My sister was the quintessential business woman — successful, personable, able to adapt to changes thrown her way. Life handed her challenge after challenge and she constantly rose to meet each one. “You cannot conquer my independent spirit,” she’d seem to say as she pushed aside such horrible events like being held up at gunpoint in Texas, and working downtown San Francisco during the massive earthquake where glass rained down around her.
She was — and still is — an overcomer. But the biggest course change for her life was her son, Harley. At just 2 years old he was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe seizure disorder, which meant he was never expected to make it to his teen years, much less adulthood.
I reflected on Colleen and Harley as I read Jesus’ statement to Peter in Mark 8:33: “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Just a couple verses earlier, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Messiah. Perhaps he had started fantasizing about being at the right hand of the most powerful person on earth. But then Jesus told him about the reality that he would suffer and be killed and rise from the dead three days later. Talk about dashed expectations.
My sister went from an independent business woman to a mom of a child with severe special needs. But as she faced this new reality, she began to see it through God’s point of view.
No one would have chosen this hard life for Colleen or Harley, who has survived comas, surgeries, mind-numbing medications, and horrific seizures that bring him crashing to the floor, causing bruising and missing teeth. But with most every hospital stay, Colleen has been able to share the love and light of Christ. Even when life looked the bleakest for her, she has brought comfort, compassion and joy to the families and nurses she has met along this unexpected journey.
Now, while she is still successful at her events business (when we’re not in a pandemic, of course), her life revolves more around taking care of her 26-year-old son, who will never live an independent life.
Hers is a life of being “palms up.” Instead of clinging to what was or what could have been, she instead releases her hands to God and let’s His love flow through. Each year holds a new concern and possible life-threatening crisis.
But if you’ve seen Harley, you know that when he smiles — albeit a mostly toothless grin — his smile lights up a room.
By Cyndie Claypool de Neve
Senior Creative Director
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