count the most with a boy like Brendan. S.A.T. scores
don’t matter. A really good hot dog slathered in ketchup
is the thing he enjoys, or a chocolate shake at the end
of a ride on our tandem bike. That’s living!
has inherited from his parents our love for good eating.
Thus, he has no handicap whatsoever in locating and devouring
any sweet we have tried to squirrel away for some later
time. He seems to be saying, “Let tomorrow take care of
itself. Let’s live today!” And his face glows with the
biggest smile you’ve ever seen.
has taught me to take pleasure in the simplest things,
to let go of petty grievances, to live for the day. We
do worry, of course, about tomorrow. That is the job of
parents. What will happen to Brendan when we are gone?
are of more immediate concern: What will happen if his
stormy moods worsen? What if he just gets too big to handle?
He chews on his arm sometimes when he is frustrated or
when he just needs some stimulation.
prepuberty, he likes to reach down into his pants and
pull on himself. What will it be like in a few years when
his child’s mind will inhabit an adult’s body?
a Miracle at Lourdes
of an autistic child, we have a thousand questions like
these. The therapists we take Brendan to listen and nod
with sympathy. Words come out of their mouths, but we
learned long ago that they don’t know the answers either.
Parents have to look somewhere else for answers.
the same time we were learning to adjust to Brendan’s
disability, I was beginning a spiritual journey to understand
and deal with this tragedy.
I was angry
with God for a time. We were good Catholics, so I thought.
How could we deserve this? How could a fate so cruel befall
a little boy, especially one who seemed so innocent and
When I stood
at the shrine at Lourdes, I asked for answers to these
questions or for some kind of sign. Better yet, I wanted
a miracle that would have Brendan speaking again as if
he’d never stopped, just as he did in my dreams.
answered me and no miracle happened. But I did get a feeling
of peace and calm.
on God's Door
people have told us that God doesn’t deal out challenges
that we can’t handle. I would like to believe that, but
I’m not always so sure. What about those people who seem
crushed by adversity? Did they just not pray enough?
very slowly, I have realized that in my incessant “whys”
I am a child, too. And I come around full circle from
child to parent to child again.
I have puzzled
many times over words in the Gospel about fathers and
sons. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask
and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and
the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks,
receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one
who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among
you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you
then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will the Father in heaven give
the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (11:9-13)
have prayed many times to God: “O.K., I’m asking, God.
I’m seeking, Lord. I’m knocking on your door. Open up,
Lord. Let the little boy talk. Remove these unclean spirits
that tie his tongue.”
I have looked around me, I have seen so many other parents
struggling to help their children who have cancer or cerebral
palsy, or another problem that’s less devastating. Their
faith is tested, too.
river of suffering flows through life on earth. What does
it all mean?
were kids and took family trips, we sat in the backseat
of the family car and asked over and over, “When are we
gonna get there, Daddy?”
God sees us as that way and has the same response: “Soon.”
time and my time are not the same, just as a parent’s
time and a child’s time are not the same. God reminds
us to hush and look at the birds in the sky, the lilies
in the field. They soar in splendor, they are robed in
majesty. Do we really doubt that God will provide for
a very good reason for telling us to become like little
children. Just as God sent Brendan to our family, he sent
Jesus to us as an innocent child.
became a man, he climbed up on the cross to show us the
way. He even asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?” (Matthew 27:46)
is a necessary part of life. But after suffering there
is life eternal. That is God’s promise. That is our firm
fathers take up our crosses and we struggle through life.
We stumble and despair. But we smile and keep going because
we know, through Christ’s suffering and resurrection,
that there is a promise and a hope.
will speak to me one day. It may not happen in this life.
But, by God’s measure of time, it will happen soon, very
A. Malone is a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who represents
injured people in medical malpractice and product liability