Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tattoo Theology

As parents of a daughter with special needs, Bill & I try to be aware of how living with a disabled sibling affects our other children. Annie's brothers and sister are called on to assist with her care every day, and no doubt experience the same emotions as any caregiver: love, frustration, exhaustion, guilt and burn-out. As parents, we feel a responsibility to not only to care for our disabled child, but also to help our other children cope, adjust and find purpose in their new role as siblings of a disabled person.

During the first year after Annie's brain injury, we scheduled frequent breaks away with our older kids--times to decompress, ask questions, pray, and often, just cry with them. We were intentional about guiding the conversations while we ran errands, or took them out for ice cream or a bite to eat. I remember sitting in the van trying to help one of them understand that although this horrible thing just happened to their sister, God still loved them and still could be trusted. Tough conversations.

You see, the reality with severe brain injury is that the old person you knew is gone and, confusingly, their body is inhabited by a different person. So it's common to feel an overwhelming sense of loss that the old person is gone, but you don't have the closure as with the death of a loved one. So you can feel a lot of guilt, because you're thankful that they are alive, but sad that their body is now inhabited by this new stranger.

These are some of the feelings we felt, and some of the feelings our kids felt but had a hard time expressing. Fortunately, at more than two years post-injury, much of the grief has receded into the background. What has taken its place is the daily realities of caregiving and living with a medically-complex child. But every once in awhile, what is going on in the minds of one of Annie's siblings rises to the surface and catches me by surprise.

For instance, our fourth son, David, turned 18 this month, and being 18, was now legally able to get a tattoo. So he decided to get one. Now, I know what you're thinking. And I don't have any desire to write on my body either, I write on the computer. But that's just me. Anyway, this week he came home and showed us his artwork. On his left shoulder is Annie's name, and "Romans 8:38," a reference to a verse in the Bible that says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Then he explained, "I know that no matter what happened in the past or happens in the future to Annie, God still loves us."

Now who is going to argue with that?


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39


Gretchen said...

Can I send my kids over for you & Bill to raise? We'd like liberal visitation, please. But clearly, God is IN this family, & you're doing something right, indeed. Hugs.

Anonymous said...


Tanya W.

Jean said...

Gretchen--It's good to actually see God's work sometimes, because it's easy to be blind to it with everything else going on. And He's working at your house, too!

Tanya--you are not. ;)

Sue Powell said...

Wow! What a kid! If he is going to write on his body, what a reminder to always carry with him!

Anonymous said...

Jean, you just made me laugh and I REALLY needed that today. Thanks! And you are right, I will probably never be speechless! I turned off the computer the other night, grabbed my husband and said "Listen to this..." and proceeded to tell him about your most recent blog. How about......awestruck by Gods incredible nature and how it plays out so vividly in your family. Better than speechless?

Love you!


Susan said...

Wow you certainly have displayed the love of God to your children. David did a very touching and profound thing to show his trust in the Lord.

And I know EXACTLY what you mean when describing so well what seems to happen when someone has a serious brain injury, or in my case, observing family members suffering from dementia. There is someone new wearing their clothes and living in their home. It is a heartbreaking thing to have to adjust to this new person who looks an awful lot like the old one, who just up and went away.

It's always very inspiring to read your posts, Jean. xo

uncle jeff said...

God is good all the time; of this we are assured:

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God.
Mar 10:18 KJV

And He implores us to make our requests known:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Phl 4:6 KJV

We are further encouraged to pray for one another:

Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Jam 5:16 KJV

And when we pray we are to rely on the Holy Spirit who helps us pray:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Rom 8:26 KJV

Lord, I pray for my sister and her family. I pray for encouragemen for all, healing for Annie, wisdom for Jean, and direction from You through Bill.

I also thank you for lending my sister, your little girl, Annie, to nurture, love, and raise for Your glory.

Thank you. And we know that You are good ALL THE TIME!

Jean said...

Sue P.--totally agree--the more verses the better, huh?
Susan--I need your insights on brain injury--maybe that RV can find its way to Seattle?
Jeff--Thanks for your prayers--we always need them--and it was GOOD to see you this week, too!