A Wish Come Clear

Choosing Love, Losing Fear, & Finding Home

Wherever I Go: An Open Letter to L’Arche

L’Arche* friends, I miss walking beside you through the world.

I miss holding your hand, Cassandra**, and how your fingernails always dug into my skin. Holding on tight helped you to balance, so I’d leave them there until I had to — ever so gently — pry them away.

We’d re-grip, but a few steps later, your nails would dig in again. I’d sigh, maybe, but mostly I wouldn’t mind the crescent moons left behind. They were imprints of trust.

You’d ask me to take you out … for tea, for sweets, for a break from routine. Because life was too short to be diligent all the time, because teatime is a chance to slow down and enjoy.

***

Supper at L'Arche

A Supper at L’Arche. Photo Credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

I miss pushing you, Pedro, in your wheelchair … which, of course, you’d insist with great volume and intensity that you did not need. To your great dismay, I’d pull the chair along anyway. We’d go less than a hundred yards before you’d turn to me, ready to rest. I’d help you buckle in, and never say I told you so.

Though it could be stressful at times, I love that you always wanted to leave that wheelchair behind. You, with your indomitable spirit, always believed you could walk the whole way … just as I always thought I wouldn’t need to bring an extra layer of clothing when I always, always did.

***

I miss pushing your wheelchair too, Miguel; I miss hearing the sound of your contented, buzzing purr. I’d see you looking around and beaming peace on everyone. You, who spent so much time indoors, never took the outdoors for granted.

I remember how you’d notice things at the margins, things the rest of us wouldn’t see … the bums sitting on the sidewalk, the brown chickadees fluttering around an abandoned pizza crust.

You’d go to Starbucks every Monday, and fill up the room with your quiet gladness. You’d extend your hand to everyone. One man refused to shake, once, and it was his loss. You drew your hand back, confused, undaunted.

***

I miss walking down to McDonald’s with you, Leo. Truth be told, I can’t stand McDonald’s, but I have a soft spot for it because of you. You’d make your daily pilgrimage, shuffling slowly. Such a pace meant more time to take notice; you once said you liked the scent of autumn leaves as they fell from the trees.

Whenever I’d see you walking alone, I’d be struck by your vulnerability. You’d go out into a world that doesn’t always understand your speech, your story. Every day, you’d show up for your life. You didn’t let fear hold you back; you’d get up to speak in front of a crowd even though you had terrible stage fright.

***

I miss walking beside you, Theresa, watching you hunt for pennies. Your patience was marvelous, and never more so than on the day I came to pick you up at the airport.

It was late and we were tired, but you didn’t give me a hard time when I couldn’t remember where I’d parked the car. Instead, you walked with me through the parking decks for what seemed like forever. When we finally came upon the old L’Arche van, we jumped for joy.

On ordinary days, we’d walk along, you talking to yourself aloud, me talking to myself in silence, companionable. We’d hold hands, stopping only for glimmers of gold, pennies on the sidewalk.

***

Passing the candle after supper. Photo credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

Passing the candle after supper. Photo credit: Brian A. Taylor Photography

I miss being able to walk beside you. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten.

Because of you, I slow down and listen; I write down my parking spots.

I notice the flutter of the chickadees, feasting on crumbs.

I greet strangers, because when I do, I see you in their smiles.

I bring an extra layer, even though I really believe I won’t need it.

I treat myself to a cup of tea in the afternoons.

And most of all, I show up for my life.

We may be separated by distance, but really, that’s about it.

You are with me wherever I go.

***

Who is with you wherever you go? Join the conversation in the comments!

***

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*L’Arche (French for ‘The Ark’) is a faith-based non-profit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. I worked with the DC community for 5 years.

**All names have been changed.

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12 Replies

  1. Laura Cabral

    Dear Caroline,
    It is powerful to see how your learning continues and how small actions keep your friends close. Thank you for that,
    Laura

    1. You’re very welcome, Laura! I’m glad to hear that the post spoke out to you.

  2. Metod

    Caroline, it brought a tear to my eye…such a touching affirmation.
    When we open our hearts to strangers….true magic can happen.

    PS I can relate to those crescent moons…they can be painful, but so beautiful :)

    1. Thank you, Metod! So well said. :)

  3. Donna

    I don’t know why this post brought me to tears, but it is so beautifully put! And I miss doing life with you too…because of you I am nicer to salespeople in stores (since you called me on it!), more patient with your brother, and always willing to stop for bunnies in the road! Love you!

    1. Oh those bunnies! :) I miss you too, and can’t wait for your visit. It’s great to hear that the post moved you, my dear Mom. And oh my goodness, how much I have learned from you …

  4. Annie T.

    This reminds me too, that I can have my opinions that endear me to others as theirs do to me. I don’t need necessarily that they agree, just that we share them. Like the guy always never needing the wheelchair, there is help available that I never figure needing. We are not islands unto ourselves; I forget that everyday. I so much enjoy your inner moments you skillfully share. As a busy Autism mom, I am reminded in this post of how much I have learned from my daughter and how much of my own life lessons would go unnoticed if things were to go smoothly all the time! “A calm sea does not a sailor make” and helping others navigate their oceans certainly charts new waters for me. Thanks for sharing. Annie

    1. A very good point, Annie! I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s so true. And hearing that A Wish Come Clear is of encouragement to you amidst all that you do for your daughter … well, that just makes my day. Thank you!

  5. Beautiful!

    I use this affirmation every day: Thank you for each moment of love I have experienced in the past, am experiencing now, and will experience in the future. (All of that love, and gratitude, infuses my connections and creations in each moment that I live…so everyone I have known/will know, is in this moment of now). I love your specific examples, it means so much to a person to know that when they chose to connect, it mattered. And, it’s a gift to receive your memories of love!

    1. Thank you, Joy! And I completely agree: it does mean so much to a person to know that when they chose to connect, it mattered, and that that choice is not forgotten.

  6. Erin

    Oh, gosh, I had the same experience with “Theresa” at BWI one day when I picked her up. I knew where I’d parked – I just had no idea how to get there! I was so flustered and angry with myself and she was just like “It’s okay!”

    1. No kidding! I know just what you mean – and now I bet we’re not the only ones! ;)