Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

A Moment of Grace

Lori Shayew, a good friend of mine who’s writing an inspired book on The Gifts of Autism, asked me to share with her an experience when I felt pure joy with Joaquin. As I read her request I recognized immediately the moment she was talking about. This was one of the most memorable and potent experiences of my life. I looked through my journals and bits of writing to see if I had documented it somehow, but I don’t think I ever have. So here it is:

Joaquin and I had just finished playing and it was time to make lunch. This was during a three-week period when I was experiencing for the first time what I have come to call “freedom”. Freedom was complete detachment from limiting thoughts, patterns, and beliefs. It felt like experiencing Heaven right here, right now, in my very ordinary life. No arguments about reality; and in that moment, it meant zero resistance about having to cook lunch.

So as I settled behind the kitchen counter, I saw Joaquin go to the stereo and play a CD for us. I knew this album; Joaquin had played it several times for weeks. A song started playing and as I heard it, I had the sense that this was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I knew it wasn’t the first song in the CD, and by God I have looked for it after this experience and never have found it. What happened is, I heard the notes and had an immediate sense of delight that made me look up with curiosity. What I saw that moment sounds simple and can’t be described accurately with words, but it was the most beautiful image I’ve seen my whole life.

With the melody in the background, as soon as I looked up, I saw Joaquin twirling and skipping away from the stereo, moving to the back of the room and circling around it in what looked like a child’s dance with God. It was a three-second sight and I was suddenly completely taken by an indescribable feeling of delight and presence.

I remember seeing Joaquin’s dance in front of me and feeling like I was watching the last scene of a play; a scene so sweet, deep, and meaningful, that the curtain drops in that moment and there’s nothing left to be said. I remember thinking I hope when I die, this is the last thing I see… What a perfect and joyful ending. And in that moment that I can only describe as grace, what came to my mind was thank you. Thank you for every single moment and event that has led me from birth to this second. It sounds insane now that such experience of sound and sight could ever be this perfect, but it was. That moment felt like the culmination of everything. Like being free in heaven, and all of it—my whole life so far—having been worth it. And yet, I was still here, and there would be more to come.

It was so surprising and intense, I remember looking at my tears in the mirror and knowing for the first time—getting it—that if this kind of bliss was constant (like I used to hope it could be), and there was never the opposite of it, how could it ever feel this beautiful.

That day, with that experience, I finally stopped resisting duality. I made peace with sadness because it allowed me to experience joy. So maybe a theater curtain did drop that afternoon. The “First Act” was over, and now it was time for the rest of my life.

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