The truth is that as much as I love my special needs journey, my children and my family, if you had given me a choice at the moment Nick was born, I would not have chosen this life. If the doctors had asked, “We have a cure, would you like us to use it?” I would have said “yes”—one hundred times yes! Of course 19 years later, I wouldn’t change a thing, but that’s not true of the beginning. So there is something extraordinary about someone who chooses to join in this journey, someone who can opt out and take the road more easily traveled. That one, she is my heart’s delight, and she is the one I want to tell you about today.
My typical son Ben met his first girlfriend and future wife, Priscilla, three years ago. She was 20 at the time, certainly old enough to understand immediately what the differences were in our family. As much as we were thrilled to see him embark on this next phase of life, we were also realistic enough to know that a disabled younger brother is not the most attractive trait that a young woman can find in a suitor. This sweet, beautiful young lady met the whole family just a few weeks after they started dating. We went to a restaurant, sat in close quarters, and Nick was in his full glory: funny, messy, cute and gross. It’s how we do restaurants and we didn’t filter the experience for her.
As time went by, and Priscilla somehow stayed in the picture, I noticed that she didn’t simply tolerate Nick. She loved him. She played with him, took care of him, and genuinely developed a relationship with him. She went on vacations with us, babysat him and discovered the highs and lows, ups and downs that come with Nick now—and in the future. Yet still, when Ben proposed to her on January 1st this year and she said yes, my momma heart was overwhelmed. Not because she was saying yes to life with Ben—he’s awesome and a great catch, if I say so myself. But she was saying yes to Nick! She was willingly, voluntarily, joyfully accepting a life with a disabled brother. She knew exactly what her “yes” entailed, and gave her whole heart anyways.
I wanted to share this part of our story with you because it’s important for you to know that others don’t always perceive your child as a burden. It is possible for strangers to find joy in our special children. We sometimes feel like our child is viewed as a liability to the outside world. But I’ve found that is not the case. The right people, the ones God sends into your life, will see them with a heavenly perspective.
Since Ben was very young, I prayed for his future wife. I prayed for her family, her protection, and for her to be the perfect mate for Ben. I even prayed for her relationship with me, that she and I would be wonderful friends and that she would love my son deeply and forever. What I never prayed for was the perfect sister-in-law for Nicolas. I don’t know why that never occurred to me, but God knew that the greatest trait that the future Mrs. Ben Gomez would have would be her friendship with Nick.
If you have typical kids, here is an important reminder for them—and you—today. Their friends and future spouses will be blessed by their special brother or sister, and will relish being part of their unique journey. If you read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, it becomes clear that the answer is simply found in true love. There is no reason to worry about the baggage that comes with a special needs sibling, because in God’s design and in the eyes of love, it is not baggage, but rather an extraordinary blessing. I didn’t know that when I first started out, but somehow our sweet Priscilla has already figured it out, and my heart and mind are simply overwhelmed at the miracle of her “yes.”