An 18th birthday is a pretty special event in one’s life. It marks an initiation into adulthood. This past fall, our third child reached this milestone. Of course, as parents we are always happy to celebrate a birthday for one of our children. However, Danielle’s 18th birthday was a day that we met with too much anxiety and unfortunately not enough celebration. That was the day that our daughter was supposed to be able to legally advocate for herself. Unfortunately, due to her autism, Danielle isn’t able to lead an independent life nor make adult decisions. Therefore, we had to petition the court to become her legal guardian. The process requires that she be declared an incapacitated individual.
The words “an incapacitated individual” were hard for us to swallow. We don’t like to think of our daughter in that way. It is not a way we would have chosen to describe her because it only looks at one aspect of her life. Even though we knew intellectually we needed to petition for guardianship we still struggled with this decision. Although we knew we were doing the right thing, we still wondered.
We found the process to be more difficult than we anticipated. There were many forms to fill out and we kept coming back to emphasizing our daughter’s limitations rather than her strengths. That didn’t sit well with us, but it was necessary in order to show cause as to why she still needed a guardian.
Faith doesn’t mean ignoring difficult and painful realities. In fact it often leads you to look straight at something that is painful, but to do so with hope and trust. At times like this we have learned to pray the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Looking through the years we have learned to accept many things, things that we would not have chosen for her. But we have also learned to discover joy, hope, trust and even beauty in these situations. It is not always easy, but faith is not easy. It can be hard. So we ask now for your prayers, both for us and for our daughter, as we finalize her guardianship process.
To Danielle, we celebrate your 18th birthday: a great milestone in your life, and a great occasion of joy in our life.
Copyright 2017 David and Mercedes Rizzo