Sunday, November 3, 2013

You Don't Remember

When Patrick was in kindergarten, he was just completing all treatment for leukemia.  He had been on a steady stream of drugs and drug therapies for over three years.  His body, just turned six, could barely remember what it felt like to feel strong and healthy since over half of his life he lived with the effects of cruel chemotherapy. 

So, going to kindergarten was a big deal.  

He had virtually no stamina.  He got tired quickly add in what we were asking his brain to do.  We had placed him in a typical kindergarten with typical peers and crossed our fingers.

We knew the academics would be rigorous...but we also thought he could do it.

He thought he could do it too.  
He went about his days, learning to make the letters of the alphabet, learning to add, learning to come in from recess and learning to follow directions --  from all directions.
It was a huge task.

Every day I would toil with the uncertainty of it.
Were we asking too much of him?
Could he do it?
Could the school do it?
What did his peers think?
What did the other parents think?

I had no idea.

Then came the trip to the pumpkin patch about eight weeks into school.
It was obvious that Patrick was worn out...tuckered out.  
He asked me to hold him.

I cringed.

No one else was holding their kindergartener.
I wanted to say the tough guy...but I couldn't do it.
I could see it in his eyes.
He needed a lift.

So...holding him, inner cringing, here comes a mom with her camera 
(long before the days of everyone having a camera in their phone)
and asks to take a picture.
Although I felt awkward, I was touched by her out reach.
I didn't know her name.  She wasn't a friend.  
She was just a mom on a field trip and
she didn't seem to care that I was holding Patrick.  
She didn't seem to mind that he was tuckered out while all the rest were climbing hay bales and scurrying around.  
She thought this moment was picture-worthy.

Now here's the crazy part.

Apparently, she didn't just think it was worth a casual photo-op.
A few days later...yes, back in the days of developing pictures at a store...I receive in Patrick's backpack a clear plastic picture frame with a little red bow and this picture:

My pumpkin.

I was stunned.
Who was this stranger?
Who takes the time to develop a photo of some random classmate, put it in the frame, decorate the frame and somehow get it to the person?

I honestly couldn't get over the thoughtfulness...still can't.
When I see this picture, that still is on Patrick's dresser, every time I get choked up.

It was the tiniest touch of grace and goodness...a simple message:

I accept you.
You deserve to be photographed.
You are part of our class.
You matter.

This was my rainbow after a storm of not-knowing.
This was my sign.
It was all going to be okay.

I know this mom has no idea the depths her act of kindness has traveled.
She very likely doesn't remember doing it.
She definitely doesn't think it's still hanging around some kids's dresser.

Isn't it funny what sticks around and makes it to the trophy case of our life and lands on the bookshelf or dresser or wall?  
I always want to know the stories of these pictures because I know they're good...just like this one.

I actually forgot about that picture until a few days ago.
When the very same person came up to me, nine years later, saying:
"I'm so excited about this picture Beth.  I got his real smile.  I got him with his little buddy carving their pumpkin at just the right moment.  I'll send it in an email."

Sure enough...

...those smiles came through an email.

And I thought about her act of kindness all those years ago.  
About the door she opened of acceptance and inclusion.  I thought about her -- always behind the scenes -- taking pictures, remembering, capturing and holding close precious moments that drip.drip.drip away every single day.

She has no idea the lift she gave me many years ago.
She has no idea the example she set for me.
Her welcome couldn't have been any more warm or sincere.

I guess it's about time I said thanks.
Thank you for your kindness, your generosity and your grace.
I'm still holding it close many years later.

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