Aaron and The Wedding

 

Two weeks ago we had…a WEDDING!!!  Our first wedding!!!

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Our daughter, Andrea, was wed to Kyle Kester in a perfectly beautiful outdoor ceremony at the Texas home of Kyle’s grandparents.  It had rained a lot there, even the morning of the wedding; but God told all the weather forecasters that He was sorry to spoil their forecast…that He had lots of people praying for no rain, so no rain it was. 

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It was a small wedding, the way Andrea and Kyle wanted it, and was full of close friends and family who helped with everything and shared in our joy.  Even my brother, John, married them…and his wife, Jeanie, was the coordinator. 

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Family.  When all is said and done, is there anything or anyone more precious to us than family?  And especially at an event as special as a wedding, family is there.  The pictures are taken, the hugs shared, the laughter abounding.  Family love is everywhere during a wedding.

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Yet when all the wedding photographs are finally ours to see and enjoy, we will look at our family wedding picture and have one missing member. 

Aaron.

Aaron could have been there…and yet he couldn’t.  Let me go back in time and explain.

Kyle, from the first time he walked into our house nearly three years ago, was a natural with Aaron.  We love that about Kyle.  He is patient…treats Aaron as an equal…knows how to talk to Aaron…and knows when to redirect Aaron more than most people do at this stage in their relationship. 

Aaron has a very close relationship with Andrea.  Aaron is the older by 18 months, but he still sees Andrea in somewhat of a mother role in his life.  He loves to talk to her on the phone, almost always about himself, but still he wants to tell her everything about his current movie or game or activity. 

But two things happened when Kyle came into this perfect picture.  The first thing is that, to Aaron, Kyle was taking Andrea away from him. 

“I still want Andrea to be my sister!” Aaron exclaimed when he realized that Kyle just might be here to stay.  We explained and explained, over and over, that nothing would change…that Andrea would still be his sister, forever…and that she would still come to visit, and we could go visit her.  And that if they got married, he would gain a wonderful brother!

The second thing that happened to Aaron was the process of figuring out just who Kyle would be in our family, and particularly who Kyle would be to him…to Aaron.  Aaron struggles with just who is who in family relationships.  He may meet a couple and later say that the man is the woman’s dad, not her husband.  Uncles, aunts, and cousins are completely impossible for him to understand.  And brother-in-law?  Forget it!!

Aaron wants to forget in more ways than one! 

“I don’t NEED a grand-brother!!!” he blurted out one day as he expressed disapproval over the upcoming marriage. 

We didn’t even tell him that a “grand-brother” isn’t a thing. 

Many of Aaron’s thoughts about all this marriage business, and the dynamic driving his thoughts, will hopefully be the stuff of another blog one day.  Back to our decision now about Aaron and him coming to the wedding…

Andrea called late one Saturday night last December with the very happy news that this had happened:

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 Kyle and Andrea’s engagement was not unexpected at all, but the reality of it was cause for so much joy.  We were happy, happy, happy!! 

Yet with Aaron, we were slow to tell him the great news.  We knew that he would not be happy, happy, happy.  The next day, on Sunday afternoon, we told him what he suspected to be true…that Andrea and Kyle were engaged to be married.

Not long after, I looked out the window and this is what I saw.

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 Aaron was crunching up mulch.  This is his long-standing way of relaxing…of unwinding…of thinking…of dealing with stress. 

My heart just went out to him as I looked at him sitting there, alone with his mulch and his thoughts.  How difficult it was, and would continue to be, for him to adjust to this huge change looming in his relationship with Andrea.

I opened that door of my heart and I cried.  I cried off and on that whole afternoon…some happy tears for the engagement…some sad tears for the reality that is always Aaron.

My thoughts had already, for months, turned to how we would fit Aaron into a wedding.  Initially, I tried to figure out ways that we could make it work, having a wedding down in Texas where we wouldn’t have someone who could help us with Aaron.  I knew that Kyle’s sweet family would do whatever they could to help us.  But still…

A couple weeks after the engagement, everyone was home for Christmas.  We have such a fun time all together, laughing and eating and telling stories as we catch up.  But Aaron doesn’t have such a fun time.  He does for awhile, but then reality hits him.  He is not the center of our time and attention.  He must vie for his place, take his turn talking, and eventually come to the dawning conclusion that our interest in aliens and nanomites and volcanoes and outer space is waning after several hours…and most definitely after several days.

Then there is all the hilarity as we laugh and tease and hug.  The cherry on top is our annual Christmas Eve Bingo game, with gifts to be won or to be stolen…loud and long…and miserable for Aaron.  He does not like parties…he does not like emotion, including too much laughter…he does not like Dad being goofy as he directs the game…and he does NOT like having his gifts stolen. 

