Audrey, Marcus and I visited their soon-to-be new school during their Open House. It was the first time we really toured the campus together and saw what would be their new school community this Fall. As we peaked through the last few classrooms and walked across the playground, Audrey very gently walked toward me as if she needed a hug.
Me: What's wrong, babe?
Auj: (talking somberly) They're looking at Marcus, Mom. Everyone keeps looking at Marcus.
My heart sank. I thought I was the only one having to smile through the stares.
Me: Oh, Auj. They're not staring at him because they're being mean. They're looking at him like that because they've never seen Marcus before. And once you both start coming to the school and they get to know Marcus and how he walks in his walker, they won't stare anymore. Don't worry. They're just curious.
Me: What's wrong?
Auj: I'm sad. They're looking at Marcus because he can't walk.
I loaded the kids in the car, giving Audrey an extra long hug while assuring her the best I could that all would be okay. And on the way home, I heard from the back seats, the sweetest sweet-talk a girl could give her brother. "Marcus, look at those projects all the kids are holding! Mom, when I go to this school and if I make a solar system project, I want to give it to Marcus." And for minutes after, just one sweet word after another.
I always knew Audrey loved her brothers, but now I know that this love she has for Marcus is something fierce. And since that night, my heart has been heavy for my daughter, who is experiencing something I will never know for myself...loving a sibling with special needs.
My immediate reaction is to take away her sadness, as if I could somehow fix the situation so that she wouldn't have to hurt. But how selfish that would be of me, to alleviate the pain so that I, too, wouldn't hurt as both Marcus and Audrey (and Derek too later on) carry their own unique set of struggles. Because I know that although the lows hurt deeply, they allow for joys that can only be experienced after being pricked and stung. And so, as much as I have to give Marcus over to the Lord, so must I trust Him to take care of my daughter, whose pain only He will fully understand.
My sister gave me a pep talk after this night and she reminded me that this is a privilege for Audrey and that God would teach her things and open her eyes to a world that otherwise would never be known to her. And that is my prayer for my daughter...that this burden she bears would be a gift to her, that He would soften her heart to others who hurt, and that she would know more intimately her suffering Savior through being Marcus' sister.
I remember when she was only two, asking several times a day, "You crying again, Mommy?", the pain of Marcus' diagnosis still fresh on my heart although I had tried my best to keep happy for Audrey. I don't remember how I responded to her, but I didn't think that the time would come so quickly, when she would understand the reason for my tears. And so it begins...