It was a question I knew would come at some point.
But it still took my breath away.
“Is a stroke forever?”
My sweet Merci.
My seventh child. Fifth daughter. Oldest of the twins.
And the one who had a stroke at birth.
She went there.
“Is a stroke forever?”
Merci wandered up to me in the middle of a fairly average day and asked me that question.
The stroke she experienced as a baby placed her in physical therapy and occupational therapy for most of her toddler and preschool years. Her left side is the affected side, her left arm and hand compromised and crimped, her left leg lagging a bit in her walk and gait.
Her stroke is no new news for her. We’ve never shied away from talking about it with her. And someone can’t spend the kind of hours on exercises and treatments and stretches that this kid has without being fairly clear on her condition.
And yet it is.
In this way.
She’s coming to a greater awareness of the differences she has from her peers. And she’s realizing what we had to heartbreakingly accept a while back…
Her left side isn’t getting ‘better’.
And heavens, she’s quite creative in working around the challenge.
The affects of the stroke remain.
The stroke remains.
But I don’t ever want her to stop pushing and working. I don’t ever want her to think that she is powerless to affect change. And I know a stroke isn’t forever. I believe that promise that on some eternal day we will have forms to clothe our souls that are infallible in design and deed and will exist impervious to the grind of gravity and mortality.
There is no night there.
And no strokes. I’m pretty sure.
But this is today.
And on a day not so long ago, she had a stroke.
And the reality of that, of what it means from this point forward, is beginning to illuminate for her.
She’s realizing that it’s not something like a cold or a tummy bug.
It’s not going away.
It’s the duality of my role as her mom that makes me spin.
I owe this girl the truth.
I owe this girl hope and vision and motivation.
That, short a touch of God or a medical miracle, this stroke is here to stay.
Hope that she will still continue to stretch and work, that her left side may have greater mobility and will serve her well.
I’m still working out that dialog.
So on that fairly average day, in the middle of the day, when she asked me her question, when I went still and silent and I could feel the tick of time’s clock…
On that day, I said this:
‘This stroke is not forever. One day, when God takes us home with Him, we will all be healed from whatever challenges we have in our bodies. But, for now, this stroke is here. And it’s part of your story. And part of who you are. And some days that’s hard and it’s a part of what makes you special. It’s not forever. But it may be for a long, long time.’
She considered that.
And stretched her cramped left hand.
And grinned that slightly squinted smile. She wandered off to play.
I went back to my tasks. And let my heart bleed and ache a while longer. And struggled a bit in what I told her. Was it fully true?
Even though I don’t believe this stroke will be forever, this stroke may be forever.
In this way.
The piece that I suspect may be forever is that her stroke has etched its mark on what I feel is eternal in us as a family, those deep folds of the spirit. It’s pushed us to a deeper level of compassion in some areas and conversely made us less compassionate with excuses. Telling her story and the story of other families with children with special needs has become a huge component of my life’s work. Advocating for those families makes up much of my heart’s beat. That stroke is a huge part of helping us see how an eternal God sees us, that we have our weakness and we need Him to do the things we can’t. And He also expects us to keep trying and to keep pressing and to keep stretching, even in our weakness. That stroke put spiritual readers on lines of spiritual truth for me.
That part of it is forever.
No, baby, a stroke isn’t forever.
And yes, baby.
A stroke is forever in that it has brought eternal dividends.
And a grateful yes.