To write a sort of preface, this short story is a combination of real life events and perspective gathered through practice of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had an experience that allowed this story to be created in my mind to accurately depict one of the numerous amounts of blessings available because of Jesus Christ and what He did for us. And when I accepted the Easter Challenge to post about the Savior and things that can come to pass because of Him, I felt it was time to release this short story. I’d like to thank Kelsey Warthen, who helped with the editing, information, some wonderful additions and proofreading, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to be able to write this, to be able to feel the truth that is presented in this perspective. #BecauseofHim Please read, share, comment and reflect on the blessings available by and through Christ!
“Johnathan Castilian is a noble man,” his closest friends would say to describe him.
“I couldn’t ask for a better husband. I already have him,” his wife would say.
“If I need help, John is the first one to come,” his neighbors and co-workers would state on numerous occasions.
He was a best friend, the moral compass in many instances, and a person that anyone would be proud to associate with.
Despite all the praise for his efforts, Johnathan was unsatisfied. He had feelings of inadequacy which he kept to himself because he couldn’t quite explain them. These hidden feelings were always very strong. But they felt the strongest every time he tended to his 1 year old son – his only son – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Up until that last year, Johnathan had never felt so incapable. He was raised in New York and was taught to take all situations and find the best in them. He made this attitude a guiding principle in his life with his wife and two daughters. Then Alex was born. Everything changed. Johnathan tried desperately to hold on to hope, but his hope and strength and breath were seized by the crushing vice grips of helplessness.
The doctor explained Alex’s condition to them. He explained that Alex would need dozens of surgeries just to stay alive. There was fluid on Alex’s brain. His body was so tiny. Johnathan heard the words but could not see how his small son, his perfect son, his beautiful son could have something so hard ahead of him. Johnathan and his wife lived in and out of the hospital for months and then they finally got to take their little boy home. The doctor explained that Alex would live his life in wheelchairs. Alex would need special beds and braces. They went to classes and support groups. Johnathan learned how to how to care for Alex. He followed what he learned with a robot-like quality of obedience. He refused to make a mistake, and when something went wrong, he felt it was always his fault. It wasn’t long before he began to feel that the reason his son had such a condition was because he had done something wrong. Something made him rationalize that the condition was a direct result of his own mistakes. He felt as if this was some sort of punishment. He felt like he must have done something wrong and now his sweet boy was paying the price.
He went to church. He heard the stories of miracles. People were born paralyzed and Jesus healed them of their conditions. He envisioned a day where his faith would allow his son to walk. But every time he looked at his son in a medical helmet or watched his wife hold Alex’s head up from falling too far, his faith would wane.
One Sunday, the teacher spoke of the power of prayer. He said that all God’s children have a right to answers to their questions. His chest leaped at the mention of an answer. He felt his faith strengthen again. “If I pray with a sincere heart, I can know what the Lord intends for my son!” He thought. Though it was hard for him to admit, he wanted to know if this was his fault. He wanted to know if he had done something in the past that had caused his son to suffer.
The next day, he stepped hastily out of the room where Alex slept. His insides were writhing in anxiety for what he was about to do. He kissed his wife gently and told her he had to step out to take care of something but he would be back before she went to sleep. He headed out the door with a place in mind. Behind a small myrtle grove, which had been in the Castilian family for three generations, there was a small clearing. This was Johnathan’s favorite place to think and to pray. It was so peaceful. He walked quickly in the cool evening air. He knelt and tried to speak but the words caught in his throat. He swallowed hard, determined to seek the answers to his most terrifying question. He started to speak and this time his voice, though shake, quietly sounded in the night. He shared his burdens and feelings with God.
“I have done everything that I know that would help me draw closer to thee,” he said, choking. “I did all I could because I wanted to be responsible for one of your sons. I’ve loved your daughters that you’ve sent me. But I knew that if I could do everything possible to show thee my desire for a son, thou wouldst grant me this. Now I have him, this precious boy…”
At this point during his prayer, he entered into a new depth of sincerity. The emotions began to take over. Tears forced their way down his cheeks and he could no longer maintain his composure. For the longest time he kept these troubled feelings to himself, hoping they would go away. Now, as he knelt before his God, he could no longer hold it in.
