Just some reflections and memories aroused by attending Natalie Alexander’s visitation at the funeral home.
Natalie was a young lady born with Spina Bifida. We met Natalie when she and Ryan, or son, were going to physical therapy as babies. Her mother, Vicki, and Laura, my wife, became friends and spent much time together in thousands of activities. Both families, as well as dozens of others, had been thrown into a lifestyle and commonality that presented both challenges and opportunities, both joy and pain, both riches and poverty; raising a child who had disabilities.
It was moving to see the faces. The children, children no longer, but young adults in their wheel chairs. Their parents, now much older, with whom we shared priceless memories, thousands of laughs, cheers for our kids and restaurant meals.
The caregivers who volunteered for camps, outings, special parties and fund-raisers, sports teams; who changed diapers, wiped up vomit, applied Band-Aids and bandages, and hugged disabled children.
The memories flooded in about wheelchair track meets, basketball games, fishing tournaments, flying outings, camps, parties, meetings, trainings, trips….
Memories which took place at gyms, running tracks, meeting rooms, hospitals, doctors’ offices….
Some memories brought smiles, like the tall, skinny Jewish Santa Clause at the Rick Amber Challenge Air Christmas parties. The dances, seeing the children laughing and giggling as they twirled their wheelchairs at the Scottish Rite parties. Hearing a child squeal when he or she pulled up a fish at a tournament or picnic. Watching a child in a sit-ski flying across the lake behind a boat, wearing a smile that would light the darkest night.
Other memories brought tears. Seven of the children are gone now; seven of the group who clung together for strength, love and acceptance when often that was not offered by the outside world at school. Seven precious faces smiling upward from their wheelchairs at the love and acceptance that each of us parents showered on the whole gang.
Images also brought tears and speechlessness, like seeing the living young adults, hurting from another loss, cry, reach out to each other, wondering why so many of such a small group have left this world.
For me, the memories of those times seem like another life. It is not that Laura and I had decided to move on, but without that intention, we did. Our son, now on his own and our ministry in another part of the world, we left the activities of raising disabled children to our memories.
However, the memories that we have cause great joy and are valued as priceless. Today, however, they are the reason for our pain.