special needs, suicide, good love, and being enough.

14278985_1029722010474537_654728020_nThis little amazing guy is one of my favs. I have a big brother and a sister-in-law who are incredible parents to the most adorable 4.5 year old, Dominic. He has a thick head of blonde hair, the cutest little legs, the smallest (ok, non-existent) butt, and he loves to be snuggled. Especially by his mom, but his favourite auntie will do from time to time.

This boy. He is a little teacher. One of my greatests. He came into this world a bit unexpectedly, with some struggles that means his life looks different, but he has taught me so much.

In a world that so often measures value by what we produce, Dominic has, more deeply than any other person taught me that we are enough because we exist.

See, this boy? He doesn’t do much. Kinda sorta nothing in fact. Except hang out, cuddle, and be handsome (and he is unreal cute in pj’s!) He has some pretty extreme special needs, and his body needs extra help with everything. Productivity level? Nil. Yet his loveability? Infinite. He is loved and adored and cared for because he is here. He doesn’t do anything to earn it. Which is really the most brilliant thing, and what will for me be an enduring lesson that he will leave. He will, for the entirety of his short life, be loved and delighted in and he doesn’t do a single thing to earn or justify that love. He just is and he is enough.

I can hardly think of anything more beautiful than a life lived showered in pure, unconditional love that you never question, never work for, but simply receive.

And yet somewhere between 4.5 and 40 (or 104) we lose it – we lose the sense (or perhaps for some of us, never had it) that we are loved just for being here. We stop believing that we matter because we simply exist. Somewhere along the lines we adopt a belief system that suggests we need to act, perform, dress, look, or achieve in a certain way in order to be deemed worthy or valuable in this world.

Dominic would disagree.

Here is the second, but equally important thing that I have learned from this boy. I’ve learned that good love changes lives. Dominic’s condition is rare, and it means his life expectancy is significantly shorter than yours or mine. In fact, he’s nearly quadrupled it already. He really is a bit of a miracle. And yes, he’s had good doctors and nurses to help him along the way – but the thing that I am deeply convinced of is that good love has kept him alive. I have not met more committed, selfless, compassionate, attentive, incredible parents than my big bro and sister-in-law. Their unwavering commitment to their son overwhelms my heart to think of, and I have seen them pour into this boy around the clock – meeting every need and providing him with all the love and care they have, and then digging deeper to find more.

Good, good love. And lots of it. Who wants to leave that? Not this kid, that’s for sure.

As I was thinking about him and his special life, I thought of the folks I work with who want to die. Maybe some people would be surprised to know just how many people have thoughts of suicide; there’s a lot of folks who have the sense that their life just isn’t important enough, that they don’t really matter, that they’re a burden and drain on their loved ones – so they should just pack it in and do everyone a favour.

Here’s the thing: for those struggling with suicide and for those that love them, Dom continues to teach me, too. See, what I hear from people who can’t quite imagine sticking around is that it’s too hard to stay. Their feelings of not being enough, not producing enough, not contributing enough, being important enough, being healthy enough…these things make it hard to stay alive. Suicide is a shit storm of unworthiness. It is a cacophony of “you are a loser, unimportant, insignificant.” It is not fun, and the weight of these voices can just be too much.

I’ve heard from people too, that they feel they are a burden to those they care about. That loving them is too much work, so they should spare their loved ones the trouble of all that work.

I have something important to say, so lean in here.

Maybe loving you is a burden. Maybe loving you takes extra work. Google defines burden as “a load, especially a heavy one.” So maybe your addiction, your struggle with employment, your depression, your difficulty connecting, or __________ makes you extra hard to love.

So what??? So you need some ‘extra’. So you are more work than the next person to love. OKDominic needs extra love and care too. It happens. And it’s ok. Because your worthiness and loveability does not hinge on your productivity.

For my brother and sister-in-law loving my nephew could technically be considered “burdensome”, because they truly do carry a heavy load. But we aren’t only loveable when it’s easy or convenient. Dominic is loveable all the time, even if caring for him requires more from his people than the average kid. The work required doesn’t change the underlying fact that the kid is amazing, delightful, special, and deserving of all the love in the world.

For people who have had others let them down, and not give them good love? I want you to hear this – other people’s inability to love you well, with all of your struggles, all of your crap, all of the good and the hard, that speaks to the struggles of the other person to show up and love you. Because someone can’t give you the good love you long for doesn’t mean it’s because you don’t deserve it.  It means they struggle to give it. Because they’re people too, with their own stories and hurts and broken spaces.

To those who love people (Ok…this is for all of us): Let’s be bringers and givers and sharers of good love, the love that showers people with attention and delight and care and closeness. Not only when people are easy. Not only when it’s convenient. Not only when they do what we want, or act a certain way, or perform like circus monkeys. Let’s love people well, and give good love – the kind of love that makes a terminally ill boy stick around for years longer than anticipated, and let’s make our people feel so loved that they know deep in their bones that they are enough, even if they don’t produce, achieve, or perform to the gold standard.

Good love. It’s the love that let’s us know we are enough because we are here. My heart could not be more grateful for a little boy and his parents who teach me the depth of this daily.

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