For nearly 15 years, we have taken our family vacation at Cherokee Lake. Each year I take DJ to the dock and we watch whatever happens to be taking place on the water at that moment. I point to the bridge and show him the cars; we watch the boats,’ I bounce around all silly as waves rock the dock, and anything else I find to show him. DJ cannot speak but I know he understands so I use every available moment to try to teach him something new. I treasure every second we spend on that dock together. I know DJ enjoys the moments also because his eyes have a way of saying what his mouth cannot.
This year while I was jabbering away to him, pointing at this and that I suddenly felt his little arm go around my neck. I was so surprised I looked behind me certain someone had moved his arm for him. The only time DJ has ever put his arm around someone has been in a sensory or playful moment and he is getting them in a headlock. This was entirely different. This was new. DJ laughs and has a personality but he has never initiated affection. EVER.
For a second, I sat there quietly not moving out of fear of losing this sacred moment. When my husband, Steve, noticed and said something, DJ’s arm slid down my back as he turned to look at his dad. Then in a moment that seemed too good to be true, I felt that little arm go right back around me. To make certain we knew the moment was special to him as well; he emphasized it by leaning over and giving me a kiss.
In that space of time, everything else fell away. This is the child that a doctor once told me would be nothing more than a “blob”. She said he would never speak, express emotion, or even hold his own head up. She predicted newborns would have better skills than DJ. I vividly remember sitting alone mulling over the doctor’s words and wondering if I was delusional for rejecting her opinion immediately. I never allowed her grim announcement to take root in me. I knew that was not DJ’s future.
It has taken 12 years to get from that miracle-choking hospital room to that initiated expression of love on the dock. We have had a very hard road but not as hard as others. His chronic hospitalizations dealt incredibly harsh blows to my heart. While Steve worked to support our family, I was always at the hospital holding DJ down for blood draws, shots, IV’s or an endless stream of testing that would again reveal nothing. I gave him enemas that always triggered profuse vomiting leading to dehydration and a hospital admission. Despite knowing he needed them I always felt as if I made him sick. He may have been constipated but he was not hospital sick until I would give him the enema. It was a hell from which there was never an escape
I did those things because I knew it had to be done and that being a mom means sometimes you break your own heart for the betterment of your child. DJ, however, did not understand all of that. All he knew was he was in pain and I was not only letting someone hurt him I was helping them. To him, it was the ultimate parental betrayal. With nurses repeatedly sticking his tiny little arms with needles in hopes of finding a vein, DJ would look at me with tears soaking his pillow and eyes that fairly shouted, “Why are you doing this to me?” Those hurtful looks seared my soul and pierced my heart in places so deep I did not even know existed until they were breaking apart.
On that dock, with his little arm and kiss all of those shattered pieces of my heart flew in reverse and made me new. Steve, somehow, managed to photograph the moment and posted it on Facebook. I have been absolutely floored by the response. The last time I checked there were over 800 “likes”, 54 comments, and 17 “shares”. God mended my heart through DJ and He makes it sing through each person on Facebook who shows they are invested in our life.
The picture below is only a snapshot of our life journey but no doubt is far more valuable than a few thousand words. In all the things we have gone through, lost in a maze of broken hearts, we arrived at this divine moment that overrides everything else. This picture gathers the ashes of our life and turns them into a beautiful display of love, perseverance and the very fingerprints of God. Thanks to everyone who has celebrated this moment with us