Almost thirty years ago we were married. We did not even know the word autism back then. It was the farthest thing from our mind as we started out our married life. We thought we had our life all planned out. Marriage, children, careers. Little did we know that God had a different plan for our life. We recall the beautiful reading from Corinthians, Chapter 13 that was read at our wedding Mass.
“Love is patient, love is kind… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
After more than twenty five years we know that we can trust these words. We have experienced the good times of marriage, the blessing of four beautiful children, but difficult times as well. This includes hearing our third child, our daughter, diagnosed with autism. We look back to when we were preparing for marriage in Pre-Cana class many years ago. The presenter asked us to consider possible scenarios: infertility, adoption and raising a child with a disability. We didn’t think we would be the couple in the room that would be facing this only a few years later.
Parents of children with autism deal with unique challenges: the stress of attending countless doctors’ appointments, advocating for school services, having little time for self or as a couple, to name just a few. When our daughter was first diagnosed with autism, we didn’t realize what it would entail. This would be a big deal. Our life would really never be the same. We have also come to realize that because of autism we have learned to advocate together, problem solve, and support each other through difficult circumstances. We have come to depend on each other more than if we did not have a daughter with autism.
When you are going through struggles like this together, you realize how important your marriage covenant is. When you recognize this and the sacramental nature of marriage, you realize the strength and depth of God’s love for all of us. Even though autism was not included in the plans we had laid out for our married life together, it was the plan that God had laid out for us. We have honored our marriage vows, trusted in God’s wisdom and happily celebrate our anniversary with each passing year. We look forward to all the good times coming our way. We know there will be joyous times and challenges ahead for us but we know that love is patient, love is kind. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).