My husband and I knew the parents of the young man who’d passed away. I had worked with his mother about 13 years ago, and my husband works with her still. Their son was a special spirit, trapped in a body that didn’t work as well as we might have hoped. He was only 29 years old. So young to most of our ideas regarding mortality, but he’d lived about ten years beyond all expectations. Though, perhaps, not long enough for my friends.
At the funeral his sweet mother was one of the speakers. Had it been me, I’d have been too much of a mess. Not Carol. In my eyes she could stand nose to nose with a tornado and not flinch. Yet even this rock of a woman, who’s endured things I cannot comprehend, could not completely stop the flow of tears as she imparted some of the things she learned from her son. I’d like to share a few of them with you now.
1. Keep things simple. Her son’s favorite thing in this entire world – besides Mom and Dad – was a plastic hangar. He could love it, play with it, and hold it for hours on end. One simple thing brought him endless amounts of joy.
2. Clothing should be optional…or at the very least, comfortable. The first thing to come off were shoes and socks. Even if it wasn’t the most proper of places. As their bishop spoke at the close of the funeral, he recounted times when he’d see a stray shoe or sock lying in the hallway of the church, or a bare foot at the bottom of a certain young man.
3. Find some sun and lay in it every day. This extraordinary spirit knew how to look for the good things in life, even if it’s just a bit of warm sunlight to take a short nap in.
4. If you don’t want to deal with someone, close your eyes and maybe when you open them again he/she might have gone away. We all laughed as Mom described how he’d be sitting in a hospital bed, hangar being played with one moment, then the second a doctor or nurse (who’d been known to do mean things like give shots or insert needles) walked through the door they’d look back over and he’d be lying down, still as night.
5. A hug from someone you love is goof for your blood pressure and your heart rate. A few years ago they were experiencing a bad time. He was in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and wires galore. They couldn’t seem to get his heart rate (blood pressure?) down, and Carol’s bp (heart rate?) wasn’t doing so well either. At one point she couldn’t take it anymore, weaved her way through the tubes and wires, and gave her boy a much needed and well-deserved hug. The effect was immediate. His heart rate slowed down almost twenty points.
6. Love everyone. Forgive freely and immediately. Like any child, this young man had boundless limits to those he loved. Though he couldn’t express it in ways we might consider “normal,” to those who knew him best, it was not difficult to understand when he tried to let them know he loved them.
7. You don’t need ears to hear. You can listen with your heart. This young man was deaf. Carol told us at his passing she realized he’d never heard her voice utter the words, “I love you.” Yet there was no doubt in her mind that her boy knew of the intense love in her heart.
8. Be happy in the life you chose, and keep an eternal perspective. This is such a “Mormon” doctrine, one I didn’t realize was strictly believed by us. We lived before we were born. We participated in planning out what we would be called to endure in our lives. Her sweet boy chose the body he’d spend his life in, and even though it was by no means perfect, it was his mortal experience. Carol chose to have this extraordinary spirit in her life. His spirit is now free, and they will be a family for eternity.
9. Keep the commandments as best you can, and trust that the Lord will step in. Though his limited mind never grew beyond that of a little boy, in whatever he was capable of doing he did his very best.
10. His greatest gift in this life was to love those who served him.
I don’t know if you got out of these ten simple lessons everything I did, but I’ll not go into my own thoughts. I think the lessons needing to be learned are just as individual as the person reading this post. If, however, you’d like to discuss anything you’ve read, please feel free to post a comment and I’ll be happy to respond.
There were so many more wonderful things spoken, in particular by his father, but I feel as though I need to end here. I want to end with a poem that had been written on the back of the program. Though there was no author listed, I would not be surprised to discover it was Carol herself who penned the beautiful words.
HEAVEN’S SPECIAL CHILD
A meeting was held quite far from earth;
“It’s time again for another birth,”
Said the angel to the Lord above,
“This special child will need much love.”
His progress may seem very slow,
Accomplishments he may not show,
And He’ll require extra care
From the folks he meets way down there.
He may not run or laugh or play,
His thoughts may seem quite far away.
In many ways he won’t adapt,
And He’ll be known as handicapped.
So let’s be careful where he’s sent,
We want his life to be content.
Please Lord, find the parents who
Will do a special job for you.
They will not realize right away
The leading role they’re asked to play.
But with this child sent from above,
Comes stronger faith and richer love.
And soon they’ll know the privilege given
In caring for this gift from Heaven.
Their precious charge so meek and mild