Cancer and The Cry of Husbands

It is estimated that in 2020:

On average, 617 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day.

On average, 228 Canadians will die from cancer every day.

Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most diagnosed types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). Based on 2020 estimates:

These 4 cancers account for about half (48%) of all new cancer cases.

Almost 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) may develop cancer during their lifetime.

About 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 23% of women) may to die from cancer.[1]

This Scarred Joy post is all about husbands. Before I go any farther, I want to make the following disclaimer. This message is my impression of cancer and an anecdotal point of view of how husband often respond to news of cancer. To be more specific, this post will focus on husbands whose wives have cancer.

My wife has experienced cancer twice. The most recent experience was three years ago at this time of year. This is a reason I write a Scarred Joy post about cancer every December. Cancer is a beast and I hate it. Cancer does not have to be a winner.

It is Okay to Cry

Let us at least try to push aside the view: men and boys do not cry. Men can cry if this is part of who they are. In grief, both women and men make the mistake with an emphasis of a perceived need to be “strong” when other people are present. To cry does not imply weakness.

Now, let me make a point here. I am not saying men must cry as part of their grief process. If tears are part of his grief experience, this is appropriate. If we insist on being strong out of a restrictive societal myth, we stifle our grief.

In my forty-plus years of grief support to people I know men are more reluctant to talk about their grief than women are. My impression is men take more time to process grief before they may talk about it.

Here are a few points I would make if I spoke before a group of men whose wives are ill with cancer.

  • Guys, cancer will wear you down if you let it. This is where you hang on.
  • Let you wife know you are on this cancer journey together
  • Your love for her has not diminished
  • Resist the pull to always feel you must be strong
  • Be honest in your own grief
  • Cry if you need to and know it is okay.
  • Wait, let us read the last bullet again. Cry if you need to and know it is okay.
  • There are men who cry tears at special times of the year to them.
  • Cry for their beloved one in the darkness of night.
  • They cry for their wives during a break at work.
  • Cry because they can no longer hold in their pain or fear.

The Downside of a Cry

There are husbands who cry then leave their wives. This is shocking and sad. We can shed tears for these guys. We can shed tears for their wives. I do not get it. Guys leave their wives because of cancer. Guys, we are to love our wives with our caring presence instead of a defeated absence.

Here are the words of another husband about this sad fact.

“When Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do, so I started with research. I was shocked to learn that approximately 25 percent of men leave their wife when they first learn of her cancer diagnosis, and 70 percent of men will leave within two years of their wife’s terminal prognosis.”[2]

My friends, we do not have to act like victims to this beast called cancer. The beast does not have to win. As husbands we continue to live and love with our wives. God understands our humanity. He does not scold us as husbands when we get angry over an illness we know is beyond our control. As husbands we want our wives to stay healthy. We wish we could suffer instead of them and cannot imagine life without our wives.

I understand at least to a degree what you may experience on this cancer journey. I am one of you. I am scarred. You may carry emotional scars for the rest of your life. Guys, it is ok to cry, and it is ok if you do not. Stay by your wife’s side and love her. Do not allow your grief to get out of hand. Find a person you trust and express your grief to them.

We may fear cancer but let us not fear the cry of husbands.


[1] https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-statistics-at-a-glance/?region=on&fbclid=IwAR3YGHWEs_CRY7mbBL1NybLkYx9kS6ilRPZ1GMxYrYRzF9k7aTItF8CwdD8

[2] https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/keeping-it-together-when-your-wife-has-cancer-dg/

Compassion, Tender hearts, and Pandemic

Disclaimer: All Scarred Joy posts reflect the author’s view of the world. This one is no different.

I dedicate this Scarred Joy post to my close friend and Covid-19 teacher, Nurse Candi.

In March 2020, the world changed forever. Terms like, “lockdown,” “self-isolation,” “Coronavirus,” “Covid-19,” “virus,” and “pandemic,” became a permanent part of the vernacular. Conspiracy theories became rampant whether the virus posed a genuine threat to anyone or was part of a global plan to take over the world. Misinformation on social media platforms added to the bombastic and overkill of information regarding the pandemic.

I have found it difficult to keep up with how the pandemic has impacted people. I am aware people have died from Covid-19. Others have become sick enough to require hospital care. Society now recognizes doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals as heroes. True dedication and compassion partnered together to save lives.

