We drove to Memphis on Monday to take James to his first week-long over-night camp at Camp Conquest. That was the easy part. Getting him out of the car, into the cabin and comfortable in his bunk is a whole other story, that involved everything from coaxing to carrying to crying.
As we drove away, the camp leader said,
“Ma’am, in five years we’ve never had to return a child.”
This didn’t calm me like I think he hoped. We left James in the hands of five male camp counselors and I knew that James was going to be pushed and pulled to the max – to be asked to live for one week – outside of his comfort zone. I didn’t realize how much I would be too.
As I worried and texted friends this week for comfort, I’ve found myself at a new place,
one that has asked me to trust more than I ever have,
pray with more sincerity and truly have faith in the choice we made. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, being pushed beyond our comfort zone, it also brings a new space to discover more of your true self within.
Every day the camp posts photos on their website of the day activities. And every day I would wait with baited breath to see a photo of James, laughing and running and playing. And each day the photo didn’t come. (They sent this one saying, “we got James a wagon to move him in!”)
I was forced to admit that, even eleven years later,
I still mourn the loss of a typical child, I still very much dislike the combination of Autism and Down syndrome,
and I probably always will! When dreams don’t come true, they just don’t automatically go away from our desires. It’s like a wound that never completely heals. I broke my toe during one late-night polka party in the 90’s, and last week I stubbed it on my chair and it instantly brought back all the pain. You can’t deny it.
The only thing you can do is accept and surrender all over again.
And that honesty pulls you into the present and pushes you to what is real. (Just for the record, I hate that this is the way works, but it is!)
So, what do you do when you find yourself out of your comfort zone? What do you do when your job, your relationship, your world asks you to be stronger than you feel? For me this week it came down to very simple things; daily hikes in the park, honest prayers – allowing myself to admit how scared I was – and lunches with dear friends that included dessert!
It’s Friday, and I survived. And James survived. I feel slightly stronger. When I hold him in my arms tomorrow afternoon, only then will I admit that all this pushing and pulling was the best thing that ever happened to us!
To all those who may have lost their mothers too soon, who are spending this day with one foot in joy and one foot in grief… you are not alone.
I was seventeen. She was fifty-six. And the doctor said cancer. Back then, it was a death sentence. And two months and eight days later, she was gone.
I have spent my entire life with mixed emotions about this day, and today is no different. I am honored to be James’ mom and I celebrate that gift! But this morning, as I sit here alone in the quiet, (James is spending half this day with his beautiful Grandmother) I am a bit sad and angry about the way it all went down. Okay, a lot sad and angry.
But this day, and every Mother’s Day, calls me to acknowledge that pain and recognize the beauty in the loss of her and who I am because of it.
Those of us who lost our mothers young, we were challenged to handle the milestone moments in our lives with a big gaping hole announcing her absence. We walked down wedding aisles with our fathers, to look and see no one sitting where our mom should have been. We tried to duplicate recipes, and ended up with things that were “not quite right” because of the one secret ingredient she didn’t write on the index card. We took graduation photos with only one parent. We birthed children, held them in our arms, and for the first time understood how much our mom loved us, even though she wasn’t there to tell us.
But I choose to believe that she grieved alongside us for each of these moments as well!
(Okay, except maybe in regards to the recipe, I think she’s probably laughing her ass off that I still can’t make her Slovenian Cucumber gravy just right!)
But she did love us.
She DOES love us – with all her life-giving heart.
And she lives on in our spirits. In our smiles. In our determination. And In our resilient, grief-birthed strength. Strength that was forged in the pain. We are sad today, because she left us. But the loss of her has made us a much stronger version of ourselves then if she was still here to be a Grandma to our children.
If you’re like me today, with one foot in joy and one foot in grief, know that you are not alone. I know she’s right there with you.
This weekend at the Bavarian Bierhaus in Nashville we will celebrate Mayfest!
Maifest (Mayfest) is one of mankind’s oldest traditions! It is the celebration of nature’s bright reawakening after winter’s cold darkness. The ancient pagan festival eventually took on Christian religious significance, much like Christmas. However, it is now a colorful, joyous part of history and culture in Europe! The custom of the maypole began in the tenth century, when villagers would erect a pole in the local square. They would decorate it with sausages, cakes and multicolored ribbons! The villagers would dance around the maypole, as medieval citizens believed that it would bring good luck and wealth!
What that means for YOU is… $10 liter beers, a keg tapping and free dessert on Sunday for Mom’s!! Make a reservation…it’s been packed!
This place is so much fun and I hope you will join us 6-9pm on Friday and Saturday night for some great polka music!