Several month ago I attended an amazing event called Women of Faith. It was my first time attending, and I wasn't sure what to expect. While the entire experience as a whole was amazing, there was one particular speaker who suction-cupped my heart from the first word that came out of her mouth.
I listened to a group of women who talked about things like Moses being a basket case. Then a bench warmer. Then a bushwhacker. I learned about Birdbath Bob and his crazy shenanigans. I learned about how things would change if I just.did.what.I.could. I listened to the amazing Amy Grant's voice soar over our miseries. Her album was the first CD I ever bought (OOOHHH) and she's still amazing as ever.
And then, Brenda Warner danced across the stage and began sharing her story.
Have you ever listened to a story and felt your stomach tie up in knots, just knowing the story is about to go south at any moment? Yep-I was feelin' the knots.
If you haven't heard her story-you should. Really. In short, her neuro-typical son suffered brain trauma and became blind after slipping out of her husband's arms after a bath. Her story is rooted in so much more than that, but its her story to tell-not mine. Read her book. Or find her on the street. Seriously, you should.
My tears began when she said the well-baby check visit was the only appointment she didn't mind....because that was normal and every other mom was taking their child to that appointment. She shared her life story and how that changed with certain phone calls, her son's birth, her parents deaths, and her marriage to Kurt Warner.
She went on and the suction on my heart became so tight, I lost it. As in, an almost visceral reaction. I.could.not.breathe. I'm pretty sure I was beginning to hyperventilate while trying (with horrible failure) to hold myself together. Pfff. Yeah, you look like a bawling moron because you are just that. Not that moron part, but the bawling part. My sweet friends, sitting next to me and in front of me, offered hands and squeezes of comfort and love-which made me cry even harder. This journey has been hard, and it is rare for me to have, much less be forced, to meddle in its rawness.
Her son is now grown and lives in a group home, on his own. And is thriving. How do I know? Because she brought him out at the end of her story. She bragged on him and shared his amazing personality and sense of humor. Most of all, his perspective to and for life was refreshing. He lived. He thrived. He had a future. She did it. Through all the struggle, heartache, crappy phone calls, and her journey with trusting God, she.did.it.
At some point, I felt myself shaking and ran for the bathroom. You know, whoever decided it was a good idea to put thousands of emotion women in an area with stairs in the dark was just not thinking! After I did some forced deep breathing and tried to focus my attention on the writing contest poster attached to the stall door, I walked back through the concourse to my section. Two friends stopped me just outside and said, "You have to come and see this, Zach (Brenda's son) is singing with Amy Grant. I stopped dead in my tracks. The voice of a modern Joni Mitchell and this amazing young man were too much. I stood with them for a few minutes on the platform to our section, choking back more tears and fighting that visceral feeling again.
I've thought of Brenda a lot since then. I bought her book, but I prefer her personal delivery much more. Raising AJ has been a constant flight or fight choice. I've always chosen fight. Doing so numbs you a bit. You just do. And process your emotions later. Sometimes they creep in, like in the heat of the moment, but the flight kicks in and the emotions are tucked away again. Listening to Brenda's story forced me into a place I don't go. Really, I don't. What better place to dig in than in the middle of thousands of women. Fantastic. Honestly, I didn't care, but now that I think about it, its humorous.
Sometimes I find it hard to relate to other mothers. Ok, a lot of times. Gone is the jealousy, bitterness, and anger toward them for their normal-or whatever I assumed their/normal in general to be. Here was this complete stranger, hundreds of feet away from me and she's got a suction cup on my heart. I kept nodding and bawling, nodding and bawling. She got it. She got me. She got the struggle. She got the triumph. She got the joy. She got the humbleness. She.got.it.all.
Today, I was sitting in the neurologist's office with AJ as the nurse was asking me the questions she asks me each time were there. I stopped dead in my tracks with her last question. Any other specialists? I had no answer. I ran through my mental Rolodex of "AJ Providers" and nothing came up. I said, "No. Just you."
Suddenly, having a pediatrician and just the neurologist added to the mix made me feel like every other mom on the planet. I felt liberated and ecstatic for my little boy. Oh wait, there is another! The dentist. Oh wait! He's normal too!!! We are down to one. One extra. And you know what? One extra is just like that well-baby check visit. I didn't mind.
I hope one day to meet Brenda. In fact, I imagine us having lunch, reading our memoirs together, and crying together. Sappy I know. But not everyone has the ability to suction cup a heart. At least not mine.