When asked to speak on the topic This I Believe, I immediately thought of my middle son, Ari. For those of you who do not know him, he is nine and he has already had to deal with much more than most of us. We have always known that he is special. He is very bright. He forms intense relationships with adults. He sees the world in 3-D and is visually perceptive. He is able to look at the last page of a Lego manual and without reading the directions build the entire structure. He excels at games involving logic and last year he figured out multiplication and square roots using the sugar packets at Denny’s. When he is happy, you can’t help but be happy with him.
He has also been to the Emergency Room five times, three of them by ambulance after 911 calls. He has a three hundred-page book, which includes all of the different neurological and psychiatric tests that have been performed and all of his different diagnoses. He has been on many different “cocktails” of medications, some of which made him so doped that he was either vomiting or sleeping. By the time he turned eight, he had already been in three different psychiatric hospitals. He lived last year in a residential program in Pittsfield, MA and came home to us just two months ago.
Most importantly, though, Ari wakes up every morning smiling. He approaches each day expecting it to be perfect. I awaken to his sweet moon face smiling at me, telling me how much he loves me. After a quick snuggle, he is off to start the day. However, he is also inflexible and his reactions are not always predictable. He gets frustrated easily, becomes overwhelmed with anger and loses control. Sometimes the situation is so dangerous that my other two children must flee to the safety of their bedrooms. Afterwards, Ari is always sad and remorseful. By the end of most days, we are all physically and emotionally exhausted.
Recently, Ari and I were having a discussion which involved having to make a rather important decision for him. I asked him what he would choose if it were up to him and he replied, “I don’t know”, his way of avoiding having to talk about it. I pushed, though, and asked him what he would choose if he had to. He answered, “I would ask God.” “Do you believe God would actually talk to you?” He looked at me as if that were the dumbest question I had ever asked him. “I would just know what God thought was best for me.” Ari’s faith in God is so strong that he believes God is always watching over him. Despite what life has dealt him, he believes God always has his best interest in mind.
When I tuck Ari into bed at night he often says the same thing to me. “I love you, Mommy, but not more than God.” Then he adds, “I’m sorry.” This boy, who is so special in so many ways, has a faith in God that is so deep it even surpasses his love for his parents. Sometimes, while I am lying in bed worrying, I wonder, “How did he get that faith?”
As his mother it would be easy to fall into an abyss and decide not to get out of bed. Instead, though, I try to face each day as Ari does. Every morning I wake up trying to be like Ari, trying to believe that this day has a chance of being perfect. Through him I have learned that one cannot always explain why things happen, one can only accept that they do. And, like Ari, every day I smile. For I do believe that no matter how bad things seem, a smile will always make me feel better. I am learning to believe that God is always watching over me and protecting me.
I want to end this by reading a quote that we have hanging in Ari’s room by an artist and storyteller by the name of Brian Andreas. Bill and I chose this for him shortly after he was born. It is called Fair Trade. I’ll bet you do something important he said & I said the most important thing was watching while he slept & he said he’d do the same for me someday & we shook hands & decided it was a fair trade. Without even knowing how special Ari would be, we chose this for him. Maybe what Ari has taught us is faith.
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