Life Lessons, Thoughts from the Heart

Defiant Joy

The following is an email that I recently sent to my friends. I thought I would include it here as a blog. May your joy be defiant, and may you know the One who alone can give you that kind of joy!

Today, June 15, is the birthday of our son Bradley, who went to heaven 10 years ago.

During his short life of 18 years, he proved to be a defiant child, I mean he was unrelenting in his defiance. But it was not the kind of defiance you usually think of in a young man, it was defiant determination to not let anything or anyone rob him of inner joy, joy that God gave him and joy that he held onto no matter if the gates of hell tried to rob him of it.

I won’t go deep into the grueling struggles that Bradley had all his life, beginning with a broken leg upon delivery due to the doctor not understanding his muscle weakness. We have lost count of his surgeries, his bouts with life-threatening pneumonia, his broken bones. Then there was the rejection that every child with a disability experiences, whether intentional or unintentional, it’s difficult to include a young person who slows you down.

But today on his birthday, I wanted to share one vivid memory I have of Bradley.  As a family, we liked to watch silly movies, and one of our favorites was Galaxy Quest, a parody and a tribute to shows like Star Trek. It is a funny movie. But there is a serious side to it. As the characters find themselves in a real-life battle with evil forces, they remember a gesture that formerly had not been meaningful to them, but now in a real-life battle became their very life. They would clench their fists, bring them to their chests, and say, “Never give up. Never surrender.”  

One time we were in Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Brad had experienced a particularly difficult time, and of course, we as his parents had too.It was a spinal fusion that required Brad to be stretched in traction from pins in his knees and his head, very painful. We were at the hospital for a month. Finally one day, the pins were removed, and he was able to conjure enough strength to sit in a wheelchair rather than lie in bed. I left him in his room while I went down a long hall to use the bathroom. When I came out, I saw Bradley who had wheeled himself into the hallway, way down the long hallway, and when he saw me, he clenched his fist and brought it to his chest, and smiled at me. And I clenched my fist and brought it to my chest, and smiled back. And with those gestures we communicated to each other that no matter how hard life got, we would never give up, we would never surrender, we would never allow anything to rob us of inner joy.

So in honor of Bradley’s birthday, I personally am making that same commitment in my life. I know that Mike is too. And we pray that you also will join us in this defiance, in a world that seems determined at every point, to bring us gloom and hopelessness. 

In John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

Happy Birthday, Bradley!  Thanks for being my forever example of defiant joy.
And many blessings of God’s joy to you, friends,

Bradley and mom on an Easter morning.

Although this blog and the picture focuses on Brad’s and my relationship, my husband Mike, Brad’s dad, was every bit as involved in Brad’s life.

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