Although I don’t talk about it often I am aware the pandemic has impacted my life. I am not a hero. Since retirement I am no longer a healthcare professional. All I know is how to be me, like it or not. During this point in time, I hope to find out what I might learn from a pandemic or a world crisis. I am eager to learn what this season of unheard of world change might teach me about myself?

I do not have a scientific mind; therefore I don’t cram my mind with fears of the unknown or data about Coronavirus-19. I’m more interested and focused on how a time like this impacts the lives of people. Here are a few points of what I have been thinking about and observing.

This is a time for the tender-hearted. Although it took me a long time to recognize and admit, I am tender-hearted. I’m sure there are people who might question this, but I accept this part of my personality. This does not mean I am better than anyone else. This means, however, I’m not afraid to show emotions when confronted with sensitive matters or events in life. 

This worldwide virus brings out the worst or best in humanity. From my personal point of view, I hope it highlights the good in me amid Covid nightmares. Included in my tenderhearted way of looking at life, I notice other tenderhearted, compassionate people.

The world is all too ready to show its baser side during “normal” times in life. Now is a time for tenderheartedness to shine forth and bright. This isn’t hard. Here is a simple suggestion to show your tender heart. Do a kind act for a person you don’t know. Simple, right? Go on, you can do this!

This is a time for compassion. In Canada I can think of only one leader in the public eye who exemplifies compassion. Her name is Dr. Bonnie Henry, and she is the Chief Medical Officer for the province of British Columbia (BC). Until the Coronavirus leered its ugly face, I never heard of Dr. Bonnie. She now makes daily and accurate announcements about Covid-19 to the people of B.C. through TV and radio. 

In June 2020, Dr. Bonnie mentioned the number of people in British Columbia who died from substance abuse during the early part of the Covid crisis. She showed the emotional side of a medical professional who has a genuine compassion for people. 

A person like Dr. Bonnie is not without her critics. Perhaps this shows there is a price to pay for genuine compassion. Perhaps this level of compassion is rare today and people don’t know how to respond to it. My critics are not too far away either, therefore it doesn’t surprise me people criticize Dr. Bonnie Henry. My purpose here is not to judge Dr. Bonnie’s critics. I think this point of not judging is more in keeping with compassion.

This is a time for transparency and vulnerability. The beginning of this blog post includes a dedication to a special person in my life. For the sake of this message, I call her Nurse Candi. Nurse Candi is a friend to my wife and I. She is also a Registered Nurse. On top of all this greatness, she is my Covid-19 teacher. She keeps me informed on matters related to Covid I would otherwise miss.

My wife and I have known Nurse Candi for many years. We lost contact with each other for a time, but we are now in regular communication with each other.

One thing I love about Nurse Candi is her transparency and vulnerability. This is a measure of her strength. She has experienced her share of sadness and hardship. Nurse Candi exemplifies a Scarred Joy life. This is a life devoted to living a full life despite grief and hardship. Nurse Candi has never lost her sweet demeanour and heart for people. I’m a blessed man to have her in my life. With people like Nurse Candi in life there will always be hope.

Vulnerable people know others can easily hurt them. They will put themselves out for other people, despite the possibility of harm. They may not always understand this about themselves, for they are living as they were born to be. Vulnerable people are also often transparent. 

To be transparent and vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. In my life, Nurse Candi exemplifies this welcome human characteristic. I never have to guess at what she thinks about a particular matter about Covid or life. Do we agree on all matters in life? I doubt it, but that doesn’t matter either. She is not one who will pout and stamp her feet, then walk away if we disagree on something. This trait is rare and remarkable in this present time in history. This is also another reason I love Nurse Candi. 

In the grander scheme of things, my voice is minimal and of no significance. This does not stop me from believing our culture needs compassionate people unafraid to admit they are but mortal. The time in which we live is also a time for transparent and vulnerable people. The world has enough phoniness, power mongers, and weak leaders at the best of times. Now is a time for us all as a collective unit to show we care for each other. Let us allow those who are compassionate, vulnerable and transparent show us how.

Like genuine compassion, transparency and vulnerability are qualities the world needs at all times. I may never meet Dr. Bonnie Henry, but I have Nurse Candi in my life and that’s fine with me. Do you have a Nurse Candi in your life? If you do thank God for her. Bask in the warmth of her compassion and give thanks for the gift she is to your life. I know I do.

