Donating Bob the Wheelchair to Joni and Friends

We cleaned out the garage last month. The third stall had become a collection of leftover parts from random projects, unwanted outdoor toys, and outgrown medical equipment. We had a wheelchair, two walkers, and a bunch of orthotics we could no longer use. I called Joni and Friends and a gentleman came that same afternoon to collect Nathan’s old equipment.

He tried to fit Bob, Nathan’s old wheelchair, into the front of his truck, but Bob, if you remember him, didn’t fit. That didn’t surprise me. Bob has always been difficult. I asked the volunteer if he could strap the wheelchair to the bed of his flatbed trailer and he said, “Yes, but I want to be respectful ma’am. This can sometimes be sentimental for parents.”

That thought never crossed my mind. Sentimental about Bob? Are you kidding me? I can be sentimental about many things, but not Bob. The fact that I had no qualms donating Nathan’s supplies, especially Bob, made me second guess myself. Should I be sad?

No two parents approach or feel things the exact same way at each milestone.

Grief is an unexpected emotion, lurking in corners. Sometimes it jumps out and surprises us. Grief and sadness did not appear when I gave away Nathan’s old equipment that day. For me, it appears less for things that do happen and more for things that don’t.

Nathan is five. I thought he would be walking independently now. It is one of the few things I didn’t doubt early on. He has always showed us that he wants to be mobile. He’s been crawling and climbing for years now and it hasn’t slowed him down. The boy really does want to walk. But what if his motivation to be mobile isn’t enough to give him that sort of independence? What if he never walks?

I’ve grown to really like his new wheelchair, the “Little Klick,” but this life we live does not come with easy acceptance. I fight things on every twist and turn. Lately, I’ve been wresting with the idea that maybe one day we will have to get a wheelchair accessible van. The kind with the ramp and the tie-downs. I don’t want that kind of van. I didn’t even want the minivan I have.

Sadness at different stages.

These are the things I get sad and sentimental about–the things that are normal to most people which I have to give up. Eating at restaurants and having Nathan be able to order off the menu, instead of having to eat tube-fed formula or pureed “baby” foods. A cute little boy room with a “big boy bed,” rather than a tent bed. We kept Mac’s old bed for him in the garage because I still hope that one day he would be able to safely stay in a regular bed. I could not give that bed away on clean out day. I even get sad about simple things like going to someone’s house and letting him down to crawl on the floor rather than feel like my husband or I need to hold him in our lap the whole time because he “should” be walking. The normal life things that I give up daily for what I envisioned, those are the things I get sad about.

The Joni and Friends volunteer got everything strapped in and secure. He told me that he started volunteering with Joni and Friends after going on a mission trip with his friend who is a paraplegic. After witnessing person after person being carried in on a bed sheet with four men holding each corner, he wanted to help as many people get wheelchairs as possible. He told me that it reminded him of the man in the gospels whose friends lowered him through the roof for healing. The gentleman told me he wanted to be that ambassador for others, and he assured me that Nathan’s things would go to people who need them.

I like to think of these donations as Nathan’s gift to people in need. Lest I forget, Nathan makes an impact through his life, maybe in bigger ways than I’ll ever know until heaven.

If you have medical equipment, especially wheelchairs, that you would like to donate to Joni and Friends for their Wheels for the World campaign, you can learn more on their website. If you don’t have medical equipment, but would like to donate to this incredible ministry for people with disabilities, you can do that too.  

My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

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