I can imagine the feeling of sheer joy you felt the day he was born. I can imagine the peace that blanketed you while your arms blanketed him. I can imagine the look in your eyes as you looked into his, and thanked the Lord for another healthy child. I can imagine how proud you felt to present Dad with his first son. After having two girls, I can imagine a boy was a welcome addition. I can imagine the dreams you had for him. I can imagine all the visions of "firsts" that went through your mind as you held him for the first time.
I can imagine all of this because I too am a mother now. I too have held my children and dreamed of what their future would hold. I too have envisioned each "first" in their life and the happiness each may bring to mine. What I can't imagine is how you have coped with all the "firsts" you never envisioned in his life.
How did you survive the first time he had to visit a psychiatrist? How did you deal with a complete stranger telling you there was something wrong with your son after having only known him for one hour, when you had known him for years? He didn't know his favorite homemade meal. He didn't know his passion for music. He didn't know his compassion for others. He didn't know these things and so many more, yet in one hour he determined there was something so wrong with your son that medication and therapy were ordered. How did you hold back the tears when you realized you were being told years of after school conversations around the kitchen table over milk and cookies were a thing of the past? What your son needed now were hour-long sessions with a stranger who promised to reach him, when his own mother couldn't.
How did you manage to get through the phone call letting you know your son had been hospitalized because he was confused and couldn't even tell the day of the week? Did it take you back to the days when you would circle important dates on the calendar for him to look forward to? Or, did it take you even further back to the times you repeatedly sang the days of the week song to him, so he would be ahead of the game when he entered Kindergarten?
How did you hold it together when you stood by his hospital bed time and again, and looked into his eyes much like you did in another hospital long ago? Could you still see your baby boy in those eyes even if he couldn't see you? How did you make your words reach him when he was trapped in a world incapable of speech? Where have you found the courage, Mom? Where have you found the strength to pick him up each time he has fallen when his pain now is so much deeper than a scraped knee?
How have you listened to the many different labels placed on your son throughout the years? How have you helped him to accept those same labels as a positive step on a path to mental health, when the only labels you've ever had for him are my son, my baby boy, my world? What have you done with all those dreams you had for him? Have you given up on them in your heart of hearts or have you altered them? Have those dreams now simply become ones where he is as happy and healthy as he was when he entered this world? How have you continued to live each day, mom, when you must be dying inside?
As I look at my own son, I think of you mom. I can't even begin to imagine what you have been through with your son. As his sister, I know what my experience has been, but as I look at my happy, healthy little boy, I can't even begin to imagine the depth of your pain. From one mother to another, I can say you have given me the best example of what it means to be a mother. It isn't about teaching them their first words, but about being their voice when they can't speak for themselves. It isn't about cheering them on when they take their first steps, but about walking alongside them no matter what their journey entails. It isn't about putting a Band-Aid on their knee when they fall, but about always being there to pick them back up. Most importantly, it is about never giving up on your child... no matter how many sleepless nights it may cost you.
Forever in awe of you,
Your grateful daughter