Isn't it amazing how, just when we have God all figured out and put in a box and labeled, He opens our eyes to some new awesome aspect of Himself? And, just when we have settled down to "life after God's miracle," He allows Dale even more progress in certain areas? Here's what I mean:
We have pretty much gotten used to Dale not having seizures now. When presented with a situation which would have formerly resulted in a seizure, Dale now handles it just fine. His limbs still jerk; he will still fall over; he still gets scared; but he maintains control over his brain and doesn't black out or anything. We have also gotten used to Dale taking only a few steps before pausing when walking. Even when holding someone's hand, he will pause frequently while walking. Lately, we have been purposely making Dale walk on his own, without any hand support, in order to help him become more independent. Although he is doing great, he will only take perhaps three or four steps before pausing and readjusting his balance in order to keep walking.
Sunday night, while walking out of church, I remembered something that we had been working on with Dale some months ago---swinging his arms gently as he walked. I told Dale to try this.........and you wouldn't believe the difference!!! He straightened up, began swinging his arms, and walked some eight steps before pausing! Wow, what a sight! Katie and I were both excited and urged him to try again. Dale again began swinging his arms and walking; he must have taken another eight steps before he felt the need to pause for a moment. He kept this up all the way to the car. It was amazing! Just when I was despairing, thinking that three-steps-pause was going to be Dale's method of walking for the rest of his life, God opened up another pathway in his brain and allowed Dale to walk well-balanced and smoothly---normally! I told Dale that Alison (PT) would be thrilled to see this, and he got to show her yesterday at our PT session. His maximum there was eight steps at one time before pausing. She told me, "I don't think I can keep up with him now! He's basically walking on his own, unsupported." And she's right; Dale takes such long strides that she and I have to scurry to keep pace with him. He practiced walking up and down stairs, then went to the skybridge (usually a real chore for him) and walked up and down its length with ease. Alison challenged him once back inside the PT gym by laying out two rubber balance beams end to end, having Dale hold a hula hoop around his waist, and walk heel-to-toe down the length of the beams and back again. She did have to support him on the beams, but he did really great handling all the distractions while balancing (placing one foot in front of the other, positioning or repositioning his foot to maintain his balance, ignoring the sound of the balls inside the hula hoop going round and round, plus other noises of therapists with their patients, etc.). She also had Dale practice pulling the hoop over his head (not on the balance beam!), dropping it to the floor, stepping forward out of the hoop, twisting slightly while reaching back to pick up the hoop, and repeating the process. He had an absolutely stellar day!
But, even better, when we left the PT clinic, Dale began walking longer and longer between pauses. He would take ten, fifteen, twenty strides before pausing! He looked so natural and comfortable that I wanted to cry---but I couldn't take the time to stop and dry my eyes, so I held back the tears. We went from PT to SP yesterday, and even at SP, Dale walked to and from the building with ease, walked down the hallways and into her office without trouble. I'm telling you---it was a beautiful sight! He maintained this ease of walking throughout the day and---I'm hoping and praying---for the rest of his life.
I told the Lord this morning that, if He chose to make yesterday's walking unique to that day, we would thank Him for it and continue to praise Him each day. If, however, this is the "new normal" for Dale through God's grace, we would thank Him and praise Him just the same........although perhaps with greater enthusiasm! It's easy to maintain our joy in the Lord when life is easy, isn't it? And, sometimes, we remain joyful through difficulties, believing in His plan and trusting our Father. But when life is hard and that seems to be the way things will always be, it is more strenuous to continually thank Him and praise Him for what He has given us. I have had to deliberately tell God thank you for my son and his condition numerous times over these months, knowing it pleases my God when I choose to trust. His is not a vindictive nature, allowing trials and hardships just because He can; His is a loving and gracious nature, desiring His children to grow through struggles and being well-pleased when we demonstrate our love in return---whether in thought or deed or spoken word, whether in comfortable circumstances or in need. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my God loves me and knows what is best for me and mine. I can trust His ways, though I may not see them clearly or understand them. I can trust Him.
Have I mentioned I can be a bit smothering in my attention to my children, especially Dale since his accident? Yesterday, in the car, Dale and I were eating lunch on the way to therapy. I handed Dale his plastic baggie containing his sandwich, only half-thinking about what I was doing. Dale looked over at me and said, "Good job, Mom. You usually open the bag for me, but this time you let me open the bag myself." I looked at him and grinned somewhat shamefacedly. He's right---I do tend to do things for him that he can probably do himself. And the more I do for him, the less he feels he can do. So I need to watch myself more closely to see if there are any other things I do for him that he really should be doing himself.
At SP, Dale surprised Lisa and me by being very alert and attentive despite it being 3:00 in the afternoon and having just finished PT half an hour before. She has been reading him simple stories (only a paragraph long) and asking him to retell her the story, remembering all the details. Usually she helps him by drawing or letting him draw simple pictures to assist his brain in remembering the story. But yesterday Dale listened to two stories in a row and retold them almost perfectly. For the first story, Dale remembered 9 out of 10 details; for the second, he got 8 out of 8! By then, about twenty minutes had passed, and Dale's brain was getting tired, so he needed help on the next two stories. Lisa then switched activities, turning on a tape player and having Dale click a button whenever he heard two days of the week that were consecutive. This is a good thinking activity but sometimes rather boring, so Lisa soon turned off the tape player and had Dale call the week days himself. This caused him to have to think of the days of the week, deliberately name some consecutively while naming others randomly, and click the button only when naming consecutive days. Wow! Again, Dale did really well on this tough activity. Lisa ended the session by asking Dale to retell two of the stories from the first part of the hour, and Dale did pretty well recalling most of the main points or details.
It may seem repetitive, but we are so thankful to so many people for all you have done for us throughout this time of testing. From those who first prayed on the beach that day, to those who assisted in Dale's rescue, to those who began praying when they heard the news, to those who graciously gave support in those early days and even now are continuing to do so.......thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have been a huge part of this miracle that God is working so visibly in our son. We owe so much to so many; there are not funds enough to repay you nor words enough to express how deeply we are indebted to each of you for never giving up, for continuing to pray, for praising God with us, for crying over each setback and rejoicing over each milestone. We have a great God, and He has a great people.
I Chronicles 4: 10 "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested."