Part of Aaron’s inability to relate to our world socially has inevitably involved the issue of death. I’m thinking of that now because it was three years ago today that my dad died after his valiant fight against cancer. Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2000, and after his treatments we were very hopeful that he was going to be fine. However, in November of 2004 some routine blood work raised alarms and he soon found out that the cancer had spread to his liver. I’ll never forget that phone call and the ensuing days of sorrow and pain for our family – but also God’s amazing presence and peace. That will be for another story.
My family all decided to rearrange any Christmas plans we had and to all go home to be with Mom and Dad. We weren’t sure if there would be another Christmas, or another year, to see my dad. Gary and I, and our three children, all drove from Kansas to West Virginia to join my four siblings and their families for this special time. It really was a sweet time together. None of us knew that God would give Dad four more years to be with us. What a gift!
I’ll never forget the early morning that we left Mom and Dad’s to drive back to Kansas. It was such an emotional goodbye for all of us. We stood in their living room in a circle, holding hands, and prayed. Except for Aaron. All this emotion and all the tears as we openly wept was just too much for Aaron. He was confused and bothered by it – overwhelmed and unsure of how to express himself. And so he sat in a chair near us, and softly in a monotone voice he was saying, “Cry-babies. Cry-babies. Cry-babies. Cry-babies.” Over and over. It was actually pretty funny and broke some of the tension for us. Yet we knew not to laugh openly at Aaron because this was evidence that he was also struggling with all of the burden of possible death. He just couldn’t express himself like we could.
That scene also showed us that we couldn’t bring Aaron with us on our trips home over the next few years, and certainly not have him involved in hospital visits or funerals. He would be overloaded emotionally, and his actions and comments would be offensive to those who didn’t understand. Little did we know what the next few years would hold. In 2007, Gary’s mother literally overnight went to the hospital and never returned home. She passed away in October of that year. The next year, also in October, Gary’s dad passed away suddenly. My dad died two months after that. During that time we made several trips home to visit and to help, but we always left Aaron in Kansas under the care of friends.
Two years ago we decided to go back east for a visit with both of our families – and this time to take Aaron with us! When I told Aaron that we were going to make a trip home, he said, “So who died?” We had been so consumed with the death of our parents that he assumed someone else must have died! Aaron was delighted when we told him that no one had died, and that he was going with us on this trip! He had such a wonderful time getting to see everyone. We took him with us this year, too, as you know from my blog.
I have other stories to share in another post about Aaron’s handling of this issue of death, but let me share one more now. My niece, Ruth, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the time my dad was dying. Dad would pray for Ruth in his soft, weak voice. His heart broke for his granddaughter that he loved so much. It’s a long story, but God has healed Ruth and even blessed her and Robert with something the doctors told them would never happen – a baby!! Little Raphael was born this past October. One night after Ruth found out that she was pregnant, she and I were communicating on the computer while Aaron and I played Skip-Bo. Ruth and I were both crying as we talked about how happy Granddaddy would be that she was going to have another baby.
I couldn’t hide from Aaron the fact that tears were rolling down my cheeks. He looked up from his cards and just stared at me – and stared some more. Then he said, “WHAT?” He waited a couple seconds and repeated it – “WHAT?” It really troubled him to see me crying. So I told him, “Well, Aaron, Ruth and I are talking about Granddaddy and it makes us cry.”
And Aaron said, “Well, why are you crying for Granddaddy?! He’s already DEAD!”
Oh, Aaron. To some that may sound heartless, but for Aaron things are pretty well cut and dried………black and white. Dad would have laughed at Aaron’s response and seen the sense in it. And really, doesn’t his statement make sense? Even when I tried to explain that we were crying more for us and how much we miss Granddaddy, our tears should never be for Dad. He’s far happier than we are! And we know that someday we’ll see him again and enjoy all of eternity in heaven together………….where there will be no more Cry-babies!!!!!