A slightly longer story than my usual. Less than 1000 words, so a lovely quick flash-fiction read that I hope will convey my heart about children with special needs and (dis)abilities.
I have been wanting to write this for such a long time. My son is autistic and as most parents who have walked the diagnosis road will know, everybody has a different reaction to that initial diagnosis; those first words spoken over your child can be a breath of hope, or they can feel like the weight of all your dreams being crushed.
I have spent many hours asking God why my son has autism. Yes, it is part of who he is and I would never trade the incredibly quirky, beautiful personality that he has, because of autism, but he faces challenges that I would give my life to remove from him, if I could, also because of autism.
This is how my heart has made sense of the ‘why’s and the ‘how’s’ that stumble through my heart and my head at 3h00 am.
I hope that this story blesses you, and finds a home in someone’s heart.
‘Come little one,’ He whispered, ‘It’s time.’
‘…I am so afraid,’ the small voice came haltingly.’ How will I know what to do?’
‘You are never alone. I will always be with you. You are so precious to Me.’
‘…but, how long? When can I come home?’
‘That, I cannot tell you, little one, not yet. You don’t need to know that. Yet. But, in the blink of an eye, you will be home again, and I shall be right here waiting for you.’
‘…can someone else not go… please?’
‘No. I have chosen you. You are the right one for this. In all of time there has never been anyone more perfect than you. Trust me. I have hand-picked you. My people have forgotten how to love each other unconditionally. I showed them once, but it is not an easy lesson for them to learn. They have built walls around their hearts for fear of each other’s differences. They look, but they do not see. They hear, but they do not listen. They strive for a yoke of perfection that I never placed upon their necks. Life has become trite. Expendable. Cheap. They need to be reminded just how precious they are, how fragile life is. How every little thing is a gift from Me. They look to the gaudy, the shiny tinsel, the outer; instead of the most important thing: that which is inside. Somehow, they have learned to weigh each other up according to some ridiculous scale of worthiness… and that which I value the most, a pure heart, they have disdain for. I am sending you, to remind those who you will encounter that I am the Author of Life. That every life is precious. That every life has value. That every life is from My Hand. That every fragile heartbeat is the melody of heaven. This will not be easy, little one, but I am with you. No matter what happens, remember that I will never forsake you. I will never abandon you. And soon, you will be home again. I am so proud of you. You are perfection. And when they say that you are not perfect; not normal, remember this: You are perfect. You are a copy of Me. You are on a most important mission, little one, for you will show them how to love again. Without expecting anything in return. And they need to learn to trust, that I have made you perfectly, just the way you are. That I intended for you to be exactly the way you are. And some of them will question whether your life has value. Whether you might not be better off dead. They will say that it will be a mercy. And it will be frightening, I know, but trust Me. I am with you. Always. Now, go. I love you.’
The baby’s mewling cries finally filled the delivery room. It had been a hard labour for the exhausted woman, but she had waited so long for this moment that the pain that had almost torn her apart was already fading from her consciousness, driven by a flood of emotion. Finally. After years of waiting and hoping, she had given birth to her son. Her husband exchanged proud smiles with her. He was a father. At last. A lifetime of cricket games and fishing on Saturday afternoons lay before him. He thought his heart would burst with pride.
The infant had stopped crying and was now making soft snuffling noises. Wrapped in what had once been green sterile cloth, he was systematically being assessed by the paediatrician on call.
Abnormal characteristics were noted on a crisp checklist: Apgar scores hovering disappointingly low; epicanthic folds on the almond-shaped eyes and a flat little nose. Assessed. Deviations from the norm noted with clinical impassion.
The doctor sighed. Such a pity. A shame, really. Now he would have to relay the bad news to this couple. Why couldn’t they all be born perfect? Medical science still had a long way to go towards ensuring that genetic diseases were eradicated, but, that was life for you. Taking a deep breath, he turned to the new parents with his verdict:
‘I am so sorry. But there’s something wrong. We’ll run some more tests to confirm the genetics, but your son has Down’s Syndrome. I’ll give you a bit of privacy. I know it’s a shock. But, with time you’ll grow to accept it and well, we’ve come a long way from putting these children into institutions.’ He gives them a forced, slightly too-bright smile. A panacea for the lifetime of hardship ahead of them. ‘He might have a happy, contented life, one never knows, but we can chat about your options once you’ve had some time to deal with the shock. Again, I am so sorry.’
Quietly, unseen by human eyes, a Presence was standing next to the plastic crib that held the tiny little boy. A whisper through the ether heard only by soft, downy ears.
‘I am with you, my little one. I will never leave you. You are perfect. You are loved. I am here, and I will never leave. You are my chosen.’