Enabled By God
By Jill Bond - Winter 1995/96
These stories in letter form share how Trent, our son with autism, has enriched our lives and drawn us all closer to the Lord. I'm convinced that he's not disabled at all. He's enabled by God.
I know you hear me say it every day, but I really mean it. How do you get to
be so lovable? Did God ever make any one easier to love? Yes, and then we snuggle and press face.
I'm writing to you today, sweetheart, believing that some day you'll be able
to read this. You are so smart, so very smart. Daddy and I are trying to open
the world of words for you. You already know your letters, don't you.
Every day for almost a year I'd work with you on recognizing your letters.
Your favorite way was when I'd take the brightly colored sheet from your Touch 'n Tell game, move your finger to each letter and I'd say the word, just as if we were using the electronic base. You didn't like the computerized voice, so we just did the touch part on paper and I'd do the 'n Tell. I wondered and wondered if I was wasting my time. When we'd go through the routine, I was certain you were visiting another galaxy while I was doing it all. But I'd pray to God and ask for patience, and God would supply. Yet, my sweet, you know how weak Mommy is. I'd get tired and forget to do it some times with you.
But we worked. Then when I was wondering about the wisdom of forcing you through this exercise, one night, one glorious night . . . I started to put the card away and unlike every other night, this time you reached for it and pulled me back down to sit. You looked at me and took my hand and made a finger. You made my hand, just as I had made yours, point to each letter and you said, g, r, i, t, l, z .... You said everyone of them perfectly and in random order, not by rout sequence. It was the first time you had voiced any letter or even actively participated. The first time you gave me any response, and you gave it to me 100%. You're an amazing little boy, Trent. The Lord worked through you to teach me that night. I learned that many times our work seems futile to us. I had nobly felt like Noah toiling on his ark for years without any converts to show for it, and yet, the Lord was working His work all along, and the floods came all at once. So often, my love, you are the same way. We work and work and it seems we get nowhere, and then, like a mighty switch, it comes flooding out.
So, yes, you'll read some day. And if I know you, you'll seemingly jump
overnight from Look, look, to the encyclopedia. We're praying for that
night. Because there is this book I want you to read that means all the world to me? It's the B-i-b-l-e.
I want more than anything in the world for you to know God. Yet, sweetheart,
I feel you know Him more than I do even now. Sometimes you see things so much more clearly than I do. It's as if God has removed many of the burdens of this world from you so that you can respond to Him more readily and surely.
When God was still forming you in my womb, He was preparing my heart for you. I can't put my finger on it, but somehow I knew you'd be such a special blessing. Your delivery was extraordinary. Our doctor was so sure that you'd come early, she told us any day now. Magah and Papa drove in for the big event. But you stayed tight. Then about two weeks later labor started. Since you are my third son, I knew real labor, and once the contractions became serious, we headed to the hospital. We made progress and then it stopped. I went home to wait. You waited for several more weeks and we went through the whole process again. Waiting again. The doctor was concerned and scheduled a C-section on your due date.
That day, September 20, 1988, as Daddy was getting ready to go to work, I felt ill. I made it to the bathroom, but passed out. It was scary for us. I was hemorrhaging and the pain was indescribable. Your father tried to rush me to the hospital, but we got caught by the longest train in American history. To this day I'm convinced it had more than a trillion cars. As each car rolled slowly by, I pleaded with God to protect you. We made it to the hospital and you delivered normally. I braced myself, knowing the trauma you'd been through. Part of the placenta delivered before you did. Darling, that isn't the way it's supposed to be. But almost instantly, I held you and you were so gorgeous. You checked out and, God be praised, you were perfect. You even recognized Daddy on your first day.
I quickly forgot all the foreboding I had had about you being a special-needs child. I must have misread the signs because you were turning into a wonder-child. You turned your head at day one, focused your eyes on day three, rolled over on day seven, turned to sound on day eight and smiled before one month. In fact, you had checked-off on all the developmental hurdles of a seven-month old by the time you were only two months old. You slept through the night at one month. No mother ever had a sweeter child, except Mary. You continued to develop wonderfully, speaking, running. All was going well.
When your sister was born, you were almost two years old and we had started to see some lack of development, or rather some slow down in your developmental
racing. We attributed it to the lack of work I could do with you during that pregnancy. When sister was born, I became very sick and almost went home to Jesus. Once I was released from the hospital, I was bed-ridden with hundreds of blood clots and destined to live from a wheel-chair. My situation was so critical that I wasn't able to hold you for days and you needed me. It took so
long to get better and I felt you suffered so. At age two, most children
need minute-by-minute-mommies to answer all your ten thousand questions. I wasn't there for you. So, when you started losing ground, I thought it was me, or rather a lack of me.