It inevitably leads to what Andrew calls, “Aaron’s Annual Christmas Meltdown.” 

And it is not a tradition that we treasure. 

But this is who Aaron is, down to his core.  He can’t help it and he can’t change it…and certainly neither can we.

So when we were all here this past Christmas, while Aaron was occupied in his room and with Andrea’s beautiful diamond sparkling on her finger, we had a family wedding talk.  Specifically we had a “how do we fit Aaron into a family wedding” talk.  And the consensus was unanimous:  Aaron would not fit into a family wedding.

It sounds harsh, maybe.  Unbending on our part.  Heartless.

But you see, Aaron doesn’t see things like we do.  He has no emotional interest in family events like we do.  What matters to Aaron…is Aaron.  I say this a lot, but it’s because it’s totally true.  Aaron wouldn’t care about a wedding, on many levels, just as he never cared about family funerals or celebrations or anything else that was full of other’s emotions.

Emotions drive Aaron nuts.  So does having his routine disrupted…sharing attention with others…sleeping in strange places…and having to be around lots of noisy people who are not aliens.  He would love it if they were aliens, but they are not.  Just another bummer!

And what if Aaron was having a bad seizure day on the wedding day?  That would have been just awful.

So our only reason for having Aaron with us would be FOR us.  For us to say that Aaron was there.  For us to have the whole family together.  For us to have the photos taken (which Aaron would HATE, by the way). 

Andrea and Kyle’s wedding day was a day for them, and for both our families.  A day to relish each other and to enjoy every sweet moment to the fullest.  Aaron, honestly, would have made it impossible to do so.

Therefore, Aaron stayed back in Kansas.  Abigail “watched over” him, as Aaron says.  She and her fiancé Corey, and Abigail’s parents, David and Melissa, had tons of fun with Aaron.  At least I like to think it was tons of fun for them.  Ha!  It certainly was fun for Aaron. 

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And let’s not forget Gracie and Cosmo, who became Aaron’s furry friends.  He loved every minute of doggie licks and snuggles!

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We all live life wanting no regrets.  But when you have a child with special needs, especially behavioral issues, you sometimes must shift around your definition of “regrets.”  We do regret that Aaron couldn’t be at the wedding, but we don’t regret our wise decision to not make him attend an event that he would truly detest. 

Our special Aaron definitely makes our life unique and forces us to sometimes make very difficult decisions.  Often the best decision for Aaron, though, is the hardest decision for us to make, but Aaron’s needs and his happiness is what must come first.   

And trust me, we’ve all learned that lesson the hard way over the years…more times than I can say. 

Now the holidays are right around the corner, and we’re about to see how Aaron handles his new…

GRAND-BROTHER!!! 

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The Signature

It was last December 13, a Sunday afternoon, when I heard my text notification buzz.  Reaching for my phone, I saw that the message was from our friend Dona in Texas.  My first thought was that maybe she and her husband Steve were coming up our way and wanted to stop in for a visit.  But I gasped when I read her text.  Then I read it again to be sure that I had understood it correctly while hurrying downstairs to tell Gary the news. 

“Please pray,” Dona texted.  “Steve has had a major stroke and is being airlifted to a hospital in Dallas.” 

How could this possibly be happening?  Steve is our age, healthy and very active.  He had recently completed his Master’s; taught in the aviation department at LeTourneau University; and was a Colonel in the Texas Civil Air Patrol. 

All that day, Gary and I prayed as we waited for more news.  And my mind went back over the years of our friendship.  Dona and I went to college together at Piedmont Bible College, where Gary later joined our ranks as a student and Steve came as an aviation instructor at the Missionary Aviation Institute there.  Steve and Dona fell in love at the same time that Gary and I were doing the same.  And on May 26, 1979, Gary and I were married……and so were Steve and Dona.  We even married at exactly the same time in the evening, though in different towns.

Our friendship grew during the time that Gary completed college, Steve continued to instruct missionary pilots, and Dona and I worked.  Life was simple and sweet.  One day Steve told Gary that he wanted to teach missionary pilots how to fly helicopters, but one thing needed to happen first……..Steve needed to learn how to fly them.  Steve decided to try to join the army, learn to fly the choppers, and then go back to training missionary pilots when his time was up.  Gary had been in the army during Vietnam, so Steve asked Gary to go with him to the recruiter’s office in order to keep an ear out for anything that wasn’t quite kosher. 

Gary and Steve went to several appointments together.  Some people would say as luck would have it, but the four of us knew that it was as the Lord would have it that Steve did not go into the military, but Gary did.  Steve and Dona ended up living in Tennessee, where Steve was an air traffic controller.  Gary and I lived in six different places during his time as a military pilot. 

