“We want to thank all of you for coming today to such a…amazing day for Ryan and for us.” I say to the crowd through tears in my eyes, partly from the glare of the sun and partly from emotion. This day has been in the works for a year and a half. I have invested many hours practicing taking the “Jesus bread”, that is what we called it for him to make sure he knew it was different. I was getting a little worried that having it a home will lessen the idea of the bread being special but that thought had to be shooed away quickly. My job was to make him hold it and eat it—on cue.
“It means so much to us that you would come today and share in it with us…with Ryan. We are so proud of him…” Now I’m crying. Dan rescues me. He puts his arm around me to either steady me or shut me up.
“Yes, thank you all for going to his communion and for coming to this celebration.” He pauses for a second, and I am scared he will break down too. But he clears his throat and goes on. Let’s raise a glass to Ryan.” He lifts his up and the group echoes with “cheers” and “here, here’s”.
I scan the whole party area so I can put it to my memory: the smiling and the teary faces with the sunlight radiating halos behind them, laughter from the kids in the pool behind me, the warm breeze all mix in with the warmth I feel inside. Keep it together I coax myself.
Taking in a deep breath I hug Dan and walk around to thank everyone. The first person I arrive at is Brie. Aside from family, she has known Ryan the longest or at least known his journey. She has literally been with us and him since day one. It takes all I have not to grab hold of her and sob. Plus she is pregnant and I can see she is teetering on a breakdown as well.
“Thank you for coming.” I say and resist the bear hug and go with a simple gentle pull-in followed with a pat. “We did it.” I say more to myself.
“Yes! You did, oh my gosh, he did awesome.” She is practically gushing. And I love it. I love that she and all his therapists take such pride in his accomplishments. Dr. Hunter’s group have never wavered in their support of him, even when he was having a rough day or rough spell.
“All the kids did great. I’m so proud of all of them. I wasn’t sure how it would go but they all did great.” I feel myself getting choked up again. I turn and see Ryan’s other two therapist/aides walk up. They too look like they have had a fresh cry.
“Hey girls, thanks for coming. It really means a lot to us.” I say as I pull them each in for a quick embrace. I can’t take all the credit for him eating the bread on cue, it was Leigh and Toni who helped me at the summer home sessions. We would practice it at least once a day. So I know they have a special place of pride that he “performed” at the communion.
“And thanks to you guys, he was used to the Jesus bread and took it with out a problem.” I say smiling.
“Jesus bread. That is so great you named it that.” Brie says smiling. I knew we had to give it a special name that meant something and I do believe it did because Ms. Sally started calling it that and so did the rest of the kids in class.
“I love that he took it and said, ‘where’s my cake’?” Toni laughs a hearty laugh. It was a comic moment for our family. We had promised him his cake as extra insurance if he ate the bread.