Two adorable young couples walked up to Joe and me as we were speaking out of town for a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember. We had just finished sharing a bit of our story about our children, including Joey (age 37 now) who has multiple special needs.
Their well-placed words to us sounded something like this, “We have a dear friend with a son that sounds just like your son. I wished they could be here to hear from you.” They shared a few things about him, the couple, and how close they were to them. I simply couldn’t resist sharing with them from my heart, “We wish they could be here, too, but I can assure you, that unless they have someone they know and trust to care for their child, they’ll never get to come to one of these. Here is something for you to consider: Offer to them, that next year, you’d like to send them to this conference. Perhaps other friends can contribute a few dollars here and there and you four can make up the difference and give them a gift certificate. Then, over this next year, take turns going to their home to learn what to do to care for him. Perhaps then, the four of you (and take your kids to join their kids) can go to their home for the weekend so they can get a way to this get-a-way. You’ll have fun being all together, praying for them, and knowing what they’ll learn and how much fun they’ll have. And, the four of you will be able to do what either one of the parents do alone on a daily basis. Furthermore, not that you’d look for this, but you would be their heroes! Additionally, your children would learn how to serve in a whole new way….and so would you. I challenge you to see how you could make this work.”
They looked at me with surprise; but not shock. They seemed to like the idea, just never having considered it. I told them this was the best way the church could be the church to them.
While I’d love to know what happened, I only know that I’ve prayed numerous times for them to follow through with that challenge.
We also recognize what a friend pointed out: that while some parents could get away when their child with special needs was little, things later on in life changed to make it impossible. As the child got bigger needs were greater, families get larger, houses get smaller, and for some parents, they were also adding the care of their elderly parents.
We have had the luxury of built in caregivers. In the early days it was the four grandparents; today it’s my (Cindi’s) sister Sue and our daughters. After Sue’s retirement from teaching she said her goal was to allow us the opportunity to minister to others and would care for Joey while we traveled to do so. Our daughters and their husbands have recently joined the ranks to care for him for an extended weekend as well (Cosmin and Kristina and Nathan and Kathleen) for which we are grateful.
We have no worries about him getting his medicines or whether or not he’ll be well cared for. We don’t wonder if they can handle a melt-down or his wanting to go to bed for the night at 4:30 pm. We know they “get” him and consider the ways he acts and responds and directs him accordingly
We also have friends, some from church, who have offered to be on a list in case we need immediate care for Joey, a break from Joey, or to fill in when our family might be caring for him but needs to step away without him (like for a funeral or other obligation). We know not everyone will offer; not everyone will even consider it. But when they have, we have been most blessed. Our list of about five has not had to be commissioned to care for him, yet. But knowing they are willing, able, and available to us means the world to us.
The dilemma of care for our child/ren is real on both ends of the spectrum of life, and for those who might be up for the challenge, considers this it!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, www.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/