Tuesday, January 5, 2016

To Austin: On Your 5th Birthday

Well Austin, you turned five today. You woke up with vigor, smiling, laughing, and kicking as if you were really going somewhere, ready to take on the world. You wriggled, arched your back, and threw your head back and forth as if you could propel yourself right off the bed and into a miracle.

I take that back. You are already in the midst of a miracle. In the beginning, I never would have predicted we would make it to this day. I really did think that even if you survived your birth, you would never make it to be 5 years old. Five years just seemed like such a long time to fight the odds that were absolutely not in your favor. Many kids with similar challenges have tried and failed.

Yet here we are. You, continuing to breathe, in...out, like you have done from day one, and me, continuing to breathe, in...out, right along with you. I remember your breaths in those first few days, shallow, raspy, tentative. Yet whether it was merely your human spirit that kept you alive or your body's natural survival instincts kicking in, I'll never know. But I don't think we were completely responsible for choosing life for you. We gave you the opportunity to live, but you had the final say. You chose life too. And in choosing life, here's what you've done for me:

You've challenged me. You have forced me to take on a project that has no end in sight, to get up everyday knowing that I have not fixed things or figured out just the right solution. And yet, you force me to keep trying. I can't give up; I won't run away. And little by little you and I make small progresses, slight changes that aid in your comfort, minor adjustments that aid in mine. And sometimes we regress. That's ok too. 
You've blessed me. I'm not talking about the things we think of when we say we are blessed like your darling little crooked smile, your belly laughs, your happy chirps, or your indomitable spirit. I'm talking about the mysterious, paradoxical, "beatitudal" blessings that occur when life persecutes. You've caused me to be poor in spirit and have to lean on others for their faith, to mourn and experience grief to depths I never have before, to take on meekness as I admit I'm not strong enough do this alone, to hunger and thirst after God for answers. 
You've loved me. You have managed to extend that trusting, dependent, newborn type love out over five years and will probably continue to into the future as long as you are dependent on us for every aspect of your care. It's a draining kind of love. A dependent love. A desperate love. You need me. But I need to be needed.

I had always held out this five year mark vaguely in the back of my mind as some kind of destination. For some reason, I had certain expectations of things that should have happened if you lived this long. I thought for sure that you would be holding your head up on your own by now, perhaps have a few understandable words in your vocabulary, maybe even be moving towards a crawl or even a walk. But now as we are hitting this arbitrary marker, I wonder what my goals for you should look like? What are my goals for me? Where do we go from here? How do we get on?

And yet. We will get on. We will wake up everyday, sometimes with vigor and ready to take on the world, and sometimes with fear and trepidation, feeling puny and needing constant care. We will be challenged, blessed, and loved by each other, by our family and friends, by our God. We will stumble, fall, and fail. We will get back up, shake off the dust, and renew our spirits. We will continue the miracle to whatever its end. We will continue to breathe, in...out.

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