Awakenings of a Deroche Spring Morning

(First posted on April 22, 2020 on InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Blog.)

My wife and I live in British Columbia, Canada, in an area known as the Fraser Valley. We live in a small community called, Deroche. We love living here. Farmland, mountains, and the mighty Fraser River surround Deroche. There are evergreen trees as far as the eye can see. There are also countless deciduous trees.

This morning (April 10, 2020) I climb out of bed with a specific purpose in mind. Around six-thirty get dressed, grab my camera, and head for the dike. The dike is a five-minute walk from home. My purpose for rising early is to snap a few shots of sunrise. The dike follows the meander of the Dewdney Slough, our nearby local water body.

 The dike is a world unto itself. All year round birds dot the landscape flying and having fun. They also like to sit on the branches of trees or bramble bushes. For most of the year the trees are alive with various shades of green. The deciduous compete with the evergreen as their vibrancy blends in like a patchwork quilt. Spring has its own unique way of showing off in this part of the Fraser Valley. One never gets tired of living in this area. I walk the dike for a few minutes and decide to pause. My eyes are favoured with sights that remind me this is a time of awakenings.

Deciduous trees awake from slumber, shake off the cold of winter, and begin to bud. The grass now stands upright after months of laying low. Ducks and Canada geese float in the slough without a care in the world (well, perhaps except for eagles in the area). The surrounding mountains stand unmoved as the protectors of the Valley. Their usual evergreen attire is always in fashion.

After walking a few metres more it happens. The sun begins to arise and greets the morning. The songs of numerous types of birds resound. Not too far away a few pesky starlings let their presence be known. Black-capped Chickadees and Red Robins join in the chorus to welcome the sun, the star of the morning.

I hold my camera steady and wait for the right moment. You see the sun is an expert tease. The glow becomes brighter as one waits. As if all of a sudden God’s morning star pulls out all the stops to nature’s chorus of glee. A brief glare into the sun’s brightness draws a view of molten gold to one’s mind. There is an awakened awe to an overwhelmed desire to put the camera into action.

For a terrified moment I shudder to think I may have missed a magnificent shot. The camera clicks and a moment of glory is frozen in time. Creation sings to God in the morning and now my eyes, mind, heart, and camera hold His praises close.

As if to never want the moment to end a slow pace to home is enjoyed. At home the clock tells me it is just a few minutes after seven-o-clock. Wow, all that excitement, glory, and praise in less than an hour. The awakenings of a Deroche spring morning are an experience to behold. Perhaps one day you can join me!

The Purpose of My Blog

I am not new to blogging but I still have a lot to learn about it. Please allow me to give you an idea of who I am and why I blog. I have forty years of experience of supporting people in their grief. This includes professionally and volunteering as well as in my education.

As a boy people fascinated me. For the most part my fascination continues today. Through the years the ways people process their grief is of particular interest. I maintain every person I come alongside who is grieving is my teacher. The same applies to those I have sat with as they near the end of life. Each person is unique and so is how one grieves.

I call my blog, Scarred Joy. Here is an idea of what Scarred Joy means. Scarred Joy is deep grief leading to hope. It is pure raw pain seeing the light of healing. Scarred Joy is weeping and not knowing if we will smile again. We never lose the scars of our grief. In the scars grief and hope are together. We walk through life being familiar with our scars yet moving forward. We move forward in hope.

My hope for Scarred Joy is that it will inspire people to move forward in their lives. We can cling to hope, whatever hope may be. My tagline for my grief work is, Touched by Grief, Held by Hope.

I do not allow other people to tell me how to grieve. I grieve in a way suited to me. I also never tell other people how to grieve. I do, however, encourage people to not be afraid of their grief. Rather, we can honour our grief. Through grieving we can teach ourselves lessons of who we are. If we listen to ourselves even in grief we may gift ourselves with compassion for other people.

Through compassion we learn to empathize with the pain of others. In the grief and death-denying context of North America compassion is vital. Compassion allows one to hug not only a loved one but also a stranger who is grieving. Compassion is recognizing our grief and that of other people can teach us we are not alone. We are in this grief together. This fact may elude some people but it is still real. I hope you will follow my Scarred Joy blog. Please comment about what your read. Even in this way we may learn from each other.

Still My Love, My Darling—2020

NOTE: This is a revised message of one originally posted on June 10, 2017.

