Tuesday, February 15, 2011
"Dancing with Max - A Mother and Son Who Broke Free" by Emily Colson with Charles Colson
Emily Colson, with the help of her father, Charles Colson,has crafted a wonderfully moving and inspiring story of her relationship with her son Max. "Dancing with Max - A Mother and Son Who Broke Free" tells the story of Emily, as a single mother, fighting to help her autistic son find ways to make sense of the world and to express himself to that world. Their story is a very human story, and one beautifully told by Emily, who is primarily a fine artist and graphic artist. Yet she uses a vivid palette of words and phrases to paint a clear picture of the rocky road that she and her son - deemed a special gift by their friend "Peppermint Patti" - have walked.
Emily's father, Chuck Colson, Founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, adds his own voice by way of very transparent and insightful Prologue and Epilogue. Many years ago - before Max was born - I was part of the staff of Prison Fellowship Ministries, so I got to know Chuck well, and met Emily on a number of occasions. The story that they tell in this book makes it clear that God has used Max in powerful ways to impact their lives and the lives of those in the extended family, church family and wider community.
I found particularly poignant Emily's account of the struggle to find the right diagnosis for Max, and eventually, the right school. It took a great deal of energy, courage, perseverance and assertiveness for her to advocate for her son who for the most part was not able to speak for himself. This story of struggle also contains many vignettes of hope and of warmth and of love. Ultimately, what emerges is a picture of an unbreakable bond between mother and son forged through much frustration and pain. They each learned to make sense of a world that offers daily challenges for surviving and thriving.
I love the way that Chuck, in the closing lines of the Epilogue, puts it all in perspective:
"Isn't it just like God, that after all these years of study and service as a Christian, I would experience this ultimate Good - or as close to it as humans can - in the lives of my daughter and grandson?
Emily heroic? No. She has simply found the greatest joy in life. Max disabled? No. The world labels him such, but I think Peppermint Patti got it right; he is an incalculable gift from God. And a gift to me personally.
Emily and Max's life together has been a dance. And I, awkward though I am on the dance floor, join them eagerly, dancing with my grandson and my precious daughter as if she were six years old again." (Page 197)
This book is a gift - not only to families and communities touched directly by autism and the spectrum of autistic disorders - but to any of us who need to learn to plumb the depths of love more fully.
Read - enjoy - and be blessed.