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A Letter to My Almost Seven Year Old

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You, my first baby, will be seven years old this week and I feel like I should document who you are at this moment, at least a little. My pregnancy with you and your babyhood were among the most joyful times in my already blessed life; marked by a contentment that is rare for me. I love you more than I can say.

I will always remember the year you were six as groundbreaking. You have become so much like me (stubborn and headstrong and proud), and sometimes that makes it really tough for me to parent you. You talk and sing endlessly. You are smart and observant. This year you learned to swim and ride a bike. You sang in front of people at a talent show and blew us away with your confidence. You had your first “crush” and made your first best friend. You’ve learned to read well and are starting to experience the magic of disappearing into a book. You do like to be the center of attention, sometimes work too hard to impress others and get over-stimulated pretty easily; but your empathy, compassion and endurance are growing, too. You insist on learning everything the hard way and your anger is intense at times. You ask startlingly existential questions. I think your imagination rules at least eight hours out of every day.

As a mother, I am irritable and sharp too often, but I hope that figures less prominently in your daily life and memory than our awesome conversations, hugs and goodnight songs. And though I know that discipline is necessary and good, I also hope that you know deep down that those things that make you so angry right now – like having to do chores and eat food you dislike, or not having the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want – are a major part of the way we show our love for you.

I thank God for you. I pray that we can lead you in the way you should go subtly and gently, that we can help you channel your stubbornness in a way I haven’t yet mastered myself and that you would always know that we love and support you.

Happy birthday, baby.

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My Grandma’s Fake Pearls

PearlsI am blessed to have quite a few items in my home from loved ones. The items themselves, of course, are not so important, but the memories and feelings that they invoke are very dear to me. Most of these things are in view every day and to be honest, I forget to cherish them, to remember what they represent.

There is one item, however, that never fails to reach me. I love the long strand of fake pearls from my grandma, who has been gone a few years, now. I love their soft sheen and smooth weight. I love the sound they make. I don’t know how long she owned them or how often she wore them, but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t something that I would usually wear, so putting them on is always intentional. The unfamiliar feeling of the pearls wrapped around my wrist or hanging from my neck brings me back to them again and again, reminding me of Grandma.

My daughter wore her “pearls” today to “get married” (she is six 🙂 ) and wanted me to match. So I am wearing Grandma’s pearls and feel the need to thank her for reminding me to be intentional – to notice the special in everything. My spirit has been dulled to the beauty in my every day for some time and I know that there is choice in that. I even forget to relish the big things – inexplicably choosing to allow my mood to snuff out my positivity. So today I choose to take my time and focus on the luxury of coffee in a beautiful mug instead of on my irritability as I take cold sips between kid fussing and feeding. I’ll stop to feel the simple joy in the act of scrawling something on a piece of paper – even if it’s just a grocery list (if you love writing, you’ll understand) and all those other conveniences which make me truly spoiled. Mostly, though, I will take joy in my kids and husband, for them and for me.

All my love, Grandma.

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Joshua

Today I feel a strong and persistent call to write about my big brother, Joshua. What limited knowledge I have of him comes primarily from early childhood memories, so much of this will be written in the past-tense. My parents tell me he isn’t doing well. He may rally, but he may not. The thought that he might not be long for this world made me surprisingly emotional. I know that sounds… hardened, but it isn’t; perhaps pragmatic. Josh is blind, doesn’t speak, is self-abusive and deeply autistic. It is very difficult to comfort him, to treat his pain. I believe that when he goes home, it will be incredibly joyful for him. But I will mourn his loss. His contribution to my life has been worth more than I can say, but I’ll try anyway.

Josh helped teach me about compassion. It would be easy to pity him. My parents had compassion for him. In my mind there is a vital difference. Pity has no hands or feet. It is counterproductive, even demeaning; not that I’m immune. I pity people sometimes. It is a helpless feeling. Compassion recognizes humanity. It inspires us to show humanity. Of course my folks saw his limitations, but they saw his personality and capacities, too. They loved and included him and taught us to do the same.

More importantly, Joshua taught me about the value of people. Though he could not speak to me, see me, respond in typical ways; though his behaviors were odd and never socially acceptable, I felt his soul. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but truly – he had gentleness. I always thought he was special. I love him.

Josh also reminds me that death need not be a fearful thing. He may feel miserable and unhappy here; it’s easy to look at him and feel that something better awaits, but sometimes I forget that I am, more or less, in the same position. We all are. While our lives here can be very precious and beautiful to us, fear, confusion, misery and brokenness are also parts of our realities. I can’t imagine much greater contrast than that between those feelings and pure, uninhibited joy and peace.

And so I thank God for my brother. Thank you for reading about someone who is probably a stranger to you. If you feel so moved, prayers for his peace and comfort would be wonderful.