With this particular post I would like to highlight more of the “joy” than the “scarred” part of life. A few years ago a song hit the charts on the radio people still sing today. The song is, “Unchained Melody,” and became a hit due to the singing duo The Righteous Brothers. The song begins, “Oh my love, my darling. I’ve hungered for your love, a long lonely time.”

Who is your love? Is there someone your heart longs for? Is this an easy question for you to answer? I’m sure some people will immediately want to answer with replies like, “I love God and my heart longs for Him!” Okay, I get it and that’s valid. I’ll ask the question again this way. Of all the people you know in your life, whom does your heart hunger for more than anyone else? Unchained Melody is a love song. Who is your “darling”?

One morning I got up early to work on a writing project. My “darling,” my wife, surprised me and arose early also. I thought with it being Saturday she would like to sleep in. I remember when I was going out I noticed my darling relaxing on the couch. I took advantage of the situation to sing ’ Unchained Melody, for her listening pleasure. Well, at least I think she listened! Oh boy, now I’m rethinking whether my darling takes pleasure in my singing. The romantic in me is confident she did.

Now before I go any farther, I have to clarify something. As a more introverted person, I don’t sing to just anyone. My darling and I have been together for years. I feel safe with her and trust her to know more about me than anyone else.  If anyone else asked me to sing for them the answer will more than likely be, no.

Do you sing for your darling? Do you long for your darling? Do you hunger for your darling’s touch? My darling is not to be taken for granted. As a selfish creature I may slip from this priority from time to time. I guess it is human to default toward our selfish nature. If you have a darling he or she becomes your heart’s love.

My darling and I have been married to each other for more than forty years. Even after forty-plus years of marriage to the same woman I still have a long way to go. I still make mistakes. I still have selfish moments. I have insecurities. I beat myself up as a failure. I have times where I think I didn’t provide for my wife and family as best I could. I see in such misgivings my own room for growth. It is in light of this standard I pray, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Years go by and we are getting older. In time our twilight years will be upon us. I dread the time we may be parted. I never want to live without my darling.

The melody of my love for my darling goes on. Sometimes I get out of tune. Sometimes I forget all the lines. Sometimes I feel unworthy of her love. Our melody, however, while perhaps still under construction, is sweet! It is music to my ears!

Oh my love, my darling, after all these years, I still hunger for your love.

Cancer At Christmas

Christmas can bring back bittersweet memories.

This Dec. post is a brief reminder the Christmas season isn’t without times of grief and sadness.

As a boy I remember being excited as Christmas drew near. My imagination worked overtime as I anticipated the fun of Christmas. To me, there was no greater time of year than Christmas Day. Now I am older I still love Christmas.

As years have gone by I recognize the Christmas season has its share of emotional scars. For the most part these scars healed but have not disappeared.

During our forty-one years of marriage my beloved wife has experienced cancer twice. She has survived each time but, of course, not without scars. Her most recent cancer scare came during Christmas season of 2017.

A role of a husband is to protect his wife. I could not protect my wife from cancer either time. I bear the scars of this.

I wrote about my wife’s cancer in a series of Scarred Joy posts in Dec. 2017 and Jan. 2018. I wrote them as a way of processing her journey with this illness. Using the term, “illness,” in this context under states the reality of cancer.

Cancer is an invasion, an assault on one’s whole being. Cancer while a direct assault on an individual impacts other people as well. Perhaps the emotional impact of cancer is most felt in the life of a spouse and one’s children. I will highlight this in a future post.

For the sake of this post I present to you a poem depicting cancer’s assault on a husband.

Cancer At Christmas

Honest with my heart
This hurts
Cries and whimpers
Numbness
Shaking a fist at heaven
My head supported by my hands
Face wet with tears
Frozen in time
Cancer diagnosis

Why God? –Cancer at Christmas?
Help me help her.

My darling, you amaze me
Your words calm
You say you have peace
I enjoy peace with you
We hang decorations
Drink eggnog
Romance each other
Hold on
Never let go
Thankful
In the moment

This illness will not win
Beneath the surface
We have peace
Stillness
Rest
We are together
Give thanks
Make merry

In the rare silence
Of Christmas
God is not surprised
By this fiend cancer
Joy is our companion
We weep
Rejoice
We are not alone
Immanuel
God with us
Unseen yet present

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Featuring: The Autistic Author and Animator

Scarred Joy is primarily devoted raising awareness and shattering the stigma around Autism.

