The Stone We Reject

Parenting a kid with special needs, you spend a lot of time worrying about the gaps.

The cornerstone of St. Vincent De Paul Church in New Orleans in 2007
The cornerstone of St. Vincent De Paul Church in New Orleans in 2007 (photo: Infrogmation, via Wikimedia Commons)

This past weekend, two of my older children and I tackled their younger sisters’ room in a fit of deep spring cleaning. We swept away old clothing for donation, redressed the Barbies, and found homes for all the stuffed animals in a hanging garment closet and vacuumed underneath the bed. In my frenzy, I cleared away a collection of purple plastic beads. I didn’t know what they were. I just tossed them in the trash bag. A while later, I vacuumed the carpet, and I saw a few more beads get swept up from under the bed.

We looked around at the room. It looked beautiful. Only once we’d declared our actions a success did I notice the box on top of the bookshelf, a 3D puzzle of a purple crystal dragon. She’d received it for her birthday, and I knew, somewhere in the vacuum tubes or trash bag, lay the pieces necessary for its completion. The next day, the Sunday readings discussed the stone being rejected becoming the cornerstone. I thought about the puzzle. The room looked great, but the price of making it look good, was the loss of a gift. The puzzle would never be possible to complete, pieces no longer existed, pieces necessary for the completion of the present. I could not fill in the gaps I’d created. I made a mental note to replace the puzzle, and to be more careful in the future, not to dismiss things I did not know the value of, simply because I did not know their purpose.

The following week, we prepared for our youngest son to receive First Communion. I’ve spent the past year wondering, “Is he ready?” because of his limited language. We’ve practiced with unconsecrated hosts, with limited success. The CCD program knew this and told me it would be okay. They’d adapt as necessary. “Love would fill in the gaps.” I conceded that I felt more than a little nervous, even knowing they’d kneel to offer him the body of Christ and they’d offer him the opportunity with both species. Special education, regardless of the subject or level of severity, is always about getting around the problem, but it also always requires a leap of faith when you make all the adaptations and hold your breath waiting for the person receiving the adaptation to respond. Parenting a kid with special needs, you spend a lot of time worrying about the gaps.

All the families with children with special needs sat in the pews designated for them, and there was row after row of witness for us, of people showing the value of these people, even if the world did not understand their purpose. Five pews ahead of us, sat a family we know, with two sons. Their youngest son and ours, both have Down syndrome. I watched as he climbed up his brother like Zacchaeus the sycamore trees to get a better look at the Eucharist. That behavior was paralleled by the other families at the Mass. One sister stroked her older sister’s hair, calming her down as she sat in the pew, chirping at odd points in the Mass. A father held his adolescent son’s shoulder, helping him cope with the anticipation. Each of these children remained necessary parts of their family, and revealed the family’s faith that love would fill in the gaps. These children were like the vital pieces which fit holes in their families hearts, and helped reveal more of the dimensions of God’s love, than could be known otherwise. They were, as all of us are, stones connected to the cornerstone, Christ.