“Father, I have him. I’ve wanted him for so long and now I have him. He can’t speak. He can’t walk. He can’t open his hands long enough for me to hold them…” Johnathan said. He was no longer trying to hold back his emotions. In that clearing, he didn’t have to be strong. He didn’t have to paint on a smile and tell his wife or his little girls that everything would be okay. He didn’t know. He didn’t know that everything was going to be okay and he couldn’t honestly see any outcome where everything would be okay. Alex was broken. It was not okay. It was not okay at all. His shoulders sagged as he felt all the tension and worries release from his body.
“I have chosen to take care of him to the best of my ability. But I cannot help but wonder, Father, did I cause this? Am I to blame for his condition?” Johnathan spoke so freely, he couldn’t tell if what he was saying was fair to himself. It went against what he taught, but the thought of it ate away at him, cancerous and unyielding. There was to be no release from the misunderstanding till he asked for wisdom in faith.
After mentioning one more time in prayer how much he loved his son, he ceased speaking and sobbed silently to himself. The guilt from his feelings of inadequacy he confused for being ungrateful. And the longer he reflected on it, the more he felt that what he had said was incorrect.
The feelings of guilt were suddenly dissipated and a comfortable warmth filled Johnathan’s chest. He raised his head and looked into the sky.
The feeling in his chest gradually spread until it filled his whole body and he knew that his prayer had been heard. He turned his attention to the strengthening warmth coming from within. The feeling helped him realize that this was divinely planned from the beginning, orchestrated by a loving all-knowing being who understood the trial, and knew Johnathan was capable of passing through it. As Johnathan focused and listened, he heard a voice.
“Do not forget the miracle you already have been given. I’ve sent you an angel. I’ve sent you my angel and he may not be able to do all those things. But he can still smile.”
Johnathan thought back to the times when he would feed his son and see him grin from ear to ear. When he would sing and Alex could not stop laughing. The moments when he would say hi after being at work and Alex would switch from his normal curious face to one of pure joy.
Johnathan stood up from the ground and looked in the direction of his house. Holding his hand to his chest and feeling the comfort from within, he said out loud,
“Then I will remember his smile.”
Johnathan did just that. As he cared for Alex, he watched for that smile. He looked forward to his son’s wonderful beaming face. With ever smile and ever laugh Johnathan’s feelings of inadequacy left. The guilt left as he focused his efforts on watching Alex’s joy. And there were moments, too sacred to mention, that Heavenly Father would allow Johnathan to know that Alex was a miracle.
Three more years passed and complications took Alex’s life. They mourned but Johnathan felt no despair. He was sad to see his precious boy go, but he knew if he did all he could to return to God, he’d see Alex again. He held onto those precious memories, especially the memories of Alex’s smile.
Those memories got Johnathan through all the tests and temptations till he crossed the veil himself at the age of 87.
From the room where he passed away, led by a man robed in the most exquisite white, Johnathan could not describe the feelings he had as he saw family members greeting him, shaking his hand, hugging him. They all thanked him for his hard work and diligence in following Jesus Christ. He met aunts and uncles, grandparents, and soon he began to meet people he only knew by name through written record and books. While the crowd of relatives flocked around him to greet him into the new setting of life, Johnathan could see a being, surrounded by the most brilliant light, descending a staircase and parting his family members in order to reach him.
The incandescent individual walked closer to Johnathan, freeing the space around him until they were the only two facing each other. The visitor’s hair, figure and clothing was illumined by the most incredible light, emanating a beauty beyond words. His face, form and stature was perfect, and there was not a single defect that could be seen anywhere. Glorious beyond anything Johnathan had seen while on the other side, the visitor rendered Johnathan speechless. Before he could say anything, the radiant being fell to his knees.
He threw his arms around Johnathan, buried his face and wept. After a moment, this magnificent being looked up, choking on his words, and said two simple syllables.
Then he smiled.
I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.
Jeffery R. Holland