Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Shining of the Son

“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right.”—George Harrison

After a winter filled with bitterly cold temperatures and seemingly constant snowfall, this week finally felt like spring has arrived with sunshine and warmer temperatures. Although we awakened to snow on the ground earlier in the week, we have seen the changes that give us hope that spring is on its way. Yesterday, Ed, Alex, and I went to an Earth Day celebration at our county fairgrounds exposition center and were pleased that we didn’t have to wear our jackets because the weather was warm and sunny outside. This Earth Day event brings together various businesses and organizations that set up booths promoting environmental awareness. Our reasons for going are less noble: with no admission charge, it’s free entertainment, especially for Alex who likes to see the animals included in a few exhibits.

As we wandered around the three buildings offering displays and information, Alex was pleased to see three turtles (which are his favorite animal), a rabbit, and two cats. Other than that, he didn’t seem particularly interested in much else, but he patiently made his way to see nearly all of the booths. Because he didn’t say much, we weren’t sure whether he was enjoying himself or not. When we got back in the car, we asked him if he’d had fun, and he said yes. Thinking this might be just a cursory answer, Ed asked him how much he liked the program, and we were surprised when he told us “one hundred percent.” On the other hand, he never asked us when we were going home while we were there, so he probably did have a good time. Certainly, we were pleased that he enjoyed the outing, but we were also delighted that his behavior was excellent the entire time.

Last year, when we took him to the same event, we had him ride in his transport chair the entire time. Because his medications made him fatigued and unable to walk very far without tiring easily, riding in his wheelchair was a better option. If he decided he wanted to go home, we could quickly and easily take him back to the car. In addition, we still didn’t completely trust that he could behave himself, and the chair allowed us to control his movement so that he couldn’t reach anything he wasn’t supposed to touch. Yesterday, however, he walked the entire time because his energy levels are returning and his behavior has improved significantly. At one exhibit for energy-efficient insulation, Alex was fascinated by the digital thermometers that showed the difference between good insulation and poor insulation by shining a heat lamp on the two. Even though he may have been tempted to touch the thermometers or the lamp to see how hot it was, he kept his hands to himself, which showed the progress he’s made in controlling impulsive behaviors. We can trust him because he has become trustworthy again.

Two years ago, Easter was a mixed celebration for us. Alex had been released from his first hospitalization in the behavioral medicine department and was home after nearly a two-week stay. We didn’t know then that he would need two more hospital stays that spring. While we were thankful to have him home, the memories of the anxious, aggressive, and destructive behaviors that led to his need for intensive intervention were still fresh in our minds. Frankly, we were still afraid of him and his potential for angry outbursts. As I chose Easter gifts for him that year, I was mindful of finding small items that were unbreakable, wouldn’t agitate him, and wouldn’t hurt if he hurled them at us. While reflecting on that period of our lives is painful, we are reminded of how much progress he has made in two years, thanks to medication, intensive therapy, and the healing power of God. Instead of being impulsive, Alex has learned to be patient. Instead of being anxious, Alex is content. Instead of being aggressive, Alex is gentle and sweet. When our lives felt hopeless, God sent us the help we needed, and now we appreciate the changes that have made Alex better and our lives easier and happier.

In reflecting on Good Friday this week, I thought about the suffering Christ endured and the sorrow those who loved him felt. Being raised Catholic, Ed grew up with crucifixes, the images reminding of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As a Protestant, I was raised in churches with empty crosses, emphasizing the resurrection instead. Both of us have great affection for the Christus Rex, the Christ the King statue in the Valparaiso University Chapel of the Resurrection. In this representation, Christ is on the cross with a king’s crown and both hands raised in joyful victory. Perhaps this image blends the religions of our childhoods and binds our belief in the hope and the joy of the resurrection. On a much smaller scale, we survived the dark days of sorrow, fear, and uncertainty, and God has brought us into the light where we have joy, faith, and hope for the future.

This week, Victoria Osteen, the wife of Pastor Joel Osteen whose sermons and inspirational books have strengthened my faith, posted online the following quote: “Resurrection teaches us that God will always finish what He started.” Sometimes I fret about what will happen to Alex, especially when Ed and I aren’t around to look after him. However, this quote reminds me that God isn’t finished with Alex yet. If we look back two years to the terrible times, and even a year ago to the still slightly unpredictable times, we see that God has led us to a time of contentment and peace. Only God knows what plans He has for Alex and us, but I do believe that His plans are for good. As we now seem to be moving in the right direction, we look forward with hope to see where God will lead us and how He will finish what He has started in our lives. Happy Easter, indeed!

"The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11


marjorie said...

Happy Easter and God bless your fam, Pam.

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Marjorie,
So good to hear from you--thanks so much for your sweet note! Hope you and your family are doing well.