Joy in the Dancing/ Time Has Told
“God has given us each other...........that we might share........the Joy in the Dancing”
I heard Julie Hoy’s song, “Joy in the Dancing,” while driving in the car, alone. For this mother of four children, ages 19-12, I always consider these solo trips my Sabbath Time. I play whatever music I choose, and think about whatever and whomever come into my heart at the moment.
Julie Hoy’s words gave voice to the myriad of feelings I have felt since our second child, Erin, packed up and left for her first year of college. While her older brother had already broken us in last year, Erin’s departure was jam-packed with eighteen years of struggle, lots of hope, challenge, grace, and most of all plenty of joy, laughter, and dancing.
At her birth, we learned that Erin was born with some health issues that, at the time, were too new within the medical world to warrant a clear prognosis. Two separate doctors shrugged their shoulders and told us that they “didn’t quite know what would happen, that the prognosis was up to Erin’s body and ability to compensate for the absence of a few important things.” They honestly and apologetically couldn’t know if she would be “severely developmentally delayed or fine. Only time, and Erin, will tell.”
Time did the telling the night before Erin left for college, when we continued a tradition begun last year before her brother Greg left for school. I call it, even though all eyes roll, “The Leaving Home Ritual.” For the person who is leaving, the remaining five each find an existing item from our house that will help ease the transition and remind the person of our love and support. The celebrated person then finds an object for each of us that will help us adjust to life around the house without him/her. We end by reading a Bible passage, and gift each other with the Sign of Peace.
One of Erin’s greatest challenges has been in a social capacity, and she eagerly anticipated, feared, and dreaded “starting fresh” in a place where nobody knew anything about her learning disability, her struggles to belong, and her need for daily medicine. While I knew most of it, she waited until twelve hours before leaving to reveal her major fears, and only one hour before our ritual.
This mother knew that she needed to act fast to “bring a dying heart to life with the promise of a new day tomorrow.” But how, when I only had twelve hours before entrusting her to the God who would be living in strangers’ hearts at school, not the God who had helped me for years troubleshoot and coach her? I put those fears aside until another time, so as not to waste precious time with my daughter who has neurological difficulty with any transition, much less major ones.
Time ran out, because we needed to gather for “the cheesy-wish-you-wouldn’t-call-it-that ritual.”
I began, and gave her my secret inspiration for maintaining the best attitude I can muster each day: a small picture frame with the words, “Peace on the outside comes from knowing God on the inside.” I shared with her (through tears that included my stifled panic) that initially I had decided to give her something else, because this was a treasured piece of my day, and I feared that Erin would lose it, as she is apt to do; but that I had changed my mind after our talk one hour before. I gave it to her, and trusted that she would take good care of it, just as I was trying my best to trust that her new school would take good care of her, and not lose her.
Her siblings each gave the perfect gift to her. Emma had spent 7 hours designing a family scrapbook that she could take; Christopher presented her with his favorite goofy hat from his collection; and Greg sent her with an Identification Badge from his trip to New Orleans last spring.
Paul’s explanation ironically began just like mine. He had his favorite picture of Erin when she was a little girl, that he just loves. “And,” he said, he “loved it so much that he couldn’t give it to her!” We all laughed tears of absurdity when instead, he sent her away with one of her least flattering baby pictures!!!
The laughter and teasing continued, as Erin gathered her thoughts and items. Looking back, I realize that we were in danger of steering the focus away from someone who rarely receives full adulation and attention.
“Peace and understanding” were ours for the next ten minutes, however, courtesy of Erin, who created a sense of deep humility, admiration, clarity, and sacredness around the moment. Had you asked us who would have done that prior to the gathering, nobody would have guessed Erin, for usually she is only credited with leaving the bathroom messy, the dishes left out, and her constant obsession with the computer.
With each person’s gift, Erin’s essence emerged – she commanded the room with her innate sense of insight, extreme ability to forgive and to love, and her infinite capacity to hope, hope in the “promise of that new day tomorrow.”
Each gift was perfect for each person, even more so as she offered each thoughtful, reverent explanation.
By the time we read from the Bible passage that had spoken to her at “her last Mass at her soon-to-be old parish,” the laughter was replaced with the knowledge that we had been right all along to “celebrate this life, lived in faith.” Nothing had been wasted: not the struggles, not the sadness, not the loneliness. “God had heard, and will continue to, hear our every prayer.”
At that moment, and every moment since, I have known that she is “fine.” My emotions (all of the emotions, primarily my grief, that only now I realize I had placed aside for 18 years), creep out in those Sabbath moments. Erin has indeed surpassed all of the expectations that we have ever had, and then some. ..............................which brings us the joy in the dancing.