By Amber Pearce at www.leftwithasmile.com
(Want another miracle story? Check out the one I wrote for Amber's blog: http://leftwithasmile.com/an-unexpected-miracle-on-tlcs-playhouse-masters-by-audrey-leavitt/ )
Every family has their stories. You know, the ones that get brought up and repeated at almost every big family gathering. Even though the story has been told a million times every one listens, chimes in and reacts as if it is being told for the first time. Many are the stories of that one thing someone will never live down, like the time we were home alone and my big brother got stuck inside a folding couch and we had to call 911 to help get him out. Though I love to laugh (and that one makes me laugh every time) I especially love the inspiring stories. The stories that define the fabric of our family spun from trial, determination, faith and miracles.
When family gatherings at my house move into story telling mode there is one member of our family that everyone has a story for. Everyone has a story to tell about Billy. Most of them are funny because he had the quickest wit of anyone I’ve met. All of them are precious because he was so precious to us. And to think we almost didn’t have those stories to tell. The fact the Billy lived and joined our family was a miracle in and of itself. My parents adopted him at 5 months with the understanding that he would have severe mental and physical disabilities. We were told he wouldn’t walk or talk and that he likely wouldn’t live past 4 years. How wrong they were, but that is not the miracle I will tell today. Though the gift of new life is often referred to as miraculous especially when we get to hold a newborn baby in our arms; often we don’t see the miracle in that same precious spirit leaving this world.
Every holiday was my brother Billy’s favorite. The day after one holiday was over he would start asking about the next. Who was coming, what would we do? He would ask these questions that he already knew the answers to several times a day out of sheer excitement. We may have lost patience with any other 25 year old, but Billy wasn’t any other 25 year old. Billy’s physical and mental disabilities blessed him with the innocence of a 4 year old and he radiated love joy where ever he was.
Christmas 2005 was an especially popular topic with Billy because more family than usual would be gathering together to celebrate. He LOVED his brothers and sisters. He would tell one sibling they were his “favorite” and in the next moment tell a different sibling they were his favorite. He had so much love in that body of his he couldn’t decide on just one. His loved extended to everyone around him where ever he was. There wasn’t a single greeting that didn’t include an enthusiastic “Hi!” followed by him rushing over to give a hug. There would be plenty of hugs this Christmas and he showed his excitement by constantly listing off everyone that would be coming. Of course he didn’t forget to also list off what he wanted Santa to bring him. This year it was a captain’s hat. He loved to dress up and a captain’s hat would top off his ensemble of jeans, button up shirt, suit coat, cowboy boots (that he absolutely refused to wear on the right feet), and walking cane (that he didn’t need but thought he looked pretty cool using.) Yep, he would show up this Christmas in style.
He would also show up this Christmas feeling sick. Darn it! Billy was the life of the party, we couldn’t have him feeling sick! We needed him well enough to whack the Christmas Eve Pinata with his cane, scramble to scoop up all the candy, and then come to each of us to taunt us with his winnings. At least we still had a few more days until Christmas. We would just remember Billy in our prayers and surely he would be better by then.
Christmas Eve morning came and when my mom went in to check on Billy he seemed to be feeling a little better. Phew! We went on with our preparations for our traditions to be held that evening and let Billy rest a little more. By 5pm the house was bursting with family and the magical excitement Christmas brings. A few of us went to Billy’s room to check in on him and wake him for the fun. As we entered the room we immediately noticed his breathing was especially strained. I had heard that breathing before when my son had croup and the sound immediately set off alarms in my mind. Everyone’s reaction was the same. We need to take Billy to the hospital but first he needs a blessing. My father would often lay his hands on our heads and offer a prayer by inspiration intended to heal the sick.
My brother Charles (Billy’s true favorite) was asked to give the blessing as the rest of us gathered into the room. A tangible spirit of love and peace filled the room as Billy’s brothers and father laid their hands upon his head. My mother and I leaned into each other as we listened to the sweet blessing and I impatiently waited for the reassurance that Billy would quickly recover. I opened my eyes before the blessing was over to look at my brother and then exchanged a glance with my mother. We were overcome with emotion and understanding. My brother’s words softly settled over us, “Billy, you are so very loved by your family. Heavenly Father loves you too and He wants you to come home to him.” Nothing but sobs could be heard as we all tried to comprehend what was just spoken. What? How could this be? He just has a cold! Its Christmas! My dad called for the ambulance just as my sister walked in the door from a day of shopping. Even though she had the flu she had been searching all day for the one gift Billy wanted, a captain’s hat. When she heard the news she dropped the hat to the floor and burst into tears.
