“May you always be doing those good, kind things that show you are a child of God, for this will bring much praise and glory to the Lord.” (Phil 1:11 TLB)
I pulled an old photo album from its shelf yesterday and wiped the dust off of it. It is one that I rarely open, but something moved me to open it then. Inside of it were baby pictures of my youngest son from the day of his birth until he was 18 months old. Looking at them made my heart ache, not with nostalgia but with loss. You see, the reason I hardly ever look at these pictures is that I can see in them the normal child my son could of been. When I look at those happy, intelligent, and shining eyes in the photos I can see all the years of learning, growing, and becoming that my son could have had before the autism came.
The severe autism that came upon my son in his second year stole his language, changed his personality, and forever clouded his mind. It left him with a life of frustration, mood swings, compulsive behavior, and mental pain. Each day now is a struggle for him and although I try to make his life easier and give him as much love and joy as I can, in the end the autism is always there keeping him from being the person he could have been.
One thing, however, that brings me joy is that everyday I can see his gentle spirit break through those autistic walls around him. Sometimes it is in a laugh, sometimes it is in a smile, sometimes it is in a hug, but it always lets me know that a loving soul still lives within him. One day in the life after this one I hope to get to talk to that sweet spirit and thank him for all the love he gave me and all that he taught me about patience, compassion, and life.
I am going to try and look at those old pictures more often now. I want them to remind me of who my son truly is: a Child of God, a Being of Light, and a Spirit full of Love. The next time then that you see a person trapped in a handicapped body or mind don’t look away, look within. If you do you will see a brother or sister who wants and needs your love.
Joseph J. Mazzella
(To access the entire “Lessons From Handicaps” mini-series, please click here.)