Lord, I declare that your word never returns empty and that you have set my heart on eternal things.

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Mother's Search for Meaning

Roberta Bandy

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Special Blessings: Lessons I've Learned From My Son

by Roberta Bandy

Whether it's a natural disaster or some man-made catastrophe, we all feel hardships in our lives. We struggle to find meaning and make sense of such events. Each of us most likely would chose an easier path if given the choice. Still, there is much to learn from these refining times in our lives.

At the age of 20 I became a mother. At the age of 50 I buried my firstborn. What is most significant is the time between and the lessons I learned. I began by thinking my son's life was less than ours because of his mental and physical abnormalities, only to learn the greatest of life's lessons through his life.

On February 3, 1970, our son, Rob, was born. He was born blind in his right eye. None of his bones were aligned properly with his joints. His head was held in place only by muscle and tendon. Doctors predicted slow growth, severe mental retardation, and a short life expectancy. Their prediction was that he would live to his early teens at best. He had grand mal seizures, chronic upper respiratory infections, scoliosis, and kyphosis of the spine. He was primarily non-verbal and required assistance in every area of his life for all of his days. In the eyes of the world he was a mistake of nature, an accident. Yet, we knew him as the son who loved flowers, cats, Grover from Sesame Street, music, driving backwards, playing in water, church, hugs, and dancing.

What value could possibly come through such a life? It is only in looking back that we see more clearly.

The lessons from Rob's life were numerous. He taught me the true value of life and the wonder of all creation. To see him struggle to do the simplest tasks without complaint made me value my effortless ability. He made me realize the wonderful complexity of God's creation. Only a small part of one chromosome of Rob's was missing to separate him from the norm. His differences opened my eyes to see the ordinary as extraordinary. I became more fully aware that eyes that see, tongues that speak, and limbs that move are amazing gifts. He helped me see God in everything from the ripples on the lake, to the intricate configuration of the milkweed pod, to the change of the seasons, to the way a bird makes its nest. . . .

He helped strengthen my faith and challenged me to think outside the worldview. Without his life I might have been lured and consumed by beauty, power, and intelligence. Having none of these, Rob's life showed me the shallowness of such distractions and led me to deeper things like duty, humility, self-sacrifice, grace, and peace.

He taught me to see my impairments. Those of us who shared Rob's life valued the fullness of our lives while measuring our talents against his gifts.

He taught me to be truly thankful for my voice, my mobility, and my intelligence, but he was a reminder of how far I am from his innocence, his selflessness, his purity, his patience, and his love. Rob possessed great gifts of peace and righteousness. He never struck out at another person; he showed no anger towards others. He never lied or cheated; he never boasted; he never cursed. Rob never coveted, gossiped, or stole. He never gave anything but love. Rob changed my life through his courage, his love of life, his smile, his determination, his love of music, and his victory over his earthly limitations.

On what would have been Rob's 36th birthday, our eldest daughter wrote her thoughts about her brother. She entitled her thoughts "Glassy eyes." She wrote:

I'd really like a boney hug right now. I'd even take some drool on my shoulder. I wouldn't even wipe it off. Maybe I could just spoon you some applesauce, or say your prayers with you, or watch The Little Mermaid for the 584th-thousandth time. I'd cherish every moment of it. I wish sometimes I could rewind my life so I could value our time together more. Think I could ever teach you the next line of "Three Blind Mice"? It doesn't matter, but I miss your songs, all of them. I'd love to hear you spell your name again, no matter how inopportune the timing. I've yet to meet anyone that likes riding backwards in a car as much as you . . . sometimes I'd just like one last dance.

God uses the simple to teach us the complex. On the day we took Rob into our arms, we had a choice. It was a choice to question "why me?" or a determination to find purpose and meaning in his life and learn from the journey. Since even earlier we had taken him into our hearts, that journey wasn't a difficult decision.


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