“Does it make any difference son—that I love you?”
This was my heartfelt plea as I sat in a Doctor’s office yesterday afternoon, trying to comfort my adult son as he cried uncontrollably into the palm of his hands. Mood disorder; barely three syllables long, yet, the ramifications of a manic episode could take days to describe.
As a little boy, whenever he couldn’t sleep, my son would crawl into our bed, cozy in between his Dad and me, and announce with certainty that he would fall asleep if only, “Mommy would just rub my back!” Each time he awoke from a childhood nightmare, this routine occurred and, he was right; it always worked! This day, as I sat next to my 6’4” son, I touched his back and began to rub lightly. I no longer felt the soothing connection, the warmth you feel in your gut when you know—you can make it all better. I can’t, I keep trying, but this is bigger than any childhood nightmare. Somehow, my son knows this as well. He didn’t lift his head from his hands, he didn’t relax; his shoulders just sagged in defeat as he continued shaking from the relentless emotion he was releasing.
“Son, I love you. We are here for you. We are proud of how you are working through this.” In times past, a manic episode would entail self-medicating, rages, and a rapid-fire, chaotic down-ward spiral. By the time we sat in the patient room this day, we had endured 6 days of mind racing, anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, and paranoid thinking. At each angst filled moment, our son had come to us for help. This engagement is a welcome relief; different from times past.
“Mom, I just…….can’t……..do……..this…….any……more!” he sobbed in between gasps. It reminded me of a time when he was 10-years-old and his school classmates relentlessly teased him day after day. You see, my son has Tourette’s Syndrome; and the 4th grade children did not understand his uncontrollable ticks. Driving home from school in our mini-van one day, my son asked me, “Mommy—would it hurt a 10 year old boy to die?” It was my time to gasp. When someone’s life feels desperately out of control, the desire to live is diminished.
“Son, you are doing this. You have taken control of this; you chose to see a Doctor today. You have decided to do exactly what is needed. You are incredibly strong son—and I know you can do this. We will help you; you can count on us. You don’t have to endure this alone. Does it help you to know, at all, that I love you?”
His only response was to sob. As the Doctor arrived, we began to review what brought my son to this point. It was then that I realized how far we had truly come. I remembered the times before that my son had not turned towards us when he was in pain; instead, he delved further into the distant land that all prodigals roam. I remembered the countless times he disregarded our offers to help. I remembered the times he angrily announced that he didn’t need, nor did he ever want to be like, us. This day, he sat quietly next to me as we discussed with the Doctor what direction to go. It was at this moment that I was given a gift of thought, an “Aha! Moment” if you will. It was a gentle whisper, “Your son is heading in the right direction. You are his mother; he is finding his way back home to you…and to me!”
Stomp your feet, clap your hands, sound the trumpets! Yes! A mother’s love—a father’s love, does make a difference! And the love of our Heavenly Father—empowers us and is ever present: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the LORD your God, is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
This kind of love has eternal value! His love makes a difference; I find rest in it each day. Oh, that my son, and all prodigals, could find their way home to His life transforming love!