We were a generally happy family during my childhood. I am the oldest of 4 children, and we are all 4 years apart. Each year we would vacation at my grandparents.
One summer when we were at my grandparents, my youngest brother who was only about 6 months old, became very sick. I was about 12 at the time. He ended up in what they called the Children's Floating Hospital in Boston, Mass. He was there for weeks, often with a 50/50 chance of living until the next day. As I had my own children it was painful for me to try to imagine what this must have been like for my mother. My brother did live, but as a result of spinal meningitis, he was and is multiply disabled...almost deaf so cannot talk, mentally disabled, yet able to take care of his basic needs. This brought significant change to our family. Challenges to faith, questions, sometimes arguments as to what the best course of action to take would be, a complete turning upside-down of our family in many ways. It was hard for Mom to accept that there was really something wrong with my brother, her love for him was so strong...it was hard for us to watch my brother struggle, knowing something was not right.
This brought challenges to my faith as well, and temptation to resent a brother who, though he had been through so much, now took all the attention away from us, me, during the teen years when life seems all mixed up as it is.
Through it all, my Mother clung to God, her faith, and her belief in all the best for my brother. It took some time for me to come to terms with the fact that a disabled family member has many more needs than a "whole" child, and that it is only natural that they will require much more attention. Watching my mother remain strong in her faith, even though I may not have admitted it at the time, was surely what helped keep me strong in mine. She remained full of faith, full of hope, and a rock for all of us, though at times I'm sure that a tempest was going on inside that she brought to God during her quiet times, and left there with Him.
The photo is one of my brother taken maybe 8-9 years ago when my husband and I were taking him for a weekend of camping at a wonderful place in Pennsylvania. We did this a few times over the years, enjoying bringing something different and fun into his life. This went on until I with a little help from my other brother and sister, was able to get him settled in a wonderful group home close to us all.
Currently Mom, in her mid-80's at the time of this update in May, 2015, is going through the painful challenge of watching her son, my brother, close to leaving this life for Heaven due to a brain tumor. She is strong and courageous though her heart is in pain, and her faith never waivers. We know where he is going, and that we will all be together again...and we will one day have our first conversation with John in Heaven.*
I think the greatest challenge before the current one was the 5-year illness and passing of her husband, my Dad, in October of 2005. She misses him terribly, but gets on one day at a time...I hope I am half as strong if and when a challenge like that comes my way.
* UPDATE on my brother - on June 29, 2015, my brother left behind his body and went home to be with Jesus in Heaven. We miss him terribly, it has been a difficult journey getting to this point. I know this is so hard for my Mom, it is hard for all of us because those with special needs touch deep places in the heart.