A Mother’s Faith

A Mother’s Faith

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

A Mother’s Faith

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
~Japanese Proverb

Christmas with my brother, Ken, was always a magical time. He never got “too cool” to be excited over the holidays the way the rest of us did. Ken was born smack in the middle of my parents’ twelve kids. He was born a month early in an era when pediatric intensive care units weren’t what they are today. Halfway through the delivery, the doctors realized the umbilical cord was wrapped around Ken’s throat cutting off the oxygen to his brain. By the time he was in the doctor’s hands, it had been cut off long enough to leave him with cerebral palsy, mild retardation and profound deafness. But God is good and he more than compensated for Ken’s disabilities by lavishing on him a sparkling personality, gusto for life, childlike faith and a magnetic smile that drew people to him.

Because my brother, Mark, was born less than a year after Ken, and my sister, Gail, had been born ten months before, babying Ken was not an option. He was part of the gang from day one, and although he didn’t walk until he was twelve, he never had trouble keeping up with the rest of us, or the passel of neighborhood kids and cousins who hung around our house.

In the hospital, the doctors had advised my parents not to see Ken, to put him in a “special home” and forget they’d had him. They predicted he’d never walk or talk, never feed himself, and wouldn’t live past his tenth birthday. Ken was seven by the time I was born and I’m glad the doctors never told him any of the above. The Ken I knew was lean and taut, feisty and impish and ate anything that didn’t eat him first. He loved a party, loved being the center of attention and loved everything to do with Christmas.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was a year when our grandparents sent us a new swing set. From first glance, Ken was fascinated with the slide. He spent the holidays on the ground offering a blow-by-blow commentary as the rest of us slid down. He’d squeal with delight as we started down the slide, throw his head back and laugh when we landed with a splat at his feet, then chase us on all fours trying to grab us and tickle us before we could crawl back up the ladder again. (You did not want to get caught, because when Ken tickled you, he did not know his own strength.) He never tried to traverse the ladder himself. His scrawny, twisted legs just didn’t work the way they needed to.

The day the rest of us started back to school, Mama knew what she had to do. She bundled Ken up, took him out to the backyard, pointed him toward the ladder and began to pray.

“Okay, Lord, Ken wants to go down the slide. I’m gonna need all the help I can get to let him try.”

Years later, she told me how hard it was watching him climb and fall, climb and fall again and again. He tore both knees out of his pants, which he generally did most days anyway (his patches had patches), cut one elbow, bloodied his forehead and had one particularly bad tumble that left him rocking on the lawn crying and holding a knot on the back of his head while Mama forced herself not to run to his aid.

The neighbor to the back of us came to the fence and yelled at my mama, “What kind of woman are you? Get that baby off that ladder!” Mama told her as nicely as she could that, if it bothered her, she’d have to close her curtains and stop watching. Ken had decided he was going down the slide, and down the slide he would go, no matter how long it took him.

By the time the rest of us got home from school, Ken was black and blue and smiling from ear to ear. Not only could he get up and down the slide with lightning speed, but heaven help any kid who got in his way.

That swing set was a generous gift my grandparents gave us. I’m sure it set them back a bit. But the real gift came from my mom—my mom who loved my brother, Ken, enough to watch him struggle, to pray for the courage not to interfere, knowing how important it was for him to do things on his own.

That was almost fifty years ago. I wish I knew where those doctors are now. They were so ready to tell us all what my brother would never do. Obviously, they didn’t know the God we knew. What would they say if they could see Ken now at age fifty-five, living independently and holding down a job? They didn’t know back then that God had a much bigger plan for my brother and they didn’t know the mama who loved him enough and trusted God enough to give him the best Christmas present he’d ever receive.

~Mimi Greenwood Knight

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