Moving Forward

Many, many thanks to everyone who commented on my last post and to those who wrote me—it meant a great deal.  I know it’s sometimes unpleasant to read of unpleasant times (Lord knows it’s not much fun to write about them either), so I truly value those of you who have stuck with me.  I have gone back and read your kind, loving, and caring words more than once and been sustained by them.  We are grateful for your continued prayers and good thoughts for Benjamin…and for us.

Benjamin is home from the hospital now.  Our time now is filled with the slow rhythm of work, walking, talking, and quiet porch sitting, punctuated by visits from loved ones and trips into Asheville for counseling.  In some ways, the past few weeks have taken me back to Benjamin’s very early childhood, before he started school.

When something like this happens with your child, you start to question everything.  In Benjamin’s case, this questioning is even more intense because I worked so closely and intensely with him when he was small.  As I’ve mentioned before, Benjamin’s autism was much more pronounced when he was young.  If not distracted, he would spend hours rocking back and forth or spinning or even just flapping his hands and staring at them as though they were separate things. Until the age of four, his speech was mostly echoing back to us what we’d said to him. 

We had very little money then and there were few options for help for Benjamin, other than some physical therapy for his hypotonia.  Tom worked long hours as a carpenter just to keep a roof over our heads, so I felt like it was mostly up to me to help Benjamin—to convince him, in a sense, that engaging in our “world” was worthwhile.  I read everything I could get my hands on about autism, and we got some helpful suggestions from the place where Benjamin was diagnosed, TEACCH. 

The first thing I wanted to know then was what it felt like to be Benjamin.  So I got down on the floor with him and rocked back and forth to the same rhythm, trying to hear the same music he heard. Benjamin was always fascinated by light.  He’d stare at any light, rapt, as though he were seeing something we couldn’t—angels, perhaps.  He also liked to sit in the morning sunbeams as he rocked.  So there we’d sit, rocking in and out of the light streaming into our living room.  It was very soothing, actually, and I’ll have to say that I could see why he might prefer it to the unpredictable inconsistency and discomfort of “real” life. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and the questions cycle through my head over and over.  What could I have done differently?  What if I’d taken him out of school and taught him at home when we couldn’t get his teachers to try to protect him from the relentless bullying? If I’d done that, how would he have learned what he needed to get along in the sometimes cruel world?  And the biggest one, I suppose: Did I even do the right thing by nudging him gently into our world?

But those are just the questions that go through my head at night, when I’m lying there waiting for sleep to come.   Really, I think perhaps questions about the past are only useful now if they somehow help to answer the more immediate and more important question:  How can we help Benjamin to find wholeness?

One morning recently, while Benjamin was eating breakfast and I was in the kitchen working, I put on the CD my dear friend Jayne had sent us.  In the note she sent with it, she said that she hoped the music would be a balm to my soul.  And indeed it was.  As I listened, I looked at Benjamin.  He had his eyes closed and was rocking back and forth, moving in time to the music.  I smiled to see that and closed my own eyes as “Be Still My Soul” began to play—the music seeming almost like warm hands stroking my weary spirit.  I rocked back and forth, too, just as had almost twenty years ago when I was trying to connect with my sweet boy, trying to convince him that my “world” was a place worth living in.  When I was trying to see that world through the eyes of Benjamin.

And, now, as it was then, progress is slow coming.  One day at the time, one hour at the time.  Two steps forward; one step back.  But now, as then, we are glad to be moving forward.  And we celebrate the smallest victories, relish the simplest pleasures, and I thank God, without ceasing, that He sent Benjamin to be my beloved son. 

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24 Responses to “Moving Forward”

  1. Jes Says:

    I’m glad Benjamin is home and that you’re able to keep walking forward. Listening to Joan Didion speak on NPR about her newest book about the death of her daughter (right after the death of her husband) really touched some core areas in my life: the question was “how do you keep living when the worst of the worst has happened” (or something like that). Her response? You have to so you do. Maybe it’s a little glum to think about it like that, but in terms of some of the grief I’ve gone through over the past few years, it really encouraged me. We’re created to keep going on and to not only survive but thrive through difficulties. My thoughts are still with you. Here’s to moving forward!

  2. Darla Says:

    Blessings and love to you and Benjamin… Thank you for sharing the wise and beautiful souls you both are.

  3. Sharon Says:

    It’s all about love, which you and Benjamin have in abundance. May it carry you through this hard time.

  4. Nancy Says:

    I’m holding your entire family in the light and celebrating the blessing of Benjamin’s homecoming. You’re a wonderful mom, Beth.

  5. betsyfromtennessee Says:

    Hi Beth, Your sweet Benjamin and your entire family are in my prayers… I can only imagine how hard this is on you, the Mama. We hurt so much when our children hurt….

    I hope that Benjamin can continue to get better and get on with this life…. God Bless Him —-and YOU.

    You all are in my prayers,
    Love,
    Betsy

  6. Clair Z. Says:

    Beth, I wish I had some wisdom to offer you, but you already have plenty of that. Just know that I am thinking of you and of the abundant love that shines from you.

    I am painting the Beth Chair a lovely spring green.

  7. eemilla Says:

    It is always good to hear from you even if you are sharing things that aren’t good. Thanks for your spirit and example; peace to you. I hope his recovery continues well.