Steve and Dona remained dear friends over those years.  We visited each other when we could, with Steve and Dona coming to see us at several places where we lived, including here in Wichita.  They moved to Texas several years ago, and Steve remained active in aviation both as an ATC instructor at LeTourneau University, and as a commander and pilot in the Civil Air Patrol. 

Then came December 13.  It was a cold, rainy Sunday in Texas.  Dona had stayed home from church with a cold.  And Steve was found after church, lying beside his vehicle in the rain, mostly unresponsive.  A major stroke.  Airlifted to Dallas, where he spent weeks in the hospital and in a rehab hospital.  Home now, facing continued extensive rehab.  God has been so gracious to Steve.  Much of his function has returned, though he is still profoundly affected by the stroke. 

His life has dramatically changed, as has Dona’s, in ways that most of us never consider until we are faced with the reality of something like this……something completely life changing.  Dona writes about their life and about their Lord, and sends it out as emails.  She’s written these devotional and inspirational pieces for years.  What a treasure they are!  And especially now, as she has allowed us to walk with her as she walks with Steve on this path full of twists and turns.  She and Steve have always been examples to us of steadfast faith, but never more so than now, when their faith has been tested as never before.

In November of last year, Steve and Dona sent Aaron a birthday card.  There at the bottom was their signature.  Steve signed his name.  Dona signed her name.  That’s how they always did it.

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Then in April another card came from Steve and Dona.  My dear friend, Atha, had died and I was still reeling from her unexpected death.  Dona knew how my heart was hurting, so she pushed aside her own pain and she sat down to write some very encouraging words to me and Gary.  And then as she ended her note, there it was.  The signatures.  Steve…..and Dona.  But look at Steve’s, written with his left hand when he is right handed……and written after having to learn how to write again. 

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I burst into tears when I saw it.  Dona’s words were uplifting and so sweet, but Steve’s signature is what really got me, because it showed volumes to me of where Steve was now.  What a difference from November to April!  What life changes he is having to adjust to! 

And so is Dona, who is with him every step of the way.  How her life has changed!  Steve walked out the door that Sunday morning, and their world as they knew it collapsed.  But I know they don’t really think of it that way.  They see God’s hand in it all……they trust Him completely……and they are putting into practice the rock solid faith that they have cultivated in our loving God all these years.  But it’s still hard.  It’s not without frustrations and fears and tears.

Back on May 26, 1979, Steve and Dona promised to be faithful to each other, too….for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness or health.  So did Gary and I.  Steve and Dona’s promise has been put to the test, and they are passing…..with God’s grace…..with flying colors. 

Gary and I are very, very thankful that we have another year to celebrate our joint wedding anniversaries.  We are very, very thankful for the enduring friendship that we have shared with these dear friends.  We are very, very thankful for their example to us of steadfast love in the life changing hard times. 

And I’m very, very thankful for Steve’s signature that is so telling on many levels.  It tells of sadness, of strength, of progress, and of grace. 

Which means that Steve and Dona’s life really has God’s signature all over it. 

Happy Number 37, Steve and Dona!  Here’s to many more!

 

Who Did He Ask to Dinner?!


I was a senior at Piedmont Bible College in January of 1978 when this tall, handsome student came walking across the parking lot on a Wednesday evening.  We had a tradition at PBC on Wednesday evenings.  The guys would wear suits and it was a night for asking a girl to dinner.  Girls would sit in the windows watching to see who would walk over to Lee Hall, and if the guy didn’t usually accompany a girl to dinner then the tongues would fly as the girls tried to guess each new young man’s date.
 