Scarred Joy is primarily devoted to raising awareness and shattering the stigma around Autism. From time to time the blog will highlight stories of people living with autism. Today’s post includes one of these stories. Scarred Joy is presenting to readers a book entitled, The Autistic Author and Animator and its author, Janet Walmsley.

As family members of people on the autism spectrum, we cannot allow the opinion of anyone place limits on our loved ones. As we read this post you will see what I mean.

 Janet and her daughter, Jenny, are living proof of smashing the prejudiced views of other people. Even medical professionals can miss the mark regarding the potential of those on the spectrum.

Please read the following words from Janet and leave a comment afterwards at the bottom of the post.

My book, “The Autistic Author and Animator”, is about my daughter, Jenny, who was diagnosed with low functioning Autism at the age of 3 and was told she would never talk, never do well in school, never be where her peers are and the list went on. I walked out of that specialist’s office saying, “That’s not going to happen!”

She faced many challenges on the way to reaching her dream of becoming a professional animator and published author. It is a heartfelt story which relays the importance of perseverance, courage, strength within a mother-daughter bond as their journeys intertwine – revealing a mother who was her daughter’s rock right from the beginning and did everything in her power to help her daughter see the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

The Autistic Author and Animator is a striking narrative that illustrates one’s full potential – a testament that autism is no barrier to success and fulfillment. We never looked back, full speed ahead with always taking the positive out of Autism, and yes, there were bumps and trials however we trucked through them and learned from them.

Jenny is an inspiration and role model not only for the Autistic Community but also for the General Public as I have so many say to me, “Wow, if that girl can go through what she did and be where she is today, what is stopping any of us from pushing down our barriers and going after our dreams and goals, we want to do a Jenny!”

Jenny is now 26 and is a professional 2D and 3D Animator and she has a best selling, award winning Fantasy Fiction book, “Dysnomia”, which is the first of a Trilogy and getting quite a following. She just finished her second sequel to it and will be published next year.

What a far cry from what I was told when she was 3 years old, so one must never say never and be your child’s voice, sounding board and rock. Let them go to the peak that they can, as there are different levels, as they deserve a rich fulfilled life and to be a part of our society and workforce, like anyone else.

———————————————

The greater population can learn a lot from parents like Janet regarding autism. Jenny, also, can teach people the realities of living with autism. Jenny, and other people like her deserve a fair shake at reaching their potential. Anything else is unfair and immoral.

As a grandfather of two grandchildren on the autism spectrum I hope to do my share of raising awareness not only to autism but also to the people on the spectrum. With people like Janet and Jenny involved in this desire a difference in our society will be made.

If you have a story about your or a loved one’s experience on the autism spectrum please feel free to contact Scarred Joy. I would love to feature your story on a post. Please contact me through the blog at https://scarredjoy.ca. You may also contact me through email, at caledomiaspirit@gmail.com.

Please order The Autistic Author and Animator, through

Red Tuque Books at http://redtuquebooks.com/

Amazon Books at www.amazon.ca

or through Janet’s website at http://www.janetwal.wixsite.com/autismconnects.

A Story of Joshua Jordan

Joshua Jordan is a young writer whom I admire and want to promote in this Scarred Joy post. You may ask why? Well, Joshua lives in a Scarred Joy way. This means he has suffered in his life yet chooses to move forward. He has experienced hell on earth at the mercy of human monsters. The wonderful thing about this is, he has lived to tell about his experience.

Joshua expresses his pain in two books he has written. His books, Shopping Cart Boy (2018), and Soul Rape Soul Rage (2019), offer sobering accounts of the horrifying abuse he experienced by other people.

Scarred Joy posts tend not to by shy about the reality of pain and suffering in life. I’m honoured now to present my readers with Joshua’s story in his own words.

Through my writing and speaking I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want people to know what it feels like to be a kid taken away from his mother because of addictions.

I believe that pretty much any day with my alcoholic mom was better than what I went through in foster care. That is saying a lot, my mom could be pretty hard to live with at times.

With my mom I was always warm, dressed nice, fed and loved. In one of the foster homes I was in I was abused badly. For some time I wasn’t allowed to see my mom which made it even harder.

