I am a cynic about “true love,” doubting that it exists—at least in the sappy-movie sense. The only “true love,” I sometimes say, is that of the Creator for His Creation. We humans are too fickle and self-serving to carry it off.
And, yet, something has happened in our neighborhood that makes me re-think whether true love can be found here on this earth.
There is a couple down the road from me (we’re in a rural area). They are in the latter-half of their eighties and have lived out here all their lives. We will call them “Mama” and “Daddy,” for that has been their main identity the vast majority of their lives.
These are kind, warm people. When my mother lived out here, they reached out to her in a kindness that she will never forget.
Their Son was born with severe disabilities over sixty years ago and has never seen nor heard so far as can be told. He has lived his life in a completely helpless state with no sign of recognition and few, infant-like, responses. His food must be specially-prepared; baby food, if you like. His care is total—he must be turned and washed and diapered.
Mama and Daddy were told those decades ago that their baby would never pull out of this state and that he should be institutionalized for the duration of his life. That life would not be long, the doctors said.
Mama and Daddy refused. This was their child; God had sent him to their charge. They would care for him. And care for him they did—for sixty three years now. His care at home has been impeccable.
Mama’s and Daddy’s “plight” as we outside of their circle see it, is unthinkable to most of us. I have heard whispers that their chosen path was a “waste,” that their confinement with this man-child was to no avail. I confess I have had some of these thoughts—hence, I refer you to my opening statements about the dearth of “true love.”
It appears that over the years Mama and Daddy have carved out a routine for themselves. Daddy worked until retirement twenty years ago, so the daily care of Son fell to Mama. Daddy was willing help while he was at home; and after his retirement he was able to help her more. They managed their lives by rarely going anywhere together. They rotated church attendance, for example. One would be at church while the other was on duty at home; the next week the roles would reverse.
There are neighbors who would sometimes “sit” with Son while both parents took a brief respite; but this was not often, and Mama would not hear of a “stranger” coming in to watch over her child.
The other night I was invited to some friends’ house for a convivial evening. During that time I learned some things about this family. For one thing, I was told that Son was in the process of dying and that a hospice worker was in attendance in the home.
I confess that across my mind flashed the thought that if Son passed, parents would at last have some time for themselves. I especially thought of Mama homebound all those years without a real social life.
My friend continued with even more distressing news, however. Daddy, it seems, had slid considerably into dementia. He had become forgetful and anxious, adding to Mama’s workload. They were coping fairly well within the confinement of their routine, but the hospice worker had warned that if Son passed away, the shock of this to their well-ordered world would most-probably cause Daddy to slip away mentally altogether.
There goes Mama’s chance for a “normal” life. There is no way she will give his care over to another. Care-giving is all she has ever known.
As we talked, my friend told me something else I did not know. Another neighbor—someone in his 50’s who had seemed hale and hearty to me just this past summer—had been hospitalized several weeks, diagnosed with a fatal condition. He would be leaving this earth within a month or two.
Then she told me this: For over ten years now (she is unsure how many years), each Christmas morning Mama and Daddy would find a HUGE, beautifully-wrapped basket left on their front porch. It was filled with all kinds of gifts that Mama and Daddy could enjoy at home: some luxury food items, some gadgets they might like—all kinds of things, especially selected for them.
Each year the basket bore the same message, “Merry Christmas, Mama and Daddy. Thank you for loving me and taking such good care of me all these years Love, Son.”
No one knew who had been leaving the baskets…until now.
Hospitalized neighbor was helpless in his hospital bed before Christmas. Because he had to enlist the assistance of others in the annual task, it became known that he was the basket-leaver all these years. Even his family did not know.
God had sent this man to serve Son in expressing the gratitude that he could not speak for himself…amazing.
I am a stoic by nature and, yet, I cannot speak or write about this without tears.
Son died later on the night of my learning all of this.
For me this story has spoken volumes. It is about the unconditional love of parents for their child. It is about true love that recognizes a need and fills it with a basket which is the message of love and gratitude—with never a thought for recognition.
And now Son is gone, with no further need of his messenger of love…and the messenger is leaving earth as well, just as the last basket is delivered and there is no longer that need.
Again, I say: Amazing. I am humbled. --C