As soon as I was well, I'd make up for the year the locust had eaten, and do triple duty with you. You'd regain it all back and then some. But darling, you didn't. You seemed to lose more. Our prayers were constant. After a full year of intensive work with you, Bethany was passing you developmentally. We were baffled. You accidentally hurt your nose one day, and we had to take you the emergency room. The doctor asked Daddy if you were autistic. What's that?
Daddy and I began reading all we could get our hands on about autism. Part of me rejoiced that we might have an answer. You weren't the only one with these strange behaviors. We weren't alone. We weren't crazy. You weren't demon-possessed or something. The road was charted. Yet, part of me wept because there was something not right. Some of the material we read was dramatically frightening. Much of it was hopeless. Much of it bordered on preposterous.
We made our own diagnosis, but knew we'd need official back-up. Through some Christian friends we found a Christian doctor who was not only homeschooling his own autistic son, but was practicing in another county. (We do not trust the local county officials with our son. We have never taken one cent of government money, nor one minute of the county's time with Trent.) The diagnosis was clear: autism.
I cried for all of thirty seconds. I thought of all the things you wouldn't be able to do. But those tears dried quickly as I realized that God was in control and that for some reason He permitted this to happen. I grasped just a portion of that love He has for you and realized that this situation was given to praise His name forever.
Today I can't prove it. Yet, I have this gut feeling. Perhaps someday a test will be conclusive. But darling, I strongly feel that what happened to make you autistic was the vaccine shots I allowed you to have. I've learned so much since then. Your development had been wonderful. If you had had brain damage at birth, we would have seen signs immediately. But your history is so similar to other children who have caught autism from vaccines. Since then we haven't subjected you (or any of your siblings) to immunizations.
We'd been trusting God for your care since day one with you, and why should anything be different now. We sought God for solutions and He's been supplying them.
The End-of-My-Strength Day
Darling, you certainly can make some messes. One day you made such a mess in your room . . . . We put Bethany in her room and I bathed you. Big brothers started on your room and we scrubbed walls, toys, the ceiling fan, you name it. How could one little boy make such a mess??? Big brothers were exhausted. My arms ached as I scrubbed the carpeting and we still had so much more to clean. I prayed. Then I did something I've never done before. I picked up the phone to call Daddy to ask him to come home early. I couldn't handle it anymore. As I was dialing his office, I heard keys in the front door. God knew. Daddy's boss had taken the staff out for dinner and then let them have the afternoon off (it has happened only once). Daddy appraised the situation, sent me to go lay down and he finished the clean-up. God knows just how much we can each handle. He taught me that day that nothing is going to happen to us that is more than we can bear. He is able to furnish us a way out. Even before I asked (finished dialing Daddy's number), God had sent Daddy home to help. I know now that we, as a team, can handle any situation.
I Think It's Broken
You woke up early one morning and came in to snuggle. Daddy had already left for work and your siblings were still sleeping. It was so nice. I praised the Lord that you like to snuggle. Some autistic children don't. For some reason, you quickly sat up and then dropped back down. Your granite-hard head ricocheted off my nose. Bless your heart, you didn't even realize you'd hurt me. I couldn't even talk, I was blinded by the pain. Yes, it was broken. Obviously, from just looking at my face the doctors could tell. Darling, I realize you didn't mean to hurt me. It was an odd accident that could have happened with any of you children. But do you know the Lord even blessed that? In the process of repairing the broken nose, the doctors found that I was on the verge of an abscess to the brain. I had five different surgical procedures done (including a nose job). God uses you in mysterious ways, Trent.
You and I started the morning with a routine physical therapy time for
about an hour. Then I had to get going with breakfast and other chores, so I let you wander.
I walked by your bedroom and heard sobbing. You were crying the most horrible cry, like someone who has experienced deep sorrow , a mourning-type of cry. This is the cry no mother ever wants to hear from her child. I rushed to you and tried to find out what was wrong. I pleaded with God for help.
I know all your cries. There's the "You moved the baskets around" cry, the "I'm not getting my way" cry, the "I'm scared" cry, the "I'm terrified" cry, and dozens of other cries.
This was so very different. This was the cry of anguish, sorrow, of deep lost. I'd imagine this to be the cry of a man who has watched his wife killed before his eyes.
I quickly questioned your brothers. Had they done something to you?
"No, Mom, we don't know what's going on."
I continued to work with you, checking you over from head to toe, in case you were seriously hurt. Nothing. Then you looked at me and tried to speak: "I . . . , I . . ., I . . ." part of me wanted to rejoice because you had never used the personal pronoun "I" before. Never!