Between all of Billy’s siblings there were a lot of young children who were still excited for Christmas. They couldn’t really comprehend what was going on and it was overwhelming to try to continue to celebrate when we just wanted to be with Billy. Word of Billy’s condition got out and without having to ask several women from church gave up Christmas day with their families and showed up at our door to watch the children so we could go to the hospital. What a priceless and selfless gift they gave.
I walked into the hospital room to see my mother by Billy’s side, both her hands gently stroking his soft skin. Her gaze would hardly leave him. I knew she was trying to soak up every moment she had left with him. I walked over to her side and touched Billy’s pale hand. “I haven’t clipped his nails in a while.” What a funny thought at such a somber moment. At times I would help to shave and groom him and I felt a pang of guilt that I hadn’t taken the time to help him lately.
As the rest of the family filed into the room I was overwhelmed with the realization of what a gift it was that so many of us were here to say goodbye. If he had gotten sick at any other time than Christmas that wouldn’t have happened. Heavenly Father knew how loved Billy was and how hard it would be for us to let him go. He showed such love and mercy in letting us tell Billy how much we loved him, and giving him one more hug before He called him home.
The doctor removed the breathing tube. Until this moment Billy had been mostly unresponsive so we weren’t sure if he would even be able to communicate with us. Another small miracle, though he couldn’t speak he was suddenly very alert and happy we were there. I showed Billy the things Santa had stuffed in his stocking and some of the gifts he had received. If he could have I know he would have jumped up the second he saw his new captain’s hat. He tried to sit up and reach for it but didn’t have the strength. You could sense his contentment as I placed it on his head for him. His ensemble was complete! We moved on to Billy’s favorite thing to do... sing! Billy would shake his head yes and no as we tried to guess which Christmas song he wanted us to sing. He always loved to sing at the top of his lungs and you could see his joy as sounds of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and other Christmas songs filled the intensive care
In a moment the entire family spontaneously began singing Billy’s all time favorite church song, “Called to Serve.” Tears and love were overflowing and I’m surprised we could sing out the words with such strength. The song Billy sang hundreds of times before took on a whole new meaning. Billy always talked about how he was going to go on a mission for our church when he “grew up” and of course we all knew his disabilities would make it impossible. The Spirit helped us understand that not only had Billy already been on a mission his entire life, but he was also being called home to continue his mission for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Those unexpected yet precious moments in the hospital were a miracle from Heavenly Father. As soon as we finished singing and hugging Billy goodbye, he closed his eyes, unresponsive again. A few hours later his spirit returned Home.
I was granted the privilege of helping to prepare his body for burial. I wanted to clip his nails and shave his face for the last time. As I shaved his face I softly sang, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” just as he had requested every other time I shaved him.
When my brothers dressed him they put his cowboy boots on backwards just as he would have liked it. His cane was placed by his side and captain’s hat on his head.
At his over-flowing funeral each person was asked to stand if they had ever been hugged by Billy and every person in the room stood.
The Lord knew how much we cherished Billy and how hard it would be for us to see him leave this world. Out of His great kindness and love he let us know that he was bringing Billy home and he gave us those precious moments of goodbye. We will always remember and the story will always be told of the Lord’s tender mercies and evidence of His powerful love on that beautiful Christmas 2005. We will miss our sweet Billy but we are grateful for the gift of eternal families and the knowledge that we will see him again. Love you Billy; I know you are signing in heaven.
Amber started www.leftwithasmile.com to uplift and inspire through stories and empower with health tips. She shares stories of her own along with stories submitted by readers. "I sincerely hope Left With a Smile and the
stories shared here will be a source of light and smiles for you! I hope to take the abundance of hidden yet TRUE goodness that is out there and make it more visible and available!" She is a wife and mom of 5. She loves yoga, loyal friendships, and living her Faith.