  8. Lindy Says:

    I hope all continues to progress well, you are so strong for your son. He will feel this, he will know this. Love to you both.

  9. Rider Says:

    I just reread I Corinthians 13, lingering over verse 7: Love “[b]eareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things . . . .” The good Apostle Paul might as well have written that chapter and verse about you, Beth.

    Benjamin is so fortunate you’re his mother.

  10. Sweetflutterbys3 Says:

    Beth,

    I am glad to hear Benjamin is starting to make progress. I am right there with you when you talk about the past and struggling to help him through the autism. I felt the same way with my son, though I had a lot more help than you did. The daily search for answers and the constant feeling that you are not sure you are doing the right things is always there. There are no easy answers. I still feel, looking back at my son’s struggles, that I am not sure I did all I could to help him. I can only hope I did.

    I have no doubt Benjamin will continue to improve. You did everything you could for Benjamin and continue to do so. You are a great mom, Beth.

  11. Plowing Through Life Says:

    Please don’t be so hard on yourself, Beth. Nothing has been clearer to me from your writing than the intense love you feel for your son. I think you’ve done an amazing job (and continue to do so). Unfortunately, the world can be very difficult to navigate; it’s especially hard for the more sensitive souls. You are a wonderful mother, and I hope that your love and support will help your son to heal.

  12. CountryDew Says:

    Thank you for the update, Beth. I have been wondering how you are.

    I am glad Benjamin is doing better, and I hope you find some time to take care of yourself and your husband, too. I don’t know why life has to be such a struggle for so many people. I wish it were an easy thing to fix.

    Many blessings to you and your family as you work through each day.

  13. Debi Says:

    Look at all the comments you’ve gotten from your friends who have missed you and worried about you and don’t care that you sometimes talk about sad stuff as we all do. We just want you to talk and share the load with us because we love you as we know you love us and love Benjamin. No mother is perfect, I know that as a mother, but I also know that Benjamin couldn’t have gotten a better one. You need to stop second-guessing yourself. You have him for a reason and it’s not to chastise yourself for what you did or didn’t do. Love yourself, as you love that child. As we all love you.

  14. blueridgedreaming Says:

    As always, you write so beautifully and show such a deep soulful vision. While I know you are second-guessing so many things–which is natural–I do think you can be proud that Benjamin has come such a long way. He is a college graduate! You can both be proud of that. And there is so much more he can–and will–accomplish in his life with your love and support. He is struggling now, yes, and he may have periods of struggle throughout his life, but I believe he will also have periods of joy and happiness, especially with such a warm, loving, and spiritually in-touch family.

    Hugs to you. Still thinking of you and praying for you all.

  15. The Southern Lady Says:

    I was so happy to see a post from you when I checked today. I had checked several times before and wondered how you were and how your Benjamin was doing. I am happy he is home with you and I know you and your family wraps him in all your love. You are all in my thoughts and prayers continually. Sending you love and hugs and just continue to love Benjamin and he will continue to heal as will your family.

  16. Jayne Says:

    The love you feel is palpable my friend. It took me a long time to honestly answer the question my sweet counselor friend asked me once when I was distraught that Sam was not able to function in a regular ed environment… “Who’s needs are you serving?” We want the best for them, and it’s our job as parents to help them be all they can be, so I fully understand your angst. But know this… Benjamin is able to participate in the world to the extent that he is ALL because of your love and guidance. If we’d done nothing, our boys would still be sitting in a corner spinning the wheels of the train, unable to participate or communicate in this world. So, I suppose we both have to gently see and learn about the boundaries of their abilities as we move through life, and then make new plans as we go along. Let the love and light guide you, make you feel peace, and lead you to whatever path Benjamin is to take. It’s simply a bump in the road… and onward we’ll both go… leading our sweet boys to whatever life makes them happy. I love you so much my sweet friend.

  17. wonderky Says:

    Thank you, Your photos told the story for me.

    I pray that you and Benjamin find peace.

  18. Vicki Lane Says:

    A wonderful post — such a blessing that Benjamin has a mother like you … All best wishes that there will be many, many more of the beautiful moments of peace.

  19. Clair Z. Says:

    Sweet Beth, I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  20. Darla Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Beth…many blessings and (((HUGS))).

  21. Clara Melvin Says:

    Beth, I just now found this post. May God bless you and your family. I love you because you are you. I’m glad Benjamin is there with you. I’m sure he feels all the love you bestow upon him. that is wonderful. My grandsons are the same….nothing has changed. I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May God’s love and peace fill your heart to the brim!

  22. Rider Says:

    You wrote that Mr. Blue was a gearhead. He once loved motorcycles, you said. And so I thought of you when I found this video.

    I know things have been kinda’ somber on your side of the monitor. That’s why I thought the video’s ending just might make you smile.

    http://vimeo.com/28742074

    *****

    Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas and New Year, Ms. Blue.

  23. Clair Z. Says:

    A warm and happy and loving Christmas to you and your family, Beth, from New Mexico!

  24. Ginger Says:

    Dear Beth, Thank you for posting. So I am a little late in getting caught up, but it is good to hear about your journey. I will be praying for you and the fam, especially Benjamin as I force myself to bake today. May peace infuse your day today. much love, Ginger

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