Then as I continued to mother you, you sat bold upright and gave me a look like you had the wisdom of the ages and said very distinctly:
"LONELY OUT THERE!" and you continued to weep.
I was a mixed bag of emotions and questions. I held you tightly and assured you that you weren't alone, Jesus is always with you. (More for my comfort than yours.)
I feel it was another breakthrough. You realized that you are different.
I was amazed that you even knew the correct words to express what you were feeling. Your world is lonely and you wanted help.
I wonder if, like an alcoholic, realization of the situation plays a major role in dealing with the condition. I didn't want you to suffer. I felt, with your heavy sobbing, the pain you must feel, the loneliness, the isolation. We do all we can to include you in everything we do. But now you know you're different.
We all held you and comforted you. Then I had to go to Bethany for a minute and you grabbed Stuart, like a drowning man for a life-preserver, and said, "Brother, come to my house. Come to my house." As if you wanted us to come visit you in your world. It was as if you were crying out for us to understand you and see your world with you.
I am awed at how, with your simple language, you stated such an awesome concept. How as a five-year-old boy you could understand your situation so well.
And then the pain you felt for the knowing.
You wept on and off for several hours. We stayed right there with you.
One Wednesday, you and I were in the "baby room" at church and I had to leave you for a few seconds to signal the audio-tech about the sound level. I came back into the room and there was a young lady "loving up" on you. You were responding to her in a manner which I've only seen you do with me, Daddy, Reed, Stuart, or Bethany. You were so comfortable with her. I was amazed at how you
related to her. She seemed instinctively to know just what to do to minister to you. We talked for a few minutes. She thought you were wonderful! She even said how "neat" it must be to have a child like you. It was one of the most encouraging conversations I've ever had. What impressed me was that she was
saying things which I have said about you being a blessing , but she had only been around you for a few minutes. She said she had to go. The service started and later I looked for her. In the four months we were visiting that church in Texas, I could never find her and no one knew her or of her (and it was a relatively small church). I wonder....
It was a bad day. I was under attack but fighting the good fight, so to
speak. I was preparing for a writing class I would be teaching the next day. My copier had crashed. It was not going to allow me to make copies of the class materials. No problem, I could just print the material off of the laser printer. It would cost five times as much, but I'd have something for the children the next day. Then, it happened. The electricity, city-wide, went out for several minutes. No, no, no. The computer crashed. All my work. All my writings. All those names and addresses. I started a "reconstruct" program to save the files. It started up. That was a good sign. It was on 3% of stage 1 of 6 stages.
I was having a migraine. I hadn't had a migraine in years. This was one of those headaches that when you bend over you hold your head because you know blood is going to come out. It was throbbing. It was nauseating. It was the type of headache that affects your whole body. I didn't need this.
I haven't even told you about the major remodeling operation that our
landlord was doing to fix the shower. Plumbing work, carpentry, tile work---it was a noisy, dirty mess.
I stopped in the middle of the living room and sat down, Indian style, leaned over with my head in my hands, and prayed.
I felt a small hand on my back. A boy's voice said, "Mommy, are you all
right?" TRENT, it was you!
What headache? What problems? Everything vanished as I twisted and hugged you. This was you, the same boy who a year before had broken my nose and was totally oblivious to the emergency situation. You had no idea you had hurt me then, that I was reeling in pain so intense I can't think of a strong enough adjective to describe it, or that I couldn't hold you right then.
Now, one year later, you see me, the food-machine (at times I used to think that was all I was to you), on the floor holding my head in my hands. Even my sensitive ten-year-old didn't notice I was troubled. But you, Trent, not only noticed and was conscious of someone else's situation (other than your own), but you followed through with appropriate behavior. You patted me on the back. You found the right words in your beautiful, but strangely ordered, mind, "Mommy, are you all right?"
Trent, at that time I equated that "breakthrough" to Joni Erickson-Tada winning a gold medal in ice skating. I'm so glad God allowed me to have a headache so I could experience that moment with Trent.
Trent, I've always been amazed at your ability to see life in ways I miss. You
were being auditioned for the Full Circle Program at the Clearwater Marine Center (popularly know as "Dolphin Therapy.") We passed through the gates and were allowed to crawl down the ladder to the sea turtle tanks. The program manager, talked to you gently. She gave you some lettuce to feed the sea turtle and told you the turtles name was Bailey. You took the lettuce and threw it in the tank and said, "Bailey, Come." That was so amazing because you usually take years to learn someone's name and to respond to situations. And you know what, my love, Bailey came and you fed her.
Clear Water Marine Science Center
249 Winward Passage
Clearwater, FL 34630