Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sharing the Moon

Today, I am aware of the blessing of able-bodied children. I am so keenly aware that I feel guilt mixed with the gratitude that I should be so blessed, when others have such challenges. And yet I suspect my guilt is only more evidence of how little I understand.

I read Elizabeth's post today about Ian Brown's book The Boy in the Moon. She wrote about finishing the book on a cross country flight, then locking herself in the plane's bathroom and weeping. She said the book had changed her life. It was such a powerful piece of writing, this one paragraph post of Elizabeth's, that I immediately ordered the book. But impatient soul that I am, I also searched for a review, so I could learn what the book was about. It is a memoir by the father of a disabled boy, born with a rare disorder that renders him unable to speak or fend for himself in the most basic ways. It is a memoir of devotion and hardship and sacrifice that explores how the need to care for a loved one with a disability can finally deepen us and make us more ethical, more forbearing, more fully loving and committed souls.

Before reading Elizabeth's post, I had put up a list of all the things my daughter had learned how to do at the farm, the one she went to several times a year with her classmates from second grade through eighth. I put the list up because I marveled that my child could do things like milk a cow and weave textiles and wade in a frog pond and build a dam made of sticks in a river and play manhunt in the dark country night, hiding under a farmhouse with no fear of critters. I was thinking how I cannot do any of these things, and I was sitting here missing my children and relishing the ways in which they have grown into themselves, even as they branch outward. There is nothing wrong with the sense of wonder my children evoke in me. There is nothing wrong with admiring the way my son flies over hurdles on a running track and moves through space with the unconscious sinew and grace of a dancer. I know it is natural to enjoy the particular things that my children have learned how to do. There is nothing wrong with a mother's gratitude. Indeed the sin would be not to appreciate the gifts bestowed. And yet.

After reading Elizabeth's post, the list I had put up felt unseemly, so shallow, so lacking in awareness of the immeasurable challenges that other people face. Elizabeth asked me two nights ago how did I think the experience of her sons' leaving for college would be different for her than it was for me, since her daughter Sophie, who has a seizure disorder, would be home with her always. I felt humbled. I realized how much I live in my own small world, entertaining my own small truths. I felt so self-absorbed, and yes, apologetic, because I cannot know how it is for Elizabeth, or for Ian Brown, the father of the boy in the moon, or for any person whose life is dedicated to caring for a loved one who is disabled. And yet I am thankful, too, because Elizabeth's question then and her post today and her joy as she headed home to Sophie helped me glimpse for an instant the vastness of what I don't know. It is only a single bloom of awareness, but it is more than before.


  1. Elizabeth and her life with her children has opened a window to another world to me and because of her writing, that window is always open. I carry her in my heart all the time, she is part of my life now. She and her daughter and her sons, too.
    She is amazing, she is funny, she is strong, she is dear, she is caring, she is like no one else in the world.
    We are so lucky to have her in our lives.

  2. Dear Angella, you are a beautiful, compassionate soul. Thank you for speaking here that which is surely our common truth? We move from what we know to what we don't know - this is how it is. . . ? Are we not all parts of the same whole, walking alongside each other as best we can and in so doing, offering each other knowledge of, and access to, life's many and complex ingredients? There is so much we do not know, and yet by walking closely and openly together we come to understand and experience those things we do not have first-hand knowledge of. For all the challenges, as many gifts. . . Bless you, Angella. Bless Elizabeth. Bless all of us and our beloved children who enter our lives as they are and when they do with deepest purpose, honour and grace xo

  3. Oh, Angella. I will weep a bit more now, too. Tears of gratitude that you'd write such words, that you would honor me so, that you would reach across all this space and look me right in the eyes to say those things. I can't imagine you really understanding how much they mean to me, how they lift the painful isolation I might feel, give me hope, make me smile -- all those things. But please lay aside your guilt and exult in each and every thing your children do. Share those things, always --

  4. Ms. Moon, I so agree with you. Elizabeth and her family are a gift. You, also, are a gift. Thank you for so honestly sharing your heart always.

    Claire, we are indeed all part of the whole, and this place, the circle of souls, this band, as Marylinn calls it, shows me that daily.

    Elizabeth, it is you who honor me. I wish I had the words to say it better, how i feel, how much i want to circle you with my arm and walk alongside you. but the guilt, i feel a little superstitious about it, as if i do need to put it aside, to embrace and exult as you say. thank you for writing as you have, as you do, thank you for being who you are and letting me into your world. love to you.

  5. Ian Brown is the uncle of my ex-husband's wife and thank you for reminding me of this book which I have yet to read. I love your post about it and the questions you raise and the vastness of all we don't know and the gratitude that we should remember to feel for life.