Long ago I learned a profound lesson about love. That lesson was powerful and it has stayed with me. The experience that held the message didn’t appear to be all that special – at least I didn’t think it was until much later, when I realized that it helped to shape who I’d become. The lesson came from a jumble of human emotions that included joy and remorse and tragedy and loyalty and sorrow and honor and duty and many other qualities good people have come to be known for.
I was in the Navy in 1980. After a couple of years as a Navy corpsman I had the opportunity to take the exam advance to the next rank. The only problem was, they were giving the exam at a time when I would be home on leave and unable to take it.
But I managed to get scheduled to take the test at Brunswick Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine, about 130 miles from where I planned on spending my time off in Massachusetts. What made this such an adventuresome proposition was that my mother was born and raised in Brunswick and her entire family lived there.
So on the day of the exam mom and I drove to her brother’s house in Brunswick. She was to spend the day there while I took my test only a few miles away. We arrived in Brunswick in the morning, several hours before my exam. I spent the free time visiting with my relatives.
It was during this short time that I came in contact with the personification of love. That would have been my second cousin, Kane. Kane was the two-year old son of Joline, my first cousin. I hadn’t seen much of Joline other than the times my family would drive to Maine in the 1960s for summer vacations.
But Joline had always lived vividly in my memories as the kid who, on a sunny day while visiting Harpswell beach in June of 1960, told me in earnest that if a sand crab were to latch onto my toe, I’d have to live with the critter forever because crabs were impossible to remove from your toes once they’d latched on. Jolene was a radiant kid who was full of life.
At a glance Kane was a sight. He’d been born with useless craggy sticks for legs and a heart that wasn’t up to the task of taking him through life. And on that morning in the spring of 1980 I witnessed firsthand the profound effect that Kane’s physical shortcomings had on his mother. But I also witnessed so much more than that.
I saw an extended family that embraced this special child. A family that wouldn’t allow Kane to know he was different. My uncle Ray, Joline’s father, had constructed a small padded cart just a few inches off the floor for his grandson to get around. Using his hands to move about, the cart allowed Kane to scoot from place to place, room to room just as everyone else was able to do.
And Kane worked that little cart like a master, stopping and turning on a dime. But that wasn’t even close to all of it. Kane was a vital component of the dynamics of the entire family. He was more than just a member of the family, he was the centerpiece.
This child was the driver, the motivator, and the initiator of much of the interaction. The world revolved around him, and rightly so. With an eternal grin, an infectious laugh and the joy of the angels in heaven, it was easy to see that even at the tender age of two, Kane was very much a people-person, and a natural at it.
With wisdom of an individual far beyond his short time with us, it was clear to me that this boy intuitively understood even the most complex of human motivation and emotions. And much later in my life, after recalling my visit many, many times, I came to realize that God had sent this child to help some of us who just weren’t getting what love was all about.
In other words, it became obvious to me, that even with my limited capacity for understanding at the time that Kane was a highly evolved spirit with great wisdom. He was the glue, the heart and soul of the Bouchards at the time. And even if folks weren’t aware of it on an earthly level, there was undeniable evidence of it in the hearts of everyone who came in contact with this child. It’s true. I’m a witness.
Kane demanded attention. But not because of his mobility challenges or other apparent shortcomings. In his mind, he had no challenges or shortcomings. The truth is, he received attention because he was alive and real and had so much to offer. At two he was a legitimate personality to be reckoned with.
Kane was and still is (through his continued influence) a bundle of warm and powerful energy sent to us all so we might learn that love transcends all things. Kane wasn’t aware of what the rest of the world perceived as handicaps. Not at all. Kane was here to engage us all on even ground… a fragile yet feisty baby sent to teach us all an important lesson. And at the age of two he did just that.
Unlike the whiney and inept society we’ve become where accountability is perceived as a shortcoming rather than a virtue, my mom’s family made it clear to Kane that he was okay and was never taught that he was a victim.
Go Speed Racer…
Kane mastered everything presented to him on his own level. For example, he was mobile because of the cart my uncle built for him. But Kane took that mobility to another level and became proficient at hairpin turns, leaving rubber on hardwood floors and wowing spectators with plenty of unexpected and spectacular maneuvers.
Kane wasn’t special because he was physically compromised and attracted pity. No way. Kane was just special. His personality demanded attention. He was the life of the party. It’s hard to think of a two-year old this way, but if you met this kid, you’d want him for a friend because he was alive, with so much to give.
Because of his weakened heart Kane left us not long after my visit. Although expected, his passing was certainly a somber occasion and one of reflection. Sometimes we look at God’s work and wonder why certain things are as they are. I know everyone who had ever met this beautiful boy had to wonder.
I spent only a couple of hours with this child, yet remember and still vividly feel his energy now. And that energy is as powerful today, 30 years after meeting this boy, as it was then. That’s special. Experiencing his influence over his surroundings was amazing. And his memory still touches me often.
I can only imagine that as the parent of a child like Kane one might be filled with anxiety and grief wondering what he or she might have done differently… any small detail that might have produced a different, more positive outcome. But I also believe that God carefully chooses us all for his work and that having a child like Kane is actually a privilege. I think the parents of such special babies are angels too, just as the babies are.
So I guess God knows what He’s doing. Kane touched everyone in a profound way. His ability to engage anyone along with his refusal to be different has been an inspiration to me. And though I’ve never spoken with his parents or anyone else close to him about this, I’m sure they all realize that he was sent here to show us that it’s all about love. I know my own life would not have been as rich without having met him.