godawful. godsend.

It's godawful to see my child seize, his mouth ghastly and agape, to hear that unmistakable, blood-curdling, strident seizure-shriek. It's godawful to see his muscles and limbs cramp and spasm, to know he has bitten his tongue or cheek again, to see bloody drool stain his pillow. It's godawful to know he'll suffer fits again and again, having already endured thousands of them.

Friday night's—the first of two in as many days—came out of thin air; no omens in the hours before. Afterwards, he whimpered like a pup, and though he cannot speak, it seemed as though he was trying to talk to us. Something papery rattled in his throat, impeding his ability to breathe. I crawled into his bed, gathering him in my arms as if that would somehow save him. Michael covered us and put on the nightlight. My boy's calm body belied his heart pounding feverishly under my palm.

The Palmetto Harmony cannabidiol oil I gave him in the seizure's wake seemed to thwart a second one that morning. He calmed and rested on and off all day. Weary, though unable to sleep, I read something my friend Martha Brockenbrough wrote which resonates with me:

We often are in the midst of stories we did not ask to experience.

But the task for us as human beings, as living beings, is to see what is in front of us. To love each other closely enough that we do not need words to understand the truest things.

Life asks us to look. And it asks us to clean up messes. It asks us to walk each other to the door.

She went on to say:

And we can look at a living being who is vulnerable and in need as a burden. 

But she asks us to do more—feed, clothe, shelter and love everyone.

At times all too often I do feel my son is a burden, one whose weight literally pulls at my joints and tendons, whose agitation chips away at my patience, whose restlessness impairs my sleep, whose seizures abrade my psyche, whose future terrifies me. But he is also a reason for being—a secular godsend—a human worthy of all the attention and love any of us can give him. He reminds me of the immigrant, the refugee, the waif, a being so vulnerable he needs constant protection from the elements, from accidents, from policy, from those who would prey on him.

In the dark, my mind races alongside Calvin's heart. I think of the upcoming election and what's at stake—the environment, human rights, education, justice, entitlements, healthcare, including protections for people like Calvin who have preexisting conditions—and I wonder why anyone would vote against their own or their children's interests (or not vote at all, presenting a similar risk.) A vote for the status quo would be godawful for a majority of women, the disabled, students, People of Color, LGBTQ folks, non-Christians, immigrants. A flip of the current leadership would be a godsend.

Before Michael and I had tried falling back to sleep in different beds, he reached down and pat my head. Cradling Calvin, I looked up at my husband, my eyes tearing, and said what I so often feel, "I'm so sorry you're not the dad of a regular kid."

And as I held my bundle of burdens, his throat rattling with each breath, I wondered what I'd do without him, my little godawful godsend.

A typical grand mal for Calvin, 2011.


  1. Christy, you are a beautiful voice for what I can’t put into words. The part about the terrifying future got me, fifteen years in, that is most on my mind. I alernate between getting through each day, and envisioning her after I’m gone, who will do what we do? And the words for your husband....love and light. Andrea