Dear Doctor B,
You weren't Ethan's doctor the day you came into his hospital room eight years ago. You were on call for the weekend.
Before you left his room that day, you looked at me and Jim and said, "You need to be careful. Most marriages don't make it through something like this."
You thought Ethan was going to die.
So did I.
I knew you were right in your warning. During my days in college, studying special education, I read the statistics of marriages that would not survive a disabled child being born into a family.
I remembered that when people's dreams and hopes are kicked to the curb, many many times so are their marriages.
It always seemed like a double-dose of cruelty.
Yes Doctor B, I heard your warning to be careful.
But you see, it's almost impossible to "be careful" when you are just tryng to take your next breath.
When you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other.
There wasn't the time or energy back then to be careful.
And there wasn't for years.
Some days, even now, eight years later, there still isn't.
Because I saw the concern and compassion in your eyes that day, I thought of you yesterday when Jim and I celebrated our thirty-fifth anniversary.
Trust me Doctor B, it hasn't been easy.
It's never easy for two cracked jars of clay to be overfilled with the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for another.
The task of twenty-four-seven caregiving has shown every crack and imperfection and weakness in our jars of clay.
There isn't enough caulk, glue, or duct-tape to hold us together.
But we have made it this far.
Oh, there have been plenty of ugly days. Days when both of us wished that we could run away from one another. Days when our love for Ethan and the gratitude for his life have been the only things that have held us together.
In so many ways, our individual brokenness has been a cross for each other to have to carry.
We have been guilty of letting our hopes and dreams for our relationship get kicked to the curb along with many of our dreams for Ethan... and for our family... and for our future
No Doctor B, it hasn't been a bed of roses.
But it has been a bed of grace.
Over and over again, when our jars were about to crumble and break beyond repair, God poured out gifts upon us that were totally undeserved.
They were gifts for our healing.
He poured out gifts that held us together for one more day. For one more week. For one more year.
Gifts that were completely free.
Gifts that, because of our lack of faith, had not even been asked for.
Sometimes His gift came in a rainbow after a spring shower or a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
Sometimes His gift came in the early morning hours as Jim and I sat on the sofa and shared a passage from God's Word or the lyrics to a song.
Sometimes God's gift came from a pastor encouraging us and speaking God's Word directly into our fading hope.
Sometimes God's grace came to us in the love and affirmation someone gave to Ethan.
In the last year, God's Gift of Grace has come to us as He has bound up our pain and suffering from loss after loss.
On a daily basis, God gifts us with Ethan's gratitude towards us for all we do for him.
And on a daily basis also, God gifts us through Ethan's forgiveness when we fail.
God shows His Grace to us through the courage he has given Ethan to live his life, and through the joy Ethan has in the middle of huge disappointments.
Doctor B, you knew where Ethan was that day. You had seen the reports from all his other doctors. You knew the diagnosis, and the loss of hope. Because you knew, maybe you can understand what a gift it has been to hear Ethan say, "I'm glad that I am alive. I love being alive."
Many many times, God's Gift of Grace has come to us in the sound of laughter between Seth and Ethan and in seeing their embrace.
You don't know this Doctor B, but on the day of our marriage, we handed out little scrolls with ribbons tied around them. On each scroll was written the lyrics to a song by Andre Crouch that we had sung at our wedding:
"How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me?
Things so undeserved, yet You give to prove your love for me.
The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude.
All that I am, and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee."
So Doctor B, I want to confess to you now, eight years later, that we haven't been careful. In lots of ways, we ignored your warning. But God has been full of care. He has done more than we ever could have thought or imagined. And somehow we both know, as our marriage begins a new year, that Our God will continue to do the same.
Because of Grace,
I am Jim's wife and Seth and Ethan's mom
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."
2 Corinthians 4:7