I can still remember the first moment I saw my first born son. He looked so
perfect even with his red face and wrinkled skin. All I could do was sigh with
We named him Joseph John or JJ after me. JJ had a very normal infancy but when he hadn’t started talking by the age of two my wife and I grew worried about what might be wrong with him. It took a long time and trips to several doctors before he was diagnosed with Autism, a spectrum disorder that affects one’s speech, behavior, emotions, and even thinking. It was a terrifying thing realizing that my son wasn’t normal. I remember praying to God over and over again to heal him, to make him normal, and to make his Autism disappear.
Those prayers were never answered. Five years later after the birth of our daughter we found out that my wife was pregnant with a second son. I remember praying to God again that this boy would be normal. Those prayers weren’t answered either. My second son, Casey had an even more extreme form of Autism. His language would never develop beyond some simple words and his behaviors and mood swings were much more severe than his brother’s. He would cry often, destroy things, and hit himself. I can remember being angry at God at times, not understanding why He had given me two handicapped sons and why He had answered “No” when I prayed again and again for Him to heal them.
After a long while, though, I began to realize that God hadn’t answered “No” to my prayers.
Instead, He had said, “I am giving you something better!” You see, over the years my sons have taught me more about love, caring, and compassion than I could have ever learned on my own.
Watching JJ give his friendliness and kindness to everyone he meets every single day makes my heart open with joy. He truly is an earth angel and a friend to the world. He knows more people by name than I do and he greets everyone with a smile straight from Heaven. Hearing Casey’s laugh is like hearing the angels sing. Over the years and with medication his mood swings and destructive behaviors have grown less severe while the love and joy inside of him have grown only stronger. He makes me laugh and smile every single day. He has never been able to say more than a few words at a time to me but his soul has spoken volumes.
Now I thank God everyday for giving me my sons. Caring for them is neither a duty, nor a burden, it is a joy. Without them in my life I wouldn’t have become the person I am. Without them in this world, it would be a darker place. God truly did answer my prayers then. He didn’t give me what I wanted. He gave me and this world something better.
The three most beautiful words in the Bible are “God is Love.” I know too that both of my boys were made in His image as are all the handicapped people in this world. They like us are God’s Children. They like us are created in LOVE. They may not be normal by the world’s standards but they are forever special in Heaven’s eyes. May we always help them to share their love and light.
Joseph J. Mazzella
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