Stepping back and looking at my life, the story most woven into my soul are the imprints of my children. Once with tiny feet, and small hands inside mine, now they wrap theirs around my own aging hands protectively, walking beside me strong and tall, towering over my small frame these days. My boys, almost 18 and 15, are becoming more like men every day, no longer babies anymore, but grown, independent young men, living side by side with Johnny and me as equals.
When I say life has been one big, at times overwhelming test of faith and bravery for these two, it’s no joke. I’m struggling to even find the words to begin to express the hurdles in a nutshell in which life has thrown their way. Preschool brought the near loss of their Nana, due to heart issues, who is one of the most incredible forces of unconditional love and spiritual influence in their lives. In grade school life handed them the fear of losing their mother to breast cancer followed by the diagnosis of prostate cancer in their Paw Paw just two years later, another strong influence in their lives. In middle school they were handed the uncertainty of seeing their dad struggle with being unemployed, then by high school the bullies came out to play, and our oldest son was assaulted, now living with a TBI, nonstop headaches on a daily basis, seizures and tremors. At 14, we became aware our youngest son has Autism and this last year when life seemed to have possibly stopped throwing punches, they found themselves quite bravely dealing with me falling apart, broken, shattered and learning to pick up the pieces of my life in the months which followed my own personal grieving.
Life lesson #3, bravery can be found in the least likely places.
It sort of feels like our lives should read something along the lines of this, the life and times of….. The truth is, sometimes real life is stranger than fiction. Ever hear the old phrase, if not for bad luck, we’d have no luck? Well, we ARE that living, breathing statement. It’s not as if our family doesn’t have good luck, it’s just after a while it can begin to feel as if we are living out a real life kind of freaky horror show. I sometimes wonder if the zombies on patrol just like our door, because most of what comes knocking on the door, doesn’t seem remotely possible. OK, maybe it’s not as bad as all that, but seriously, life has been more than a joy ride through the impossible! What our lives have required is faith, endurance, family bonds which can’t be broken, loyalty, unconditional love and a strength which does not come from ourselves, but rather from a deeper, more intimate source of bravery. I have been amazed and blessed to see my children grow from boys into men, after all this was the one and only request I asked of God when the cancer came for me eight years ago. I’ve seen my boys swim against the current, face troubles which seem at times to have no name, tackle the powers that be, succumb to the shadows when they over power them, stand up for the broken and love with such ferocity it’s almost blinding. Through everything, every battle, struggle, hurt, joy, happy moment and head scratching moment as well, both these young men have carried a fire for courage and bravery inside them. Every up and down we have faced together and through each howling storm, they have found an ability to rise out of the ashes as a phoenix, with wings strong and steady.
I stand back, just kinda asking myself how I was so blessed to be Joshua and Micah’s mother. Not because they are perfect by any means or follow all my directions at any given time, but the truth is they challenge me to be more than I am, to be better and to dip my feet into the unknown without fear and dig deeper inside myself than I would on my own. I see my boy’s humanness, and I see their ability to forgive, to live outside the box, to stand up for what they feel is right, even when it goes against society. I can’t take the credit for how resilient they are, or for where this bravery comes from, but I can tell you they blow me away on a daily basis by the measure of their strength, it has simply astounded me this last year. Hasn’t mattered if there was a rhyme or reason in any of the chaos camping outside in our front yard, the sense of family, despite the madness has been woven into each and every strand of their tapestry. Despite the occasional crazy band of pitch fork carrying zombies showing up at the door, we haven’t become part of the undead walking around, not yet anyway. What my children have given me is joy, a light which crowds out the darkness; it has been their bright light that has given me my own strength. We’ve counted the stars, or tried to anyway, looked for monsters under the bed, faced death hand in hand and we’ve chased answers and found more questions together but at the end of the day what we have truly found is our stride, and learned to live our lives out loud, full of whatever possibilities await, good or bad. Yep, you could say we have definitely taken the long way around, BUT it has been the most beautiful journey imaginable.
These boys are my heart, the reason I was created to be a mother, and I’m more than excited to see them live their lives, growing into men with character who won’t conform to the world’s idea of normal. They are braver than I could ever hope to be; who they will become in their lifetimes is going to be so worth the zombies at the door…Boys, be your amazing, brave selves, outcasts or not!