Some of you may or may not have heard that last Friday I received a frantic phone call from Emma asking us to pray. She was unaware that Josh had already sent an urgent text to our family chat. Seven-year-old Opio, one of their little Gems, had stopped breathing. Emma was doing CPR as Josh rushed them to the hospital. They had also used the defibrillator in an attempt to revive Opio’s heart.
Seriously friends. I couldn’t wait to see Opio each time I went to the Gem. His joy was endless. Although Opio’s body was so very broken his perfect smile stole everyone’s heart. Just say his name and he would beam from ear to ear. If he saw you coming, he would light up! I loved snuggling with him, praying over him and whispering how loved he was. He knew it too! He was so very loved!
Although there is no doubt that we all rejoice that Opio is dancing with Jesus and breathing freely, his body no longer broken but completely whole, we grieve for the enormous hole left behind. Unless you’ve been to the Gem, it may be hard to grasp, but it’s truth – The Gem Foundation won’t be the same without precious Opio.
I mean, look at his smile! I had been massaging him with some oils to support his breathing, which was always a struggle. Could anyone tell from this picture that Opio’s breathing was a difficult challenge? Nope. This guy knew how to smile through overwhelming adversity and physical struggles.
Contrast Opio’s demeanor to the handsome young man we saw just hours after Opio went to live with Jesus.
Liberty, Elizabeth and I had gone to spend some time with a friend of mine for a bit. As we were heading home I had to stop for gas. After pumping the gas, I pulled over to wait for the girls who had run inside the store. As they came out of the store they climbed in the car and I slowly began to back out.
I am not a ‘speeder’ when I drive I’m a ‘putter’ and I am definitely not going to back up in a hurry. There is no point to rushing when in a crowded gas station parking lot. So as I put the car into reverse I slowly looked around and began to inch my way backwards. I quickly turned around to make sure everything was okay on the front side as I continued to back up.
As I did, I noticed a young man. He was carrying his cans of beer as he waited impatiently for me to back up so he could get into his big fancy pick-up truck. He was dramatically rolling his eyes and motioning how annoyed he was at me for my lack of speed in backing up.
The contrast to our sweet Opio was stark. Opio was unable to hold his own head up, his limbs paralyzed from Cerebral Palsy, his breathing labored with each and every single breath. Opio never knew the privilege of holding his own head up, running, walking, hurrying, holding, carrying, waving his arms, scuffing, kicking, climbing, or driving.
All I could think was, “Dude! You have no idea how good you have it yet your attitude stinks! You are walking, breathing freely, impatiently and very dramatically fuming as you carry your goods waiting to climb into your truck so you can drive away.”
As I watched this seemingly healthy, handsome 30-something-year-old grown man pitching his mini fit over having to wait 10 seconds while I cautiously backed up I realized that given the option I would choose my friend Opio every single second rather than spend any time with this miserable, unappreciative guy.
Special needs treasures just get it. They love life! They don’t look at the things they can’t do and grumble and pitch fits, but they embrace the things they can do. Like smiling. Really, that’s all Opio could do – he could smile – and he did it like a champ!
Yup, I’d choose broken bodied Opio as my friend forever if I could and frankly, unappreciative, fuming, fit-pitching-grumps really could learn a lesson from our precious Opio.
Whole and free – dance with Jesus, Opio! Dance!
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
*Liberty’s holding Opio in the photo.