Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Confessional

Sunday, November 12, 2006


We made it to church this morning. That might not sound like something to toot one's horn about, but it was a major accomplishment for our family. A churchy girl I am not, although my spotty relationship with organized religion has played a major role in my developing spirituality as a child and as an adult. On Sunday you are more likely to find me playing darts at a local tavern watching football than sitting in a pew wearing pearls, but today I found myself doing the latter, pearls and all.

And now for today's confession: We have attended church twice since Erik was born over two years ago. We dressed in our Sunday attire and got ourselves to the church on another occasion only to find that the regularly scheduled service had been moved to a later time that particular day. Our already exhausted child made it impossible to wait. It has been very difficult to go to church for a variety of reasons, the primary one being that Erik still naps in the morning for three hours, usually starting between 9 and 10 a.m. In addition, I was not close to being ready to leave him in the nursery at least a year after he was born, even before our diagnosis. Something told me it wasn't time yet.

Leaving our son in the nursery now is a complete snap, as strangers are friends to him and there is a nice selection of toy vehicles there for his amusement. It had been months since we dropped Erik off in the nursery the first and last time, but the woman working there definitely remembered Erik and commented on how tall he had become. After we got him settled and we began walking into the sanctuary, I was relieved that nothing burst into flames upon my return. That was a pleasant surprise. I felt like a ghost. I saw people smile at me and then do a double take to make sure I was still there, including the associate pastor. I felt like saying, "What? I've been here the whole time."

During the service I thought about Erik and how I want to make an extra effort to make him feel like he belongs and he is accepted as much as possible. Brian and I strongly believe his spiritual side needs to be cultivated and encouraged. However, I am now only just ready to take a leap of faith and let go of him a little to trust others to care for him and treat him kindly, even in a church setting.

The associate pastor preached about the Red Sea parting for the Israelites, who were fleeing the Egyptian army. She explained that some believe it did not part all at once, as it is often depicted doing in the movies, but opened just wide enough to take one step forward as they advanced -- step by step. It took a great deal of faith to take each step forward. Okay, okay! I see the obvious theme here. One day at a time. One step at a time. The hard part is having enough faith to move forward and move on. Faith in God. Faith in myself. Faith in other people. I get it, I get it.

I told Brian I would talk to the associate pastor after the service. One baby step forward for me. I almost chickened out. In fact, I did chicken out, as there were two people in line to talk with her and I deemed it too much of a hassle. We picked Erik up from the nursery instead. On the way through the slowly parting throng of coffee-sipping, cookie-munching churchgoers, she came out the door of the sanctuary as we passed by. This woman originally hails from Syria and has been part of our church for some time now. I love her wonderful sense of humor, the way her cultural background flavors her sermons and view of life here, and her openness. She came by the house just days after Erik was born to check on me, and I feel comfortable talking to her.

I told her that we were not purposely staying away but that Erik had some issues and that I really wanted to find some time to talk to her. She literally ran to retrieve her schedule and then offered to come to the house tomorrow morning. I'm not sure why I need to talk to her, but my heart tells me it's the right thing to do. I felt the need to contact her for a year now but haven't known why or what to say. I don't want Erik to be treated any differently than the other kids at church, but he acts very differently sometimes, and I want someone to know why. If he isn't ready to attend Sunday school in less than a year, I don't want to be turned away from the nursery and need options on what to do next. I know there are other kids there with special needs, although I haven't seen any of them yet, and I don't know what our church offers in terms of services. There are a lot of things Erik also might enjoy doing eventually, including a great music program. I certainly don't want to announce Erik's syndrome to everyone who cares for him but need to determine the appropriate amount of information necessary for each situation. I have no idea how to do that but am trying to get a feel for what to say.

I don't need more support, as I have been lucky enough to have found an incredible support system in and out of "Willi World," and I no longer have the desire to hook up with more parents in similar situations for my own needs. However, I feel it is important to let our church know I'm available in case somebody needs me in some way. Just from statistics alone, I know in the next few years our phone will ring with news of the next child like Erik being born. It's only a matter of time. Erik has already brought me so many people, and we have gained a lot of strength from them. After the diagnosis, I always pictured getting myself completely straightened out emotionally before I could offer myself to others. I would be an unusually wise counselor of some kind with the perfect shoulder to cry on. I would offer perfect advice. I would have no need to wear waterproof mascara anymore and would never have a bad day again. Everything would be perfect! I would be perfect!

Yeah, right.

I will always wear waterproof mascara, as I have a sensitive heart and cry right along with people or laugh until I cry and ruin my makeup anyway. I feel sorry for myself. If someone wanted to cry on my shoulder, they would find it covered in peanut butter from Erik's morning snack and soaked in drool. I have accepted that I will never figure things out to the degree that I would like. I'm not perfect. Not even close! What happened to my plan? Amazingly, people seem to like the tear-streaked, freaked-out mess I tend to be on the bad days I have, and I have many more good days now. I find myself in a perfect place to help, although it isn't where I imagined I would be, as I need a great deal of help myself. If I waited for things to be perfect, it would simply never happen. At this point, I'm moving forward step by step, and that's really all it takes to be of some good to someone somewhere. I can't do it alone, though. I don't know how to approach church anymore, and I'm scared out of my mind for my son. I need help.

Maybe that's what I'll say.


Blogger kimberley classic said...

If you feel it is time to talk to this woman then do it - I prayed whilst having my epidural ready for my op, something i haven't done for years, so when it feels good, go for it!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Too late, Nance -- you are already a wise counselor for all of us here online!

I'm glad lightening didn't strike once you entered the doors. :) It took us many years before I found a church that we all cared about. Now, Brady and Michael (the perfect little altar boy) are well-known throughout the church community and I feel more at peace. It's nice to have that spiritual support too. Have fun tomorrow... let her in to your world, I am sure she will be a great support for you too.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Aspen said...

I have joked with many, that I will be buying stock in the waterproof mascara industry! It is very brave of you to take the initiative and put your name "out" for others to call. Like Kerry said, I have already been in your brilliant counselor presence more than once, and I would have to say...I would recommend you to others.

Good luck tomorrow. May God give you the words to say and may the words in your heart ring out. Love you!

5:53 PM  
Blogger Kati said...

Yeah, the waterproof mascara.... does it work at you???? I alwalys have black paint under my eyes :DDDD
Good luck tomorrow (or today???), I hope everything will go fine!!!
You are right: step by step!!!!

Love, Kati

4:22 AM  
Blogger Amy K said...

Seeking spiritual guidance is different than support from friends, and I think you will find some new insight today. Please share it with me as I cannot make it to mass with Avery, it is crazy trying to get her to sit still for an hour and we have no daycare at church. Your post was lovely in so many ways, thank you for being you, Nance.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

I have recently been going to a new Church and I love it. It is so laid back and Caus I can actually wear jeans and i am not the only one. Tatum takes a nap every Sunday in the nursery and usually Emma stays with her, she does not want to go to Sunday School alone yet.

I have actually gotten more out of this church then any other fun music and great sermans that are not very preachy at all. I wish I could take you with me on Sunday...

1:53 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

Being a churchy-kind of girl, I am glad for you, Brian, and Erik that you are making this step. I would never push someone to do something like this until they are ready because it so personal. You know it's the right time for you - you said yourself, you've felt it in your heart. You'll know what to say tomorrow and, if you don't, the pastor sounds like a great lady who will know what you mean. Can I say I am praying for you?? (ha ha ha...)

5:59 PM  

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