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Re-Framing Suffering As Love

November 3, 2010

(Written during my daughter’s Rebecca’s recovery period from spinal fusion surgery.)

I have been reflecting on a situation that was killing me to witness a little while ago. I now realize it was a beautiful, intimate exchange of love between my son & my daughter.

Rebecca was bawling in pain from doing a little too much today and nothing I did to reposition her seemed to help.  Frankie was watching the whole scene of her crying and me struggling to help her to no avail.  His face was becoming bright red as the stress of the situation was escalating.  It was too much for him and his Tourette’s tics just started to flow from his face. 

After a little while Rebecca finally regained her composure and she says to me “Frankie has a new tic mom” and then goes on to describe what she saw.  She asked me to explain to her why he can’t control it and what it is inside his body that makes him do that.  I tried to give my best explanation in a way that a child would understand and explained to her that he can try to control it but then eventually he has to let it all out.

Then she directed all her questioning towards him and the two of them started this open dialogue with her asking questions and him answering, although he couldn’t really tell her how he is able to control it.  Then Rebecca says that Nicole, (big sis who also has Tourette’s), was doing her tics when she was sitting on her bed in the hospital and it was hurting her back when the bed was shaking but she didn’t want to say anything.

Being the mother, the whole thing was heart wrenching for me. To know that one of my children was laying there in pain, my other child suffers with trying to control an energy in his body that says “let me out, let me tic”, and remembering how much it broke my heart when Nicole would come home from school and release all the tics she had suppressed so kids wouldn’t make fun of her and that she still struggles with it today when she gets stressed. It was just too much for me to handle. I wanted to puke from all the suffering.

But what I realized afterwards was…

That it was the first time Frankie has ever seemed really comfortable talking openly about his condition and I see that as a blessing and a freedom for a kid who has no freedom of choice in what his body does.

That Frankie’s tics came out tonight because he cares about his sister.  The tics overflowing translates to the level of his love for her.

That Nicole’s love was also overflowing as she sat on that hospital bed shaking away with concern for her sister. 

That Rebecca could have been solely focused on her own agonizing condition tonight but she was tuned into her brother’s condition because she cares about him. 

That she sacrificed her own comfort so as not to make her sister uncomfortable when she was shaking her bed.

That I have 3 kids who love and care very deeply about each other. 

That we are one blessed family in spite of our difficulties.

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