"Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism" excerpt by Janele Hoerner (CatholicMom.com) Grasping the wet and glassy cliffside, I became invigorated by the sunlight. It felt refreshing and revitalizing to definitively see the visible rock mass above me. This allowed me to easily differentiate the next sturdiest rock of which to take hold. As I pushed my body forward and felt the rhythmic pitter-patter of raindrops, they became a calming agent, compared to previously appearing as a distraction. Our bodies were noticeably worn down by the brutality of the hurricane that continued to hover over the beach. Although, a calm was beginning to become increasingly present upon the atmosphere. The wind had died down significantly into a swift but less than harmful blow, and it seemed conclusively as if we were finally experiencing the last of this passing storm. It even seemed that the grip of my child began to become sturdier as he discovered how to hold on differently, while seemingly accepting a sense of security with his mother’s intentions. I visualized climbing relatively effortlessly amongst the rocks ahead. However, as I became distracted in my own desires, my footing slipped for the first time. Watching a small rock break free and plummet down into the ocean below, bypassing my lifeguard by only a fraction of space, I gasped at the sight below me. Freezing unintentionally in my place upon this gigantic rock, my mind spun out of control with dismal thoughts. Attempting my best to pay no attention to my own bodily ailments by overpowering my mind, we continued on our climb. However, I felt as if my frame was collapsing with each change in position. It seemed as if the small breaks, which we had found upon our journey, were not quite long enough. I moved onward at a snail’s pace until I felt a warm nudge on my shoulder as our lifeguard informed me of another spot to rest our worn down bodies. Assembling all of my courage, I followed behind him rapidly as we were led to safety in a cave nestled in the high shelf upon what felt like our prison. Resting my body alongside my son’s, we relaxed in the dark and hidden seclusion of our shelter before we had to once more resume our upward ascent. Watching the rain fall and the ocean roar in the distance, I coaxed my child to rest his eyes as I rocked his body into a deep sleep. As he slept, I saw him relax totally and dream as I invoked multiple prayers of thanks to my creator. With an array of peace sweeping throughout the surrounding darkened restoration, our bodies were able to recover as they desired. Allowing my mind to fall into a restorative nap, I dreamt of a life, ironically not much different than the one I currently possessed. Regrettably awakening before my dream had fully concluded, I was now even more determined to finish our climb. I looked upward from out of our shelter only to be blinded by the sun that had reached its apex in the sky. Surrendering all trust into God’s hands once again, we cautiously began to blindly advance on our journey. To my astonishment, the rain had changed into a light misty drizzle, and for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, my hair began to gradually dry in the warmth of the sun. Feeling as if I was no longer held back by my own fears of what lay ahead, I readily pushed my body to its maximum capacity. With minimal breaks and only encountering a handful of additional ledges for rest, we pushed onward. Reaching with my one free arm for what I thought would be my next hold, I felt an unfamiliar flat surface. My spirit was lifted in amazement. Praying to God that I contained the strength to elevate my own body weight as well as my son’s onto the summit of the cliff, I gathered what courage I had left from the depths of my mind. I invoked one final push from the current rock that held my footing; I was in awe as I elevated us onto the top of the mountain. Lying on the soft bed of grass, I reached below to help our lifeguard to the peak of elevation as we collapsed backward into an array of laughter and tears that could not be contained. ♥ For most individuals there is always one specific season, which seems to feel as though it will never end; mine is winter. During my most depressing time of the year, the sun never seems to shine through the grey covered sky. Although I know it will end, it sometimes feels like it will go on forever. Life, in itself, seems to present a lot like the seasons, and because of this there will always be time periods in our lives that we must push through, no matter how much we do not want to, in order to get to the other side. In this respect, I feel this season analogy is the easiest scenario in order to relate what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child. Although impossible to fully comprehend what it exactly feels like raising a child with autism or a similar diagnosis, you can picture it somewhat if you just imagine your most difficult season of weather being extended indefinitely. Thankfully, there is always a way to improve our lives. In our situation, the age of three was comparable to the worst cold and dark winter climb that we had ever known. However, we were on the path to improvement. Even though we had trial after trial with no warm air, birds, or flowers in sight, we believed we could transform our lives with perseverance. It may have seemed as if we were stuck on what felt like a cold and dark mountainous climb into the unknown, one that attempted to suck the happiness and the love of life right from us. We were truly not. In reality, along with our continuous prayers and actions, we were witnessing our lives transforming for the better with each step forward. As time progressed, the sky eventually began to clear, the birds slowly returned, some color even popped up from the ground, and combined with some warm air gusts hurled our way, we were led to the top of our mountain. To be fair, I am not sure to whom I can even credit our child’s immense changes. I certainly cannot and will not take all of the credit and say it was because of what we did as parents. I say this because we were only led to do what we were doing in our actions and perseverance because of how we believed God desired us to push through the struggles using our faith. Finally, and in God’s time - never our own - we were led to find the ways to evolve from the heartbreak and trauma the diagnosis bestowed upon all of our lives. We were led to understand that even though our bodies had been wounded in the process, our spirit was fully intact and truly better than it ever was before as we declared our mission in this life to help our little boy become the best he could possibly be. This led the age of four to still feel as if it was an uphill climb, but it was a much easier climb compared to what we had previously endured. Within the struggles of our seemingly impossible lifestyle, we were given the tools and the understanding as to why our son actually acted in the ways that he did. This led to our fourth year journey where we were steered to learn how to love our son in the exact ways that he needed us to love him, while helping him to adapt to new situations at the same time. It was by these precise ways that we were able to endure his behaviors day in and day out. Thus, we gradually became able to guide him into becoming a less rigid individual. At the same time, we secured our own internal happiness and hope in the situation in which we were gifted. Growth in any area of our lives is not comfortable. In order to move forward, though, we must consequently push the edges of that comfort zone gradually to establish an end product. Within our hope, our love, and our trust, the product that emerged - our son - was and still is an amazing sight to see. Gratefully, as we watched the dark moments pass and discovered the apex of our mountainous climb, we felt like we were on top of the world. Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism is available at Amazon.com.

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Copyright 2019 Janele Hoerner