I would cry and cry when I had to leave her and then acted out when I went back to the foster home. At the time I didn’t understand that was one reason they stopped our visits. I was only seven when I thought about killing myself for the first time. I just wanted the pain to end. When I didn’t get to see my mom anymore I thought she had forgotten about me.

I don’t write a lot about my mom, as I don’t want people judging her. My mom had a rough life due to abuse at an earlier age than me and by more people.

Now and then mom became drunk causing her to fight with people. A lot of guys were afraid of her. I knew she would protect me if something happened at home. I found it hard seeing how out of control she would get including saying stupid mean things to me. I believe beside her hurts, addictions, and things going on, she may have had a mental illness or at least severe depression.

Being sexually abused when you are young is a challenge to get over. There are not many counselors who are skilled at helping victims of sexual abuse. I went to some and they wouldn’t even let me talk – they said they were relationship building so we could talk about it. I got angrier about my abuse when this would happen – it is like teasing someone that you have the medicine they need to make them better but you aren’t going to give it to them.

People often think you must keep quiet about being sexually abused as a child. They think if you are a kid it is easier to get over things. I think kids try to protect their parents and other people by not talking about it. I also think organizations like Churches, counselors and police should make it easier to talk about than it is.

Going back to live with my mom was great until she started drinking again then died from complications from AIDS. I will never forget the day she died and how hard that was for my brother and me. He has his own troubles and is eighteen years older than me. I lived with him for a while but it didn’t work out. I then went to live with someone I knew from foster care who had been nice to me. She kept me as her son and tries to understand and help me.

I never thought I would be as popular a speaker as I am with my book. On my own I’m not great at public speaking. My adopted mom helps me by being with me when I speak. She keeps me on track and helps me from being too nervous.

 With experience I have become a better speaker and realize people want to hear my story. People have told me they had no idea there are so many kids like me. They are kids who need help and understanding as well as lots of patience and prayer.

The poems Joshua writes in his books are raw and horrific. He desires to make a real and beneficial difference in the lives of other people. In this desire we read the words of a compassionate young man.

Readers, I urge you to purchase Joshua’s books.

Shopping Cart Boy can be purchased at: http://www.siretona.com Both books are available on Amazon.

An Open Letter From A Grandfather Of Special Needs Kids To Their Parents

As I write this letter I am primarily thinking of my own grandchildren who have “special needs,” and their family. I am, however, making it available to other people by including the letter as a blog post.

Dear Parents,

As a grandfather, I accept my “special needs” grandchildren may never live a “typical” life, whatever that is. I accept these children for who they are. They are unique and made in the image of God. He loves them and I can do no less.

I am so proud of your children when they reach a milestone they struggled for. They are young warriors not knowing the meaning of giving up. For instance, other people may not understand the thrill of knowing your child can now poop in the toilet. They don’t have to understand but I celebrate with you.

When I talk about my family I don’t make a big deal of it by saying something like, “I have six grandchildren and two of them are “special needs.” If part of a conversation I’m having with someone turns to bragging about grandkids kids, I brag along. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I love these children.

Before I go any farther I must make mention of an important part of your family. Other children, typical children who are part of a “special needs family,” may inadvertently be almost forgotten. If your family includes children who are “typical,” please monitor them and make sure they are doing well. Life can be lonely for such children. Give them some golden time just for them.

Believe me as a grandfather, I notice things. I can tell when a child is feeling left out. That’s where I can come into action. I can take the child out for lunch or to a movie or other fun things to do. The point is giving this child some time where he or she is spoiled for a while.

I have to admit I become somewhat angry when people exclude your children from things like birthday parties. Even if your child or children aren’t able to attend at least they can be invited. This includes family as well as friend type gatherings. There is no reason to not include children with special needs unless it is a health or safety issue. Even then an option may come up so they are not left out.

Many people make little effort to understand children with special needs. The lack of empathy they show is obvious. This is why people may seem to ignore you and your family. They don’t realize children with special needs are teachers of life. Being in their presence can expose us to our own weaknesses or strengths. These children present the “typical” population with a choice. The choice is to accept or reject them.

As parents I know your lives may differ from the lives of typical parents in a number of ways. I think of being diligent in keeping your calendar up to date. This is not for the purpose of scheduling barbecues with family or friends etc. Your calendar is used more for life and health purposes. This includes regular therapy or specialist and other related appointments. These are integral to monitoring your child’s day-to-day life.

