Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waiting for a Miracle

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. – Galations 6:9

When I was a kid I remember watching a special on television about a young man who experienced Savant syndrome. It was a fascinating story. Leslie Lemke was blind, suffered from cerebral palsy, and had severe mental retardation. But when he sat in front of a piano he could move his stiff hands in magical ways, masterfully playing any song he’d ever heard just the slightest snippet of. It was amazing and I remember that it caught my attention even as a child.

A few weeks ago I ran across a book published in 1980, written by Shirlee Monty, entitled, May's Boy. It was the story of this young man, but more than that, it was the story of his mother’s unfailing love and devotion. I read the entire book in less than a day. It was simply fascinating.

By the time May Lemke was fifty years old she had lived the life of a novel. She experienced WWI first-hand in her tiny English village. At the age of fifteen she was severely injured during a war attack. At eighteen her mother sent her to Canada to marry a man she had never met. She raised five children after immigrating to the United States and dealt with fire, drought, and tornadoes. Along the way, she became a nurse and a governess. She was widowed young. Marrying again in her early fifties, she and her husband settled into a cabin that they set about completely remodeling.

It was during this time that May was asked to care for six month old Leslie – blind, unresponsive, and sure to die within a few months. Leslie didn’t die. He was severely disabled, though, and completely dependent upon his parents. May tirelessly worked with her son in a time when there were very few, if any, resources for the handicapped. After years of laboring over and coaxing him, May finally saw Leslie take his first steps at the age of ten. He was not toilet trained until he was seventeen. At the age of nineteen May was able to finally teach Leslie to eat on his own. In his early twenties she taught him to speak by holding her lips to his cheek so that he could feel her own mouth movements.

It was during Leslie’s sixteenth year that the “miracle,” as May referred to it, occurred. May had prayed for years and years that God would reveal something that Leslie could do, a unique gift just for him. One night, May and her husband were awakened by Leslie playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Somehow, he had dragged his stiffened body to the piano bench and magic poured through his fingertips. May recalled how she and her husband fell to the floor that night, praising God for His goodness and thanking Him for finally showing them Leslie’s gift. To this day, more than thirty years later, Leslie continues to delight audiences in concert. He never tires and there’s never a song request that he can’t play.

The story of Leslie is amazing. Now that I have read the book, I am really hopeful that perhaps someday I can see this amazing man in concert. I have also found myself filled with a deep appreciation for Leslie’s “back story.” He had a mother who refused to give up on him. Time after time she was counseled by well-meaning doctors, her grown children, and friends to institutionalize Leslie. She had done well for him, but it was obvious he would always be a burden. She was a tiny woman – how could she continue to care for this large boy and man? She certainly was not young. She needed to think of her own needs!

May had a calling and she chose to focus on that alone. Even though she prayed daily for a miracle, she had no guarantee that God would show her one in her lifetime. Day after day she chose to invest herself in a child that could not even smile at her. It was complete selfless love and devotion. What a picture of Christ she was!

How often do we grow wearisome in our daily lives? The kids aren’t maturing fast enough, our husbands continue to do the same annoying things we’ve nagged them about for decades, the Sunday School kids we teach don’t seem to grasp what we’re trying to convey, nobody is interested in our artistic endeavors, even though we’re convinced our talents are from the Lord and should be thusly appreciated - and so on!

Take inspiration from the story of May Lemke. The labor may be long and we may feel vastly under-appreciated and have no visible results in sight. But if Christ has called us, our labor will never be in vain. The reward waits!

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Phillippians 1:6


  1. Wow! What a story and encouragement to continue in our lives - no matter what.

  2. Oh wow. This needed a tissue warning. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

  3. Oh wow. (that seems to be the constant refrain here!)Makes everything else petty. What an amazing woman.

  4. An amazing story of the power of love.

    And yet we need to remember, there are so many special needs kids who don't posess special talents, yet their parents' love is just as extraordinary. (Just had to add that as there are such wonderful parents in my family.)

  5. Right, Leslie. As the mother of a child with multiple special needs I had that very thought run through my mind as I read the book. I, too, have prayed for God to show us something in which our son might excel...still waiting!...but truthfully, every little thing our son has managed to do is a miracle in and of itself. Savant syndrome is something extraordinary and rare. I don't expect for my son to suddenly start exhibiting some miraculous ability one of these days! But I took comfort from the story of his mother who believed in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And then from there, I began to see the story as having application even beyond the realm of the special needs community.

  6. May I add a fourth "Wow!"? This book is going on my list. The marriage of one of my mother's best friends was held together by a precious Down Syndrome son and, very late in life, her husband accepted the Lord and is now in Heaven. "Doug's" mother knows in her heart that his purpose in life was fulfilled in the salvation of her husband. Doug lived to be in his 40's and is now in Heaven with his dad.

  7. Your son's purpose is at the heart of who he is. And you are an amazing mother!



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