On that night the new male student who walked into the sight of all those wondering girls was Gary Moore.  And walking back across the parking lot with Gary was me!  I would say lucky me, but I don’t believe in luck so in keeping with this being Bible college I’ll say that I was blessed!  HaHa!  But I was and I still am today……..blessed to still be walking with this wonderful man, Gary Moore.
My eye had been on Gary ever since I walked into the student center on our small North Carolina campus in January a year earlier and had instantly noticed this new second semester student.  He fit several of my very serious future husband requirements, the first two being:  1) he was tall  2) he was handsome.  Very spiritual, huh?
It was also convenient that I was the student council secretary/treasurer and that I had access to the student mail boxes………in which I inserted special announcements……and in which I also took a look at Gary’s mail to see if he was getting letters from girls.  Yes, I did that.  And yes, he was getting such letters.  So I gave up hope on ever attracting Gary’s attention.  I decided that it would be friendship that we would share.  But I sure did still notice him.
Things happened……I dated another guy during the fall of my senior year.  And Gary kept going home to Bryson City on the weekends….to see girls, I thought, but in reality he was helping out in his home church.  He actually attended a mission’s retreat that Piedmont held at Groundhog Mountain that fall because I encouraged him to come.  I didn’t know that he thought I was wanting him to come so I could spend time with him, so when I drove up with the other guy that I was starting to date, Gary nearly decided that he had already had enough of me.  
My boyfriend and I broke up before Christmas.  And just before I left to go home for the holidays, Gary came in the dining hall and gave me a Christmas stocking!  Except he also gave one to my best friend Janet!!  Now I was confused!  But when I returned from Christmas break, Gary finally asked me to dinner on that Wednesday night……and all the girls sitting in the windows were surprised that it was me walking to dinner with Gary.
We never looked back from that point forward.  Love was blossoming for both of us.  But soon there was a big bump in the road.   A huge bump for me, and could have been for us……..except for the integrity of this man I was getting to know so well.  
I noticed that something weird was going on with my neck.  I couldn’t quite define it but things weren’t feeling right in there at all.  Before long I noticed that my neck was wanting to pull uncontrollably to the right.  I tried to hide it but eventually it became noticeable to everyone.  And the pain became severe.  My dear friend Janet talked to my parents, and I ended up going to different doctors in order to find out what was going on with my muscles.  It was a challenge to finish my last semester of college, especially writing my senior thesis, with my neck pulling and the pain being so bad.  Plus the drugs the doctors put me on were strong…….things like Valium and other calming drugs in an effort to quieten those muscle spasms.
Doctors didn’t have any idea about what was happening to me.  Several blamed stress, so they put me on some pretty strong drugs for that.  Nothing was helping at all.  I walked around most of the time with my right hand raised up to my neck.  Holding the back of my neck helped relieve the spasms a little.  I hung on for as long as I could, finishing my course work and knowing that I could graduate.  But the pain was so strong and the pulling so severe that just before I was to march in our graduation ceremonies I ended up in the hospital.  
That was a tough time for me, but it was also a relief to be able to rest.  It was so sad that I didn’t get to march with my class.  I’ll never forget Dr. Drake, Piedmont’s president, coming to my hospital room along with Dean Reinert to present my diploma to me as I lay there in bed.  I think that was a first for them!
Mom and Dad were there as well, worried about me and wondering what was wrong with their girl.  And also there by my side was the man that had come to pick me up for dinner on that Wednesday night four months earlier.  He wore a suit on my graduation day, much like the suit he had worn on our first date, except now he sat on the side of my bed and we both smiled broadly…….just as if I was standing in that auditorium along with the rest of my graduating class to receive my degree.
On a fairly superficial level, my illness was exceptionally hard for me as a young woman.  It changed my appearance, making me look weird as my neck pulled and as I held my right hand around my neck a large part of the time.  I didn’t feel pretty at all.  And pain took a huge toll as well.  It’s hard to be your best or look your best when you’re absorbed in pain.  So on that level alone, I wondered if Gary would stick by me or if he would be turned off.
And what about the future?  We didn’t even have a diagnosis and had no idea what the long term would hold for me……..for my body and my health.  What man would want to venture into that arena?  Gary and I were not engaged……he wasn’t bound to me in any way like that.  Yet there he was, faithful to me with his support and his love and his attention.  He never made me feel weird or ugly or a risk too great to take. 
I moved home to West Virginia to live with my parents, and tried to get well.  Doctors still didn’t know what was wrong.  Gary still wanted to be with me when he could travel from college to visit.  He saw the pain and the awful reactions to drugs and the huge unknown, but he stayed by my side.  And one day he even asked me to marry him!!  I didn’t waste a second before saying yes.  Time and rest helped me get better, but the effects of my illness were still somewhat visible……….and I could definitely feel them.  
We had a beautiful wedding, where I even sang a surprise song to Gary. 
            “God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
              From beginnings love has grown, may its growing never end.
              From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.
              God is joining here today, families and friends.
              Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
              Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
              You are handsome in my eyes, I treasure and adore.
              But my heart determines this, I must love God more.
              Though I love you oh so well, I must love God more.
              I love you where you’re strongest, your strength can help me stand.
              I love you where you’re weakest.
              There I’ll care, I’ll help you there, and give your heart a helping hand.
              God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
              From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.”
So we began our life together.  Today we celebrate 35 years of sharing this journey together and with God.  We have three beautiful children.  We have tons of memories.  We have each other still.
Doctors know now that I have something called Dystonia.  I will always feel the effects of this muscle disease in my neck but I am so very much better than I was back in 1979.  Gary didn’t know this would be the outcome, though.  Yet he loved me regardless, and he showed his strength and integrity when I needed it most.  He’s still doing that today, and I am forever grateful.  
36 years ago I walked across that parking lot with that tall, handsome man.  35 years ago I walked down the aisle to say “I do.”  And I am so thankful that I did!