Yesterday was my birthday. It was a day filled with well wishes and happy thoughts. Whether by virtual message or an old fashioned phone call, it was truly heartwarming to hear from everyone. Thank you!
Today, marks a different day. It is the nine-year anniversary of the passing of our son, Eric. I will receive messages again. This time it will be words of encouragement and I will be warmed by the simple phrase, “I am thinking about you.”
My emotions are bittersweet as we celebrate this Family Day weekend. Over the years, family has meant so much to me. I have appreciated our immediate and extended family and as an only child, I have wholeheartedly treasured my friends as part of my family too.
Considering this, it’s ironic that I have lost some of the most significant people in my life. Within a five-year span of time, my son, my mom, my dad and a very supportive sister-in-law have all passed away. That, along with parenting a child with severe and profound disabilities, has certainly resulted in an emotional journey for our family.
People will say, “I don’t know how you do it.” “I admire your strength.” “You are a glass half-full kind of person.” And then they ask, “how do you do it, anyway?”
Believe me, there are days when I wonder how we have done it too. To carry on and maintain hope for the future hasn’t been easy. Yet, my outlook remains positive.
How do I do it? Here are a few of my thoughts.
From the beginning of our relationship, my husband Lou and I have liked each other. Family, home and responsibility are values that we share and we decided to get married and start a family based on those common ideals. It was no surprise that when we were challenged by the uncertainty of life, those values kept us focused.
Embrace Our Circumstances
We didn’t plan for some of our tragic circumstances and we realized that much of what happened was beyond our control. It was nobody’s fault. Rather than try to place blame or become angry, we embraced our situation and tried our best to make the most of it.
We looked out for one another and when one of us was exhausted, the other would take over.
It wasn’t easy to open our home to people we didn’t know. From nurses, to in-home support workers, physiotherapists, family coordinators and so on, were all a huge part of our family. Their help was invaluable.
Family and Friends
Who grows up, moves out and expects to see their parents every day? Yet my parents were at our side from the beginning of Eric’s life and their support was invaluable. Extended family was there whenever we made the call. Friends were by our side, going out for dinner or lending a hand at home if needed.
Spending time with family and friends is something that we cherish. While I was very sad when my family members passed away, I didn’t have any regrets because I had spent a lot of time with them and spoke to them every day.
Even in the most challenging situations, something funny happens. We were in tune with those funny moments and shared a laugh, even if we were unhappy or sad.
All of us are unique. We are who we are. We were proud of all of our children and not once did we shy away from the world because we had a child who had a disability. Like it or leave it. This is who we are.
It certainly wasn’t easy however we lived with devotion, drive and a tenacity that wouldn’t allow us to give up.
We had a desire and passion for what life had to offer and we made every effort possible to work, travel and spend time with our loved ones.
Surrendering was not something we did too often however, we had the self-awareness to know that when it was time for a break, we took it.
It’s about forgiveness, especially for those who may have turned the other way or who just couldn’t understand our perspective. Forgiving the teacher who wouldn’t make an accommodation or the arena manager for not letting a wheelchair on the ice or continuing a relationship with someone who may have hurt us deeply, for they had the most to learn.
This is a complicated four-letter word. It can mean something different for all of us. For me, it is carrying forward all that I have learned from those around me. It is about believing in myself because others believed in me. It’s the unconditional care that a parent will give to a child and the same love that the child will in turn give to their children. It’s holding close all of the values, lessons, time spent and experiences that I shared with those who are no longer here. It’s the purpose that I felt when trying to make a difference for others. It’s having the faith that there is no coincidence and for every experience, there is a purpose.
I am grateful, for all that I have experienced, for all that I know and for everyone in my life. I truly appreciate it all. For those times when I think it can’t get much worse, I think about how good it really is. That’s what makes the glass, half-full.
I wish you all a happy Family Day. Take a moment, an hour or a day, to embrace your life and share it with the people you care about.