The first time we walked on the campus of BCLC was when Marcus was 4 months old. It was before his JS diagnosis and before any vision diagnosis. We didn’t know if he had any vision at all and we didn’t know if his floppy rag-doll body would ever get strong enough for him to even hold his head up. He also had an intermittent head tremor that caused us to worry intensely and fostered so many questions as to why Marcus was struggling in his development. Needless to say, it was a time of great anxiety regarding Marcus’ future. So, the state’s early intervention program sent us to BCLC to be evaluated for eligibility regarding services.
To be honest, I was frightened during our first visit. I had never seen so many children with little to no vision and other disabilities gathered together in one place like that before. It was the first time I had seen a little blind girl with a cane be escorted off the school bus and definitely the first time seeing a teacher having to change the diaper of a 5 year-old who couldn’t see, talk, or walk. My heart shattered seeing all those children because I knew that at one point, they were someone’s babies, just like Marcus was mine. I wanted to run out with Marcus in my arms, saying, “We don’t belong here! My son shouldn’t be here with these kids!” And at the same time, so scared that Marcus indeed did belong there and that he did need their help.
Fast forward 2.5 years and here we are, SO saddened that we have to say good-bye to this place. Since Marcus is turning 3, the state withdraws its funds for his early intervention services and now we are under the care of the public school system. Today was his last day at BCLC. Although he’s only attended school there since September, he has been receiving therapy services through them since he was 6 months old. And this place that frightened me so much at first, has become a haven, a refuge, and a family for us. I wish all my friends and family could visit the school at least once to see what a special place it truly is.
I love that everyone knew who Marcus was. Even if they weren’t involved in his class, they knew his name and knew he was the “smart kid” on campus. I love that he was a rockstar there. I also love that they praised all the kids at school for their milestones. It was a joy for me to hear how one kid took his first steps, how another kid started really using her fingers to explore toys, and how another kid said “mama” for the first time.
Today was his last day of school and therapy at BCLC and our hearts are FULL with thankfulness to the Lord for bringing so many people into our lives to encourage us and to help Marcus. Every single one of them always had Marcus’ best interest in mind and they all worked extremely hard to make sure he got what he needed to excel and meet his next milestones. Countless times, Mike and I have looked at each other with jaws wide open, not understanding why and how these people could love Marcus so much. All we can say is “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
We will miss Raj, his sacrificial and loving teacher who helped him work on his goals, and who was patient with him during his impatient moments. She went out of her way to give Marcus the attention he needed, and the crazy thing is that she does this for all the other kids in her class as well!
We will miss Erica & Talia, the teacher assistants who were always there to play with him, change his stinky diapers, and help him with his projects.
We will miss Chris, his vision teacher who taught him to trail Braille with his finger while reading books, to make the most of his functional vision, and even to use a modified keyboard to begin to type.
We will miss Joan, who first came to our home when Marcus was an infant to treat him as his Occupational Therapist. She taught us so much about what Marcus needed and she was pivotal in helping us really know Marcus and his unique sensory, neuro-muscular, and vision needs. She came to us when we were filled with so much anxiety and she helped to comfort us in so many ways. Out of everyone, she’s been with us the longest and has seen the most growth not only in Marcus, but in Audrey as well! We love her!
We will also miss Shaneen and Carrie (sorry, no pics!), who helped him with his oral-motor needs to be able to begin to talk, and who helped us realize that he really does understand everything we say to him!
After our wet-eyed good-bye’s in the afternoon, we ended the day with Audrey’s first ballet recital in the evening. It was so special seeing our girl all dolled-up for a spectacular performance at the Irvine Barclay Theater. I can’t believe that our little baby was now dressed in a costume and dancing in front of hundreds of people! We were SO proud to be her parents and SO thankful to be able to see her grow up right before our eyes. Unfortunately, the theater prohibited any photography or video, so here are some pics of the big night outside.
Striking a pose before the performance.
A family picture. Can it be? Everyone’s looking at the camera and smiling!
Running to greet her fans after the performance.
An “I’m so proud of you” hug from Daddy.
Some “You are so cool” flowers from little brother.
An “I love you” smooch from Gomo.
I got to take a picture with my baby. We like to call ourselves “The girls” in our family.
Here she is, with her love…her Dad. They share the same face.
And since we’re the Lees, we had Second Dinner as our after-party.
Mike enjoying his double-double. Audrey shares the same face with both her dad and her aunt.
Dressing up like a ballerina and topping it off with a strawberry shake. What could be better than that!
WOW! What a full day in so many ways! I’m off to bed with an overflowing heart.