed. That grandchildren are an outward sign that the Lord truly loves and values me. And that no matter the hell I may have been through, He will never abandon me. Indeed, He will never abandon any of his children.
Today, I see how blessed we all are that the baby Jesus has come into the world. And, as Frank Capra tells us, it really is a wonderful life. Merry Christmas, Lyli!
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