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Happy Birthday Ricardo!

Today is my son Ricardo’s birthday. I just wanted someone to know. You see I love him so much it hurts. He is my hero and in his presence I experience the unlimited depth of God’s love. Ricardo is not “normal” by the world’s standard and most people have no idea that today he is twenty-seven years old. We will have a small celebration with our family but for some reason, I want to remind those who know him to remember this precious miracle who has touched so many of us with the indescribable love of God.

To Ricardo, “I love you son. You’re “abnormal” life gave me a life of love deeper than any other love I have or will ever encounter. Though you cannot grasp today’s significance, I thank God you were born and I am honored to be your mom.”

For those of you who don’t know Ricardo, here is a brief description of how we met and a reflection of our unique journey together.

Today is my son’s 27th birthday. So why is that so special? It is special because Ricardo is special. At the age of four, Ricardo survived both parent’s suicide, as he watched them die. He then survived being left at an orphanage eighteen hours away from his birthplace. At this orphanage he developed meningitis that was left untreated, causing total hearing loss. He survived that illness only to suffer severe abuse that left him fearful of anyone or anything.

While on a mission trip to Mexico, I met him when he walked over to the small trailer I was staying in and tried to peek in to see what was going on. He stared and said nothing. Having no idea he was deaf, I asked him to come in and he cautiously backed away. Over the next few days little Ricardo could be found sitting out by our trailer anytime we were there. Eventually, he came inside, sat down and just stared at us with a smile that melted my heart. I could go on and on with details of our divine introduction but I would shed too many tears and the blog would become a novel.

I ended up adopting Ricardo hoping I could help him not merely survive but thrive on a consistent dose of medical treatments, therapy and lots of love. He did thrive but it didn’t look anything like I had hoped for. He never developed the ability to communicate with “normal” people. He could not be educated with “normal” kids and has never had a “normal” friend. Instead of thriving physically, his ability to play, run and walk has slowly deteriorated to being confined to a chair or in his bed unless assisted. In 2004 he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease that will prematurely cause his body to shut down. I spent years begging God to heal Ricardo and lamenting about the undeserved trauma one little boy had to endure. I’ve asked the question “WHY” more times than I can count.

So why am I celebrating today instead of grieving all the losses? I celebrate because Ricardo has “gifts” that “normal” kids don’t have. He touched my heart and changed the course of my life. He has loved many of us unconditionally in a way that “normal” people are incapable of loving. For twenty years, he has screamed “Mama” the minute I walked through the door. My presence matters to him and his presence reminds me of the face of God, even when he is out of control. (Well most of the time.)

I can’t lift him or put him in the bath by myself anymore, but last night, his caretaker put him in the bath for me and I bathed him as I did for twenty years. Caring for his physical needs and bundling him up in a towel before putting fresh pj’s on him is one of those rare times between a mother and child that is indescribable. Even at twenty seven, because of his disabilities, there is nothing like tucking a clean little boy into bed with prayers and a good-night kiss. Thank you, God, for giving me one more day with your gift of a very special son.

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