Everything Changes

Every parent remembers that moment when a tiny pink or blue bundle in which your newborn baby has been carefully swaddled is laid tenderly into your waiting, anxious arms. In that moment, as you gaze into the eyes of your future, you somehow know that your life has been forever changed. Mine did at 11:50 a.m. June 26, 1983, when I stared and marveled a 7 lbs. 6 oz. beautiful baby boy, we named Hunter Ross. I knew that he truly was the prettiest baby boy ever because lots of other people told me so! And they weren’t all relatives.

From that day, those big brown eyes and charming smile stole my heart and produced a love bigger than I had ever known before. Like every parent, I looked forward to a lifetime of future bedtimes, bath times, sports, music lessons, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. But sometimes, The Universe has other plans for us.

After several very difficult teenage years, Hunter was diagnosed with a moderate stage of mental illness. By the time he was 20 years old, it had progressed to a severe state requiring us to find special housing for him. To say we were devastated would be an understatement. All of our hopes and promising dreams for that beautiful baby boy seemed gone… up in smoke.

All parents of a child with any kind of disability, whether physical or psychological, will tell you that you never totally give up hope or stop loving your compromised or fragile children but you do have many moments of utter despair. Under that kind of stress and disappointment, it’s easy to lose sight of what you do have and any chance of a hopeful or improved outcome. But while Hunter did not give me graduations, weddings, or grandchildren, he did give me some things I could have never expected, experienced, nor understood in any other way.

Over time and with help, Hunter’s condition improved, and he turned out to be quite capable and found ways to integrate well into society. He has worked full-time at an upscale deli for the past eight years, owns his own car, keeps an incredibly tidy home, and has more money in the bank than most people his age.  He loves his family and spending time wakeboarding on the lake every summer.

Hunter turned 37 this past June (how is that possible?) and through our journey together, there are two distinct gifts that he has given to me. The first is an unshakeable faith that miracles can indeed happen… even when everything and everyone says they cannot. Hunter taught me to hold on, to look again, and never, ever give up. And secondly, that everyone has value. Everyone. No one is expendable, worthless, or beyond hope.

Hunter and our family will continue to wrestle with the changes and challenges that come with mental illness, but I never imagined we would see him so productive, independent, and happy. It was a joyous moment when he walked me down the aisle at my wedding a few years ago.

Today, Tom and I are picking up Hunter at the airport for a long-overdue visit to the cabin. In honor of him and all he has accomplished, I am sharing another Sara Barielles song from her stage play, Waitress, called Everything Changes. Her lyric says it all for me:

Today’s a day like any other, but I am changed,
I am a mother, in an instant.
And who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here, so innocent.
I was lost for you to find
And now I’m yours and you are mine

Two tiny hands, a pair of eyes
An unsung melody is mine for safekeeping
And I will guard it with my life
I’d hang the moon for it to shine on her sleeping
Starting here and starting now
I can feel the heart of how

Everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Oh, and it’s true
What did I do to deserve you?

I didn’t know, but now I see
Sometimes what is, is meant to be.
You saved me.
My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus and in time, maybe,
I can heal and I can breathe
‘Cause I can feel myself believe

That everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around.
Everything changes.
What I thought was so permanent fades.

And I thank God tonight there’s a new life in front of my face.

And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place.

And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Cause everything’s changed.

Thank God for you.

I hope Sara’s song and Hunter’s story will inspire you this week to be mindful of the inherent value in everyone you meet and to never, ever lose hope for a miraculous future.

“And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place.”
~ Sara Barielles