Happy new year! Whether you are Jewish or not, it is the start of a new season.
I’ve been thinking a lot and writing a little, having relished the break from this blog, which was hard to maintain when V had no school, camp, or any structured activities.
In addition to swimming, which is my summer salvation; and walking, which is the activity V and I have shared for 18 years; the activity I’ve been most engaged in this month is prayer. Prayers all around because there is so much to pray for even if like me you are an agnostic, and/or in that larger group that believes in something – a higher power or life force – but not necessarily G-d. Prayer to me is akin to the spiritual aspect of the writing process: gaining clarity on what matters most. Afghanistan. Haiti. Louisiana and now here in NJ where more people were killed during Ida than any other state. Praying for freedom and safety and health and homes that can be rescued.
Closer to home we all have our own heartaches. My Aunt Minna died, my beautiful, whip smart, world-traveling, gracious aunt. I prayed for her easy transition, for minimal pain, I prayed with her passing for her beloved children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. I prayed for her remaining siblings, my father and my Aunt Betty who just one year ago were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living triplets. How precious and ephemeral such a title is; we are all so vulnerable and with one’s loss, the living bond that they have had since birth ends. I pray for the grief they experience and also pray that others can be so lucky to have such long vibrant lives with such adoring families.
On the homefront I pray for the smallest of things like getting through the day, especially since all the wonderful programs, like Friendship Circle camp, that helped make V’s summer enjoyable – and gave T and I space to have our own small joys: mine in a pool, his on a bike – ended late August and we had to do our best to fill the days until September 9th, when school began again. Many days we walked around Verona Lake in a nearby beautiful park, pictured here.
V had his half birthday in August, which I realize to a typical 20 year old is not especially noteworthy but for V and other young adults with an IEP [individualized educational plan] turning 21 is a major event, commonly called Falling off the Cliff because of a loss of all the services they’ve had their entire lives. I pray for his getting the services he needs and deserves, to have his extensive challenges – and our ages, as older parents – help move him up the 10-12 year (Yes, you read that correctly!) waiting list to get funding for residential services.
As the African proverb goes, “When you pray, move your feet.” Work towards the change you want to see in the world. Don’t just pray for people but try to help them out (not the same as offering unsolicited advice), be a good listener, offer empathy. In this case however the movement also involves paying a lawyer to help make these things happen because we are about to enter a cutthroat period where our desire and demand for the best possible services butts head with the bureaucracy of public funding sources with the unspeakable goal of giving us the minimal level of supports that they can.
So for the next 6 months I will be delving in, and writing about, this next stage of life. I know it sounds dire but like all journeys, there will be much to learn and gain along the way. My prayer is for V to have a good future, to live a fulfilling life, and for the rest of us to have more opportunities for the same. The steps are myriad and so much is still unknown but I’m hoping that with an advocate and the copious research I’ve undertaken it will be possible to get there.
And so I pray. I pray for the families I know in similar situations, I pray for individuals in pain, I pray for those who grieve great loss and those who find these times difficult and isolating. Scientific research on prayer shows that it may have similar benefits to meditation: it can calm your nervous system, shut down the fight or flight response, increase a feeling of emotional support. You can be an agnostic or atheist or any religion and take part.
This September I pray that the year ahead has more joy than sorrow, that you feel less alone, that you have the support and love of others to help you through the hard moments and to share the good times. I pray for peace and joy and strength for the new year, whatever it may bring.