My child's gift gave me the ability to go on and find healing.
- Posted on Nov 1, 2006
Desiree, my six-year-old daughter, kicked the autumn leaves along the sidewalk into a neat pile as we walked to the school bus that morning. I should have accompanied her in my wheelchair, but opted for my crutches instead. I have multiple sclerosis, and my neuropathy was acting up.
Still, like Desiree, I loved the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. Autumn is magical here in New Hampshire. I can't think of any sight more breathtaking than the mountains cloaked in the blazing yellows, fiery reds and burnished golds of the birch, oak and maple leaves.
My daughter skipped along in the crisp air. I tried to keep pace, but couldn't. I didn't want her to see how much pain I was in. She bent down, scooped up an armful of leaves and sent them flying into the air. They cascaded down around us, and Desiree giggled.
"Brown, yellow, orange, green! Red is my favorite. Is it yours too, Mommy?" Her smile faded as she looked into my eyes. "Mommy, are you okay?" She reached out to hug me.
I embraced my baby as best I could. "Your hugs always make me feel better," I said. It was true: For the first time that morning, I had a brief respite from the pain.
But as soon as we got to the school-bus stop, the spasms resumed. I need to go home and take some pain medication, I told myself. I wouldn't be able to wait much longer. The pain was intense, like thousands of sharp, thin needles piercing my legs. Desiree played in the leaves. I paced, groaned and prayed for relief. Where is that bus?
I forced myself forward, wondering how I would make it back to the house when my whole body was in spasm. Then I felt myself lurch to one side. I nearly toppled. Damp leaves had attached themselves to the rubber tips of my crutches, making them slick and dangerous.
I picked up one crutch and shook the leaves free. Then I stabilized myself against the clean one so I could shake the leaves off the other crutch. They all fell off except one. The leaf stubbornly held on.
"I'll get it," Desiree said. She knelt down and pulled the offending leaf off the crutch. "Mommy, look!" she gasped.
In her hand was a bright crimson maple leaf. Around its center vein was a perfectly shaped, unmistakable heart. The school bus's brakes screeched. Flashing me a big smile, Desiree handed me the leaf. I bent down and gave her a kiss, then she waved goodbye and got on the bus.
I gingerly held on to the crimson leaf with the perfectly shaped heart as though it were fine porcelain. I hardly remember walking home. I often wonder if I floated back. All I can recall is feeling totally enveloped in God's love, and in awe of the beauty all around me.
That afternoon I met Desiree at the bus stop. I had the leaf with me. "I have an idea," I told her. "I never want to forget this wonderful day. Let's go have the leaf laminated at the copy shop so we can keep it forever."
Desiree is in high school now, and my MS is in remission. And the maple leaf? It still hangs on the glass door of our breakfast nook, its perfect heart a reminder of that perfect autumn day, and of God's restorative promise—bright, beautiful, holy.
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Diana Amadeo is the author of the children's book Holy Friends: Thirty Saints and Blesseds of the Americas and has published more than 475 articles and stories.