This photo has entranced us.
On Christmas day, Rhema’s grandmother snapped this picture of Rhema and her Uncle Ben.
I cannot quite explain it, but it’s a picture of a Rhema we rarely see.
For a brief moment, I fancied that this is what she would look like without the autism.
People often refer to autism as the invisible disability. The physical appearance of a child with ASD is usually no different than any other child. Certainly, at first glance, there is nothing about Rhema that screams “disability.” Friendly people in the grocery store (or wherever) seem naturally drawn to her. They make conversation with her – “Oh, what pretty pink boots you have!”, “Are you helping Mom shop today?”, “Are those cookies for you?” When she fails to look at them or respond, I usually explain about her autism and the fact that she has trouble communicating.
But to the experienced eye, sometimes autism has a “look.” For Rhema, it’s a faraway look – her big brown eyes set in a pale face, with dark circles underneath. The picture below was taken less than a year ago (-she’s come so far since then). (Imagine me kneeling in front of her, slightly to the right, calling her name over and over. She does not, cannot look at me directly.)
I know I’m not alone when I say this: we have been trying to get a good picture of her for years. To capture a moment on film when she is
1) actually looking up, making eye contact
She smiles and giggles at her own private jokes. But so rarely do we get an “engaging smile.”
After cropping and zooming the picture every which way, it dawned on me that this is not a snapshot about autism, with or without.
It’s just my Rhema.
Finally. There she is.
And for once I get to gaze – as I long as I want – into those beautiful eyes. She’s looking at me and smiling back at me. She’s telling me with her eyes what she cannot yet express with words. “I’m happy, Mommy. I’m feeling better… I’m loved.”
Thank you, Lord! In the end, isn’t that what we want for our children?
I’m thankful that we get to see it and hold on to it.
The fog is lifting.
There’s so much more of her to see. I can hardly wait.
In your eyes, I can see my dream’s reflections
In your eyes, found the answers to my questions
In your eyes, I can see the reasons why our love’s alive
In your eyes, we’re drifting safely back to shore
And I think I’ve finally learned to love you more