Friday, March 4, 2011

Just A Year Ago

A little boy creates, and I give thanks for curled toes tucked under legs.

It was one year ago that Oliver was slipping from us. His body was shutting down, for no apparent reason, and no-one knew what was happening. A vibrant mischievous boy was convulsing so hard, he was induced into a coma and airlifted to a hospital  miles away. He spent three weeks in the ICU, and when he was finally healed, the doctors still didn't know what exactly happened.  A virus? An undiagnosed disease? A mystery.

When Oliver first woke up from his induced coma, he was a different child. He was angry and belligerent, which is not the Oliver we know and love. His memory was foggy and I was scared. My math wizard, my inquisitive boy, could no longer even write or hold a pencil. I was assured that it was all normal, but it wasn't normal for me. To see his sweet face and hug his precious body was amazing, but to not feel his spirit, his life-  was terrifying. What if he doesn't come back. Where is he? Will he ever be the same?

We didn't have time to entertain worries. We were still fighting for his survival. His blood pressure started skyrocketing for no apparent reason, and medicine was not controlling it. At first his kidneys were not functioning, but then he started developing a strange rash. Questionable findings on his brain showed up on the MRIs. Everyday brought new and frightening developments.

Miraculously, and I do credit the multitude of prayers and heavenly mercy, Oliver was healed. He took high doses of steroids for months, which posed their own problems, but a year later...he is back to our Oliver.

Praise God!

He gets thrilled over a drawing kit that comes in the mail, like I've given him a hundred dollars to spend how he pleases. He dives in right away and draws an impressive still life.

Just Yesterday he had gone to the woods by himself to plant a pine sapling "to use for a bookend in my room." Then he decided that it needed more sun than his room could afford and brought it to the dining room.

I am filled with gratitude for his healing in body and spirit. When he was sick I promised that if he ever got well, I would never take his sweet spirit for granted. A promise made by a scared mama, desperate for his life and thinking that my ingratitude had something to do with it all.

The reality is that such a promise can't be kept. I can remind myself of how grateful I need to be,and  I know how Oliver truly blesses us with his presence. But gratitude doesn't operate in a vacum.

Nerves fray, children annoy, life grates, and living isn't all peace and love because we are human. We  think if we're not one hundred percent grateful, then we are not thankful people. The fact is, it is precisely the niggling of life that makes way for gratitude. We give thanks in the midst of all the mess- the spiritual mess we stew in day after day.

I would like to be able to say that after Oliver got well I never felt annoyed with him again. I do have a greater apprecitaion for not taking my children for granted, but it is shameful how easily I slip into old habits- my spiritual slippers, worn out and floppy.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. She does such a lovely job of showing how to give thanks in the most seemingly mundane aspects of life. And this thanks, gratitude for the smallest graces, is life transforming.

I Have kept a "gratitude journal" for years and years now, but Ann's book has taught me how it is important to record even the smallest thanks in our lives. For example, yesterday I was stuck behind a school bus dropping off a load of children. A father was waiting expectantly at the bus stop for his children to get off of the bus. The children descended from the bus and ran to embrace their father. That incident went into my journal.

Ann has shown me how gratitude journals aren't about just what we experience and what happens to me individually. All instances of God's grace and beauty are cause for rejoicing.

Life isn't always beautiful, but a thankful attitude towards life, towards the smallest mercies unfolded can make life beautiful in a way that heals and restores our souls.