Due to the health challenges your child or children live with there are experiences, situations, and events etc. beyond your control. Most times you can only dream of such things as getting away for the weekend or even planning vacations. This is the reality of your lives.

I see your world and now mine through the lens of a grandfather. Through this lens I see I have taken on a greater love for life. I see life is fragile and even enigmatic. As I look through my grandfather filter I see not all of life is black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Life just is and it includes mystery!

There is mystery in the reality of special needs as it pertains to life. How is it one child or even two or three children in one family may have special needs? How does this happen? This is such a mystery. Perhaps the best thing to do, the most human thing I can do is accept these children. Accept them by seeing beyond their “special needs” and see them for who they are.

You see, in accepting children and other people with “special needs,” I may see my own needs. I may then see acceptance means love. As a grandfather I do not merely accept my grandchildren I love them. They are part of me.

I am getting older by the day. I look back over my life and I see there are more days behind me than in front of me. I know I may miss out on certain years of my grandchildren. I may be taken ill and no longer able to make a trip to see them. If this happens I trust they will always know how much I love them. This will never end.

All my love,

Papa.

https://scarredjoy.ca/

Not The Elephant Man

I don’t know if many of my readers have heard of Joseph Carey Merrick. He lived from the year 1862 to 1890. He was born with deformities all over his body and once grown up he became a sideshow, circus type of attraction. He became known as the Elephant Man.

Scarred Joy is turning a corner, as it were, regarding regular posts. Blog entries, for the most part, will now focus on what society has labelled, “special needs.” The edginess and frank content of my posts will remain. A goal is to raise awareness of the disabilities of our society, as it perceives people with “special needs.” We will also from time to time note the wonderful accomplishments of people with special needs.

Joseph C. Merrick was the subject of ridicule many times throughout his life. People were curious about him. Some people feared him out of their ignorance of knowing how to respectfully respond to someone “different.” He lived with ridicule and being misunderstood, for much of his life.

At some point in his childhood, Mr. Merrick suffered a hip injury, which became infected and resulted in a permanent limp. His life included being out into the world on his own at a young age due to an unhappy home life. He spent time being homeless until an uncle took him into his home for a while. Once the stay with his uncle ended Joseph entered a workhouse.

Through other different parts of his life, he spent time as an exhibit in a freak show and suffered such indignities as being looked at as grotesquely “different” than “normal” people. There were other times in his life where the public treated him as an object to stare and wonder at out of morbid curiosity. This endeavour hosted by some showmen at least enabled Joseph C. Merrick to gain some level of monetary profit.

As Joseph reached his early twenties the times were changing regarding society’s attitude toward freak shows and the like. This change in attitude worked in Mr. Merrick’s favour for the most part. People like Dr. Frederick Treves a surgeon at Royal London Hospital befriended Joseph and introduced him to a more caring environment. Joseph now had more opportunities to meet people than he had in his life. Treves learned Joseph was an emotional, sensitive and somewhat shy gentleman. He was not an Elephant Man to be afraid of. The hospital became Joseph’s home for the rest of his life until he died at age twenty-seven.

There are times in the lives of people with “special needs” where other people will view them as objects of curiosity. There will also be instances where a child or loved one will be addressed in a condescending manner. This may come about through statements like, “oh, she laughs just like a normal girl!” or comments like, “wow, he can do up his own shoes? He’s such a big boy.” Statements like this may be accompanied by a pat on the child’s head or a similar gesture.

While the average typical person may never admit or perhaps not even be aware of it, what I call, “the elephant man” syndrome exists in modern society. People with “special needs” may still be approached in a similar fashion as Mr. Merrick. The fact remains people are often hesitant when approaching a person with special needs, if they approach them at all.

With special needs of any kind, there is a constant companion throughout life. This particular constant is that of Scarred Joy. This means those with “special needs” carry scars throughout life, caused by other people, that reminds them they will always be considered “different”, not “typical,” “not the same” as “normal” people.”

Those of us who love a family member or someone else we love, who is labelled, “special needs,” know our lives have changed forever in some ways. The typical world may never get over seeing the “difference,” before they notice the person. We, however, must remind the world, those we love, who have special needs, are not an Elephant Man.

(for a brief biography on Joseph Carey Merrick see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Merrick; See also https://mentalfloss.com/article/81415/new-calls-bury-bones-elephant-man-joseph-merrick)