Easter -joy and fear

I LOVE EASTER!  I have so many wonderful memories of Easter as a kid at my grandparent’s home.  In fact, those are the only memories I have of my grandparents.  Grandma’s geraniums with their prolific blooms lining the windowsill even today brings me wafts of their earthy smells to my senses 50 years later.  Getting dressed for church with my new Easter hat and little white gloves and a chocolate bunny joyously discovered at the foot of Grandma’s brass bed lined high with her quilts.  That chocolate bunny, I swear, was almost as big as I was.

And of course, Easter means so much to me spiritually – a risen Christ!  I still get goosebumps every Easter Sunday when we sing “Christ the Lord has risen today – Hallelujah!”  It is my all time favourite hymn.

Mixed in with these wonderful memories and traditions are some very sad times from the last few years.  Two years ago on Easter Sunday my Aunt Marion died suddenly.  Then last year on Easter Sunday my Uncle Bob, her husband, joined his sweetheart in Heaven.  A strange but touching story, certainly filled with much sorrow but also tinged with a wisp of everlasting love and hope.

So it was as Easter approached this year, my logical, mathematical, autistic mind that thrives on making sense of the world through finding patterns started anticipating that the pattern would just continue.  Mom, my uncle’s sister, would follow suit and would go to Heaven on this Easter Sunday.  To you that may seem totally illogical but to my mind the pattern made perfect sense.  So as Easter got closer and closer my fear of losing Mom got stronger and stronger.  By Easter Sunday I was gripped with overwhelming fear that I would lose her sometime on that day.

For many of us with autism,  patterns are what help make sense of our world.  Our need for sameness, for predictability helps sooth our anxious thoughts.  Much of the time I convert activities, thoughts etc into mathematical – like formulas that will always ensure a predictable outcome.  Unfortunately, in this world, the word out is that “change” is the only thing that is predictable.  Try as I might I cannot control my world.  And unfortunately, for us as autistics, our need for patterns can cause great anguish like in this case, rather than sooth us.  It’s a double bind sometimes.

I must say that as I woke the day after Easter and Mom was still with me I was overjoyed.  This was one time when I sure was happy my patterns did not follow their supposed course.  What relief!  What joy!  To know that I still had Mom with me was the best Easter gift anyone could ever give me.

This Easter the dreaded pattern was broken.  I can relax now until some new pattern of my mind finds its way into my life.  It’s funny because Easter is all about breaking the pattern of humanity.  Christ died so the pattern of death is broken for all time.   Believing in Jesus, brings us life forever in heaven with Him.  And that’s a pattern that is written in his blood and death on the cross.  NOTHING can change it.  So I leave this Easter behind knowing I still have my Mom and knowing that the promise of life everlasting will never be broken.  My patterns may come and go and be broken over and over but God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He will never change.  Wow!  That’s pretty cool to my autistic mind.  HE HAS RISEN.  HE HAS RISEN INDEED!

Flashing lights – Flashbacks

Last Friday I happened to look out my bedroom window to see an ambulance pull up across the street at my elderly neighbour’s home.  My stomach began to churn and I looked on with dismay as the paramedics gathered their stuff out of the back of the ambulance and entered into the house.  I did not realize the effect that seeing this scenario play out in front of me would bring back such vivid flashbacks to a day back in October when my Mom had her heart attack.  I had to call the ambulance.  I remember how calm I suddenly became – like someone just took over my body and was directing everything for me.  I don’t know if this is an autistic thing or not but I do react this way when there is a crisis.  When I worked with special needs kids at school I would become very calm when they went into crisis.  I read in a book on autism once that this is one way we react to a crisis situation.  I remember gathering Mom’s things – her list of pills, her pill bottles, her purse with her health card, her coat, and on and on.  I do not remember feeling anything except a strange calmness – a blankness except for the task at hand.  The paramedics brought Mom downstairs on her chair lift and then transferred her to a special chair that they would use to lift her out to the stretcher waiting in the driveway.  I remember wondering if all the neighbours were watching my Mom and how embarrassing that would be for her – just like I was fixed on watching my neighbour across the street.  I remember the paramedics saying she was in heart failure and how I wasn’t sure what that meant or what it would mean down the road.  I’m glad I didn’t know right then.  The paramedics invited me to ride up front to the hospital.  I will never forget that ride.  We raced along the road, lights flashing and the siren was blaring.  I thought to myself, “Is this the end?”  Is what I have feared for years actually going to happen?  When we got to the emergency department they asked me to go into the waiting area and they took Mom into the emergency dept. area.  It was then that the feelings began to sweep over me.  I wanted to be with Mom and they wanted me out here.  I got out my phone and fumbling with the keys I started phoning people – my brother, my pastor, my friends.  I gave the facts as I knew them at that point – just the facts!  I was like a reporter reporting on the story at hand.  Brief, concise, to the point. No time to waste with what ifs or should I ‘s.   I finally after asking to be let in to see Mom, got to see her.  She was hooked up to machines but she was awake and we chatted briefly.  For the next week Mom stayed in the hospital and I stayed in my role as caretaker, provider, supporter, and information seeker and giver.  I don’t remember if I ever cried.  Maybe I did.  I just know I had a job to do to look after my Mom. I was in extreme exhaustion but I kept going by some unknown strength – well, I actually know what strength it was.  It was God giving me the strength I didn’t have myself to do what needed to be done.  God was with me every moment, through every decision, every overwhelming moment.  He never left me for a second.  He’s like that.  He’s a good God and He was my rock during this incredibly difficult time.

As I saw my neighbour come out of the house and get put on the stretcher I watched as he was taken off to the hospital alone.  His wife stayed at home.  Alone…..   No matter how hard this job of looking after my Mom gets I will never leave her alone.  We are stitched together with intertwining thick threads that will never break.  Mom is home now.  She has been since that week.  She is basically palliative care in heart failure but she is doing well.  I live down the street from an ambulance depot.  I hear sirens often and I see flashing lights often.  I also have flashbacks often.  Guess it just goes with the territory.