Monday, November 30, 2015

A Very Special First Communion

To say that Kevin’s First Communion on Thanksgiving day was very special doesn’t even begin to describe this blessed day for Kevin and our family. We could feel the love of everyone that was with us at the Mass, everyone that was with us in spirit, and most of all the love of Jesus’ presence with Kevin and all of us. We are especially grateful to Father Jim for approaching us about Kevin making his First Communion, for his compassion and understanding, and for making this day with all who participated and celebrated in the Mass (3 Priests and the Choir!) so personable and memorable to us. Our out of town family was so impressed with our IHM family and how you embrace Kevin and make us feel loved and accepted as a full member of our church. Kevin has the title “special needs” associated with him, meaning “different from what is usual” but our family and friends make him feel special as in “greater or better”. Kevin’s special needs require us to adapt our life and sometimes it feels as if we miss out on “normal” life experiences but here at IHM and especially for Kevin’s First Communion the people of IHM show their love of Jesus by surrounding our family with so much love and support that “my cup runneth over”. It was very meaningful to us to see so many who have been a part of Kevin’s journey celebrate this day with us. Some of you prayed for Kevin, many of you came to our home to help with Kevin’s program, some of you still come to help with Kevin’s home program, some of you helped prepare food for Kevin, some of you built crazy devices to help with Kevin’s healing, some of you helped us financially on Kevin’s healing journey, some of you made Christmas time extra special for us, some of you walked in our door exactly when we needed you, some of you are new friends that will share the next stage of our journey, and some of you only know us from sitting in the front pew. We thank you all for showing us so much kindness over Kevin’s 11 years and for always supporting us with your love and prayers of hope. God has always provided for our family by surrounding us with faith filled friends and family. 

I wanted to add a few more things I didn’t mention above.

The Gospel reading for Thanksgiving day was from the Book of Luke when Mary visits Elizabeth and Mary’s Psalm of Praise, the Magnificat. The theme of joy and praise were very appropriate on this blessed day. 
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked upon his lowly servant.” 

This was easily one of the top favorite days of my life. There were so many times during the Mass that I was struggling with the tears of love that were filling my eyes. I loved watching Kevin and his cousins bring up the offertory gifts during the Mass. At the conclusion of the Mass, our church family gave Kevin the most loving and extended applause - and my tears spilled - and the tears still come to my eyes every time I think of it. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Communion on Thanksgiving Day

“Take this, all of you, and eat it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you”

Kevin will be receiving Jesus in his First Holy Communion on Thanksgiving Day. 

I am so thankful that our Pastor approached me about Kevin making his First Communion. We had occasionally briefly discussed it but one obstacle was Kevin’s gluten allergy and consuming the host. We searched and found a gluten-free host that is acceptable for Kevin. I was also uncertain what was expected on the intellectual and spiritual side of it. Father told me that for Kevin, he needs to understand that receiving the Eucharist is not the same as eating regular food. I sometimes feel Kevin is much more aware of Jesus’ presence than I am during the Mass. To help prepare Kevin for his special day, I made a book explaining what it means to receive Communion and how to do this in his own way. We also practiced taking and eating the unconsecrated host so he knows what to expect. 

Father Jim thought maybe we could do it on Kevin’s birthday but we didn’t have enough time to prepare and so he mentioned Thanksgiving as a possibility. It has been so uplifting to have this exciting and blessed milestone to look forward to. It was a real boost for me as we approached Kevin’s birthday this year. Thanksgiving is a very opportune time because our entire family can be here to celebrate with us. The word Eucharist means Thanksgiving so it seems very appropriate for this special day. 

I was given so many signs that this was the right time for Kevin. One small sign was that Thanksgiving falls on the 26th this year. You may know that 26 is a number that continually appears as a special day for me. I also have to mention that it is Kevin’s Great Grandma’s 91st Birthday that day too. This is my Grandma that used to visit us every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. 

Like many people, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no expectations with gifts - it is simply just sharing a meal with people we love and giving thanks for it all. It is also the one holiday that my family comes to celebrate at our house and I love having them visit us. This year the entire G Family will be here - so that means 14 people in our house from Wednesday through Saturday - Kevin and I will love every minute of it! 

I was reflecting back on when and how Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving when I was growing up and my Grandparents coming to visit us. After I was married and before Kevin was born, I always chose to work on Thanksgiving so that I could have Christmas off to travel to be with family - so it wasn’t really my favorite holiday at that time. I think it had to be Kevin’s second Thanksgiving. We had had our first visit to The Institutes about two months before and one of the major things that changed right away for us was that Kevin was finally eating - oh Kevin’s eating was such a challenge before that - we were still discovering all his allergies, he was underweight, and a few other unpleasant memories. But after that first Institutes visit he started eating like a champ and I remember being so thrilled that he could eat our Thanksgiving meal - pureed. This is one of the things I still love about this holiday because Kevin doesn’t need a separate meal he can eat our Thanksgiving meal…and now Kevin also gets to partake in the Eucharist too!

Not long after we began discussing Kevin’s First Communion, I read this reflection on September 29 in the book by Sarah Young called Jesus Calling or as we like to refer to it as - The Little Orange Book
“I desire to be your closest Friend, yet I am also your sovereign Lord. I created your brain with capacity to know Me as Friend and Lord simultaneously. The human mind is the pinnacle of My creation, but so few use it for its primary purpose - knowing Me. I communicate continually through My Spirit, My Word, and My creation. Only humans are capable of receiving Me and responding to My Presence. You are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made!”
Those are the same exact words “fearfully and wonderfully made” I used to describe Kevin when reflecting on the Healing Mass that we went to only a week before Father Jim approached me. This reflection first caught my attention because it talked about the brain and since Kevin has brain damage due to an in utero stroke, I was paying close attention to what the reflection was saying and I remember thinking - the rest of us clutter our brains with needless worry and thoughts - but not Kevin. I have no doubt that Jesus is Kevin's Friend and now he will get to receive Him - what a gift!

RubberDucks and Cavaliers

We were finally brave enough to take Kevin to his first Minor League Baseball game. Over the summer we were given free tickets through Summit DD so we thought it was worth a try. I wouldn’t say he was excited to be there but I was very surprised that the sounds and stimulation didn’t seem to bother him - he didn’t even need to wear the noise canceling headphones.

On October 30, Kevin went to his first NBA game. Jon’s new boss invited us to the Cavs home opener in a loge. I thought this would be a better option bringing Kevin with us, not being sure if he would be able to tolerate the noise - but the loge was open and not a place to escape from the sounds and stimulation. Kevin did need to wear the noise canceling headphones during the game. He seemed to enjoy watching people and the lights. And after he had his favorite snack his energy perked up and he was smiling and interacting with the other guests - which helped me relax and enjoy myself.

And since I am talking about tolerating noise and stimulation - I’ll mention here that Kevin is tolerating clapping in church so much better - just this month as a matter of fact. He doesn’t grab my hands to put over his ears - he hardly startles - lets hope this new tolerance sticks.