More than 2,500 miles from home, while visiting a school for children with special needs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I studied a student’s drawing of a loved one with a round head and a stick body. The drawing resembled the artwork of Colin, my adult son with autism, and the thought of the similarities rested in my heart.
God’s grace helped me to outgrow my longing for Colin’s artistic skills to develop beyond those of a young child and to see the beauty of the love that his drawings convey. A passage from the Book of Wisdom, the first reading for Nov. 12, comes to mind: “Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them” (Wisdom 13:1-9).
God, the original source of beauty, fashioned each one of us, a reality I hope to contemplate daily in my interactions with others. Admittedly, the distractions and occasional frustrations of the day cause me, at times, to lose sight of the fact that each person with whom I interact has been fashioned by God. Sometimes, that person with whom I interact in frustration is a member of my own family!
When I returned home from the border immersion experience that included the visit to the school in Ciudad Juarez, Colin seemed especially grateful to see me. Over the years, I have teased him that he loves his brother more than he loves his mother. Patrick is the first person Colin asks about and wants to see.
On Nov. 12, which is Patrick’s birthday, we waited to celebrate with a pizza dinner until Colin finished his part-time janitorial job. He arrived at our house that evening with a couple of pizzas to bake, a birthday card for Patrick and a note for me. The folded note, written in Colin’s choppy printing, read, “To Mom, I love you very much.” The note touched me deeply.
We enjoyed our pizza dinner, bonded as a family and then Patrick took Colin home. The next morning, I found birthday cards for Patrick on the coffee table in our family room. He had forgotten to take them home. I noticed that the envelope containing the birthday card from Colin read, “To Patrick” and “To Mom.” I opened it up. On the top left side of the card, Colin wrote:
“Happy Birthday, Patrick. I am proud to be your brother.” At the bottom of the card, Colin had drawn a star before the message, “I love Mom too.” My heart swelled with love.
Patrick didn’t mind that his brother had included me in the birthday card. “I think it’s neat. Colin was thinking of both of us and he thought about it on his own,” Patrick told me.
The written notes, coupled with hugs and inquiries about how I’m doing, left me wondering about these exceptional displays of love. I asked my husband Steve, who suggested that ongoing changes might be a contributing factor. Colin started a new job a couple of months ago for the first time in a long time. His brother also started a new job a couple of months ago and my weeklong absence was out of the ordinary. The weather is changing and Thanksgiving and Advent are just ahead of us.
Expressions of love may be Colin’s way of coping with change and his gratefulness that his family is a constant in his life, a stabilizing reassurance in a chaotic world. The child at that school so far away in Ciudad Juarez may have felt the same way, drawing a portrait of love that all of us can understand and treasure.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)