Monday, December 22, 2008

Defining Faith


Here is what Webster's has to say about faith:
function: noun

1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions
2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Here is what I have to say about faith:

Though it seems like only yesterday, fifteen years ago I was deep in the midst of a predicament. I had a 2 year old child with profound mental impairment, and at the time, I had no label or name by which to call this problem. The only thing I knew was our family was living a hellish existence. We had a beautiful child who seemed whole at first glance, but was quite frankly, out of her mind. She never-and I mean pretty much never-slept. Perhaps the most respite we could expect was 2 hours of sleep a night out of her. She was awake the rest of the day and night and those hours were full of nonstop activity. Most who read this are parents and can probably imagine the toll this lack of sleep took on all of us. Not a soul in our house slept through the night.

Early on in this journey, we learned to adapt to her bizarre schedule. I worked afternoons, my husband worked days. We enrolled her in a special school across town. At 8 AM, my husband would drop her off at school. At 1:30 pm, I would pick her up from school and take her to grandma's or a neighbor's house then head in to work. My husband would pick her up and take her home. He'd put her to bed at 10 and when I got home at 12 AM, she'd awaken and stay that way until he took her to school the next day at 8 AM. My husband would sleep while I watched her, and then I would sleep when he took her to school. It was an awful lifestyle that most never have to contemplate. The world revolved around this child. When she wasn't in school, she was in physical, speech, occupational or sensory integration therapy. The ones who needed therapy were us. Psychotherapy. We didn't get it, nor did we have much help from outside our family nucleus.

We chased answers and cures to Rachel's problems. We spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to make her normal. One day, an occupational therapist mentioned a specific doctor she thought we should see at the University of Michigan. Taking her advice as gospel, I made an appointment. At the time, Rachel was just shy of three and the waiting list to see this doctor was incredibly, an entire year long. In October of 1993, I scheduled an appointment for October of 1994.

A mere three months later, my ability to cope was fragile. Burdened with work, an impaired child and sleep deprivation, I found myself on autopilot. Getting through a day meant we just put one foot in front of the other and never stopped to think about the steps. One day, I'd picked her up at school and was driving her home. Rachel was in her car seat screeching bloody murder. She was inconsolable, and suddenly, so was I. Without warning, I felt my desire to live just crumble. Uncomfortable and overwhelming thoughts consumed me. I wanted to die and take her with me, leaving my husband to care for the other two I left behind. The frozen lake looked so enticing. I found myself thinking how easy it would be to steer the car off the road and drive until the ice gave way. There is no doubt I was a person in crisis. Frightened, isolated and overcome with despair, I pulled over that day and sobbed. I wasn't particularly religious, but on that day, I prayed aloud to God for help and guidance. I could not bear this burden alone for one more day.

I don't recall driving home that day, but what was waiting for me on my answering machine will be etched in my heart and mind forever. There was a call from the University of Michigan's Developmental Disorders Clinic. They'd had a cancellation and wanted to know if we could take that assessment appointment even though it was nine months earlier than expected. Though Rachel would never be cured of her problems, there would now be help for her, and sleep for us. And hope. There would be hope. I know a gift when I see one, and now I know the answer to prayer when I see it too.

Do I have faith? In abundance. I won't ever forget this time in my life, nor the one time I had such acute awareness that my prayer was answered. To this day, I give thanks for that not so little miracle.

12 comments:

flydragon said...

A story filled with heartache and hope, frailty and faith. God bless.

The Crusty Crone said...

{{{ Rudee and family }}}

Thank you for sharing that experience with us. To think of all of those waiting for their appointments and they picked you as you 'stood on the edge'.

I'm sitting here with no words but big ole heart-feeling tears rolling down the old cheeks.

I think you (and family) are amazing.

Brenda said...

You give my tear ducts good exercise Rudee. None of us can ever begin to know what life has laid before you to deal with each and every day, but I heard the message you meant for us to hear. Never give up and count your blessings. They are there just waiting to be found.

Rudee said...

I don't mean to make people feel saddened by this. Really, we are more blessed than most. It does seem natural to examine faith at this time of year. I thought I'd share my experience with faith and what it means to me. God put a particular doctor into my life-at the precise moment I needed it most.

A few years after I met that doctor, I told him my story of how I came to see him-9 months earlier than scheduled. After that, once in a blue moon, he'd have a cancellation and he'd call me personally to see if I knew of any at risk families who needed to see him right away.

Sandy said...

What an incredible miracle and I can't imagine, don't even want to, how hellish this must have been. You are a stronger woman that I because I probably would have driven to my demise...

wow....wow....like CC said, your family is amazing.

Rositta said...

It's all been said by your other commenters, miracles happen at the strangest times, just when we need them the most...ciao

Lisa L said...

Rudee. I read your post early this morning and have been thinking about you and your situation all day. How hard the earlier years....thank god you didn't have to wait a year (a year!!) to see a specialist. I hope her symptoms are managed now (I'm sure they are!) You are amazing. ((((hugs))))

BJ said...

That was beautifully written Rudee. And thanks so much for sharing it with us. You indeed, are an amazing family. In my heart I feel like God chose you....he knew what a special family you were. He brought you closer to him...and in turn he gave you hope & faith. I do believe, with all my heart, that prayers are answered.

((((Hugs))) are being sent your way! God bless.

distracted by shiny objects said...

It's odd the times and places that God makes His presence known.
Blessings to you and your family and many more moments of joy.

Rose said...

Wow. I can't imagine how tough that was on all of you. So good of you to share your story of faith.

Rose said...

That reminds me that we can never know for sure what the person next to us is going through. There are a number of tough stories happening at my work right now and many more that I have no idea about. Thanks for reminding me to practice compassion.

Betty Flocken said...

Oh Rudee; what a profound post. I can't imagine the hell you lived through in those early years. And yet you make your living seeing people through the most difficult time in their lives while easing the transition from this world to the next for their loved ones. You're amazing. I'm glad you kept the car straight that day.
Merry Christmas