I was standing in the toy section of our local department store just before Christmas. As I scanned the shelves trying to decide on the best present for my son, a sudden realization hit me so hard that I let out an audible sob. I clutched my hand to my mouth as the tears began to flow. I staggered out of the store without a purchase and sat sobbing in the safety of my parked car. I was overcome with grief and shock. My heart was broken. You see, It suddenly hit me that I was shopping in the toddler section for my son who was eight years old. The hard reality of his cognitive disability was devastating.
Of course, I knew he was delayed. My son had brain cancer at the age of three with a recurrence at the age of four, which he nearly didn’t survive. He was treated with three cranial surgeries, numerous cycles of radiation and very high doses of chemotherapy. The resulting cognitive delay was a small price to pay for his life. Even his doctors agreed his survival was a miracle of modern science combined with the power of prayer.
We dealt with his medical issues and cognitive delays daily along with his teachers and support workers. But this realization that not only was he not a typical eight-year-old, but he also would likely never progress developmentally with his peers, hit hard. I was brokenhearted as I realized the cruelty of his fate.
Grief can overcome you when you least expect it. And, not all grief is related to death, either. Grief can be experienced over any type of loss. Moments like this can strike suddenly in the daily routine of life. I was grieving the loss of a dream, the loss of ‘normal’, the loss of innocence, the loss of my son’s future, and the loss of hope.
I cried out to God in my sorrow and frustration at the injustice and unfairness of my son’s disabilities. It broke my heart. But God gently spoke to my hurting heart.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
As I dried my tears, God’s spirit comforted me and reassured me of his plan for my son’s life. His life had been spared after miraculous prayer. His life would be a testimony of God’s healing, love, and grace. God had a purpose, even if I couldn’t see it at the time.
As I accepted the reality of the situation, I could meet my son’s needs where he was, not where I wished him to be. I was able to go back into the store another day with the joy of choosing a wonderful toy that my son would love, and that would meet his developmental needs without worrying about where his physical age should be.