We Believe: His Atoning Sacrifice

Nov 29, 2009 by

~by Heidi

My oldest son just turned twenty. As I watch him, this man who first made me a mother, I feel a glow of gratitude for all he has taught me about life, love and what truly matters. Still, his birthday always brings a sadness that the healthy, happy child with whom I bonded during my pregnancy is gone forever. Twenty years has been long enough to adjust to his multiple-disabled reality but the mourning still goes on, here a little, there a little, often when I least expect it.

Today I wake him early. My husband has a meeting so getting the Big Guy dressed for church is left to me alone. He bathes himself but I am needed to make sure all the shampoo is washed out of his hair. As I do so, I notice it is getting way too long and my inner critic chides me as to how much better it would be, in so many ways, if I just kept his hair short. But, things are never about the ideal choice around here and it is left to us to discern the lesser of two evils. Refraining from that which might upset the delicate balance in the Big Guy’s bipolar brain often wins and since haircuts are one of a long list of frustrating experiences it usually gets pushed off to another day–and then another and another.

I remind him to “look up at the sky” so the soapy water doesn’t run into his eyes. I reflect on how, if I simply say, “look up”, he won’t look up far enough and on how many years I have been going through this same routine and how it doesn’t matter how many times I say it, it always needs to be said, every single time. And then I reflect on how, as a young dreamer, I never dreamed I would still be needing to wash my son’s hair when he turned twenty and wonder what it feels like for other moms whose sons and daughters are off at school or on missions or just . . . On Their Own.

I push the thought aside and start on the task of helping him into his clothes. In order to foster independence, everyday clothes are without zippers or buttons but Sunday is replete with menacing traps of defeat for his unskilled fingers. I silently tell myself to remain calm, to not rush him or get him frustrated as I instruct him to turn this way–to do up a row of buttons–then that–to attach his suspenders, then back again–to attach them in the front. Again, I think on how many times we go through this ritual and how confused and frustrated he gets when he attempts to anticipate which way to turn without my help. It is a simple enough thing but his body’s failure to read physical cues conquers him every time.

I comb his hair and admire the way it curls, dark and shiny, against his bright white collar. The inner voice speaks again, this time with a message about the Big Guy’s need for a shave. I don’t listen. Instead, I tilt his head until the red in his slight beard glows in the sun and think how his whole head used to gleam like a burnished penny when he was a toddler, back when there was still the possibility that some girl would come to appreciate his gorgeous hair as much as I.

The possibility was a hope only in my mind but it is silent now.

I help him with his socks and shoes, tweak his collar and make one last attempt at taming that unruly lock that insists on falling over his forehead, and then I send him off into the world, knowing that it will all be okay, knowing that one day, when he has passed from this mortal existence into the next, he will have all that he has ever wanted (a wife, a home, children—a body that works the way it is meant to) because of the atoning power of Jesus Christ who not only died for our sins but also to bridge the gap between what we can do for ourselves and what we cannot.

And it is enough.


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  1. Pass the Kleenex.

    This is beautifully written, Heidi.

  2. Heidi, this is beautifully written. You are able to articulate what I feel in my heart. I have gained such a deeper appreciation of the Atonement since life with our little Samantha. Truly blessings come through our trials, and the trials with our children, and I feel blessed to know that one day all will be made whole. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Julie P

    Oh, this was just so beautiful.

  4. Janelle

    I was crying as I read this Heidi. This was so beautiful. I too, am so thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. My hope and faith lies in His great sacrifice. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us and for being a wonderful mother.

  5. Heidi! That was so beautiful!! You are an amazing woman!
    This post was extra touching to me. My brother has Down’s Syndrome, still lives at home and soon will be 30. My mom and dad do most of his care, but this weekend we stayed with him. It’s not always easy, but thankfully we can look to Christ!
    Thank you for this post!

  6. I loved reading this, even though you made me cry. I love hearing your experience, because it truly is testimony building. I admire you and all you do as a mother for your children. It is so obvious how committed you are to them, and you are such an example to all of us.

    Happy Birthday Big Guy!

  7. What a tender telling of your service to your son, even in times when you wish for things to be different. You are a loving mother, in every single sense of the word. So many refining moments for you as Heavenly Father knows your heart and sees your growth.

    I am so glad to know you.

  8. Michelle

    This is a piece that will linger with me for a long time. Thank you opening your heart here and sharing the power and blessing of the Atonement in your life. Bless you for your faith, diligence, and the nurturing love you give to your son…a gift not completely unlike the Savior’s gift to us — for you are giving and doing what your son cannot do for himself.

  9. Heidi, I didn’t come over hear with the intent to leave weeping. You are an incredible woman. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Marivic

    Heidi, this was a beautiful post and touched my heart so. What a great example you are of a mother’s love. Intellectually I always knew a mother’s love is the closest we can get to understanding our heavenly father’s love for us— how he loves us no matter our physical and spiritual imperfections even if the world can’t always see our real worth. Hence, the Atonement. But your example has made it more real for me. I have a deeper understanding of heavenly father’s love because of your example. It’s been a privilege to know you.

  11. This is beautiful. I love how the whole post is about what it means to be his mother and what his life is like and simply but profoundly at the end is the grace. At the end of the day, just as at the end of the post, that is what matters.

    You are doing wonderfully dealing with the looooong day that leads to that happy end of the day, Heidi. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Thank you, Heidi! I needed your post today…

  13. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  14. This is so beautiful, Heids. What a wonderful mom you are. You’re such an inspiration to me. The Big Guy is so blessed that you’re his mother.

  15. Lisa

    Thank you Heidi. That was beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. You have such a talent for writing.

  16. I had no idea that this was your world, Heidi. You are to be admired for struggling through all that you do with such dignity and grace. I wish that I could write of my trials in a way that inspires like you do.

  17. Oh, Heidi! I just love you! This makes me think of my older sister. One of the things I look forward to in the next life is seeing her live a normal life and have a normal brain. I just know she will be beautiful and one of my best friends!

  18. The strength of a mother never ceases to amaze me. You’re a fine example of one with immense faith in the Lord.

  19. As the Mother of a Celestial Child myself, I relate to your thoughts, feelings and expressions 100%.
    When my son was just 2 years old, a total stranger in the mall came up to me and asked what was wrong with my child.
    I told her he has cerebral palsy.
    She then asked, How long do you expect him to live?
    I was taken aback. I hadn’t even dared ask my self that question…and here I was, standing in a mall, expected to answer it on the spot.
    I said “Well I hope he outlives me. I don’t know.”
    The next time I went to the temple, I made it a matter of prayer.
    I asked Heavenly Father, “How long will I have Dean?”
    An answer: “It doesn’t matter.”
    Again, I asked, “How long will I have him?”
    Another answer, “It doesn’t matter.”
    A third time, I demanded, “Yes, it does matter! It does! I need to know. Because I don’t want to get so attached that it will break my heart when you take him. How long will I have him?”
    The heaven’s spoke with absolute clarity: “It doesn’t matter how long you have him, but how much you love him.”

  20. Jen Lauricella

    What a beautiful post. Inspiring and helps put things in perspective.

  21. Beautiful, Heidi.

  22. Easter morning and the beginning of General Conference brings thoughts of sacrifice, atonement, and resurrection to my mind. My spirit-guided fingers led me to this soft-spoken verse written and lived by a woman now so mentored in my mind. Visually, I see a flash of 20 years of moments described in this piece. Lovingly, this mother divinely fills her role as caregiver despite all obstacles and uses the power of her faith to endure. I honor Heidi and these words will aid me in caring for my 11-yr-old son with tourette syndrome.

    Thank you for your perspective.

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