This last year, my family moved. We moved from a house we had lived in for twelve years. We moved from a town (and state) I had lived in for 35 years. Bella had given us a huge scare with several breakthrough, uncontrollable seizures. To say this move was hectic is an understatement.
I am not an entirely disorganized person, however, my packing was sporadic, and was not very organized. My husband packed some boxes, I packed others. My husband moved a few months before me. Our unpacking has been inconsistent. We do not want to unpack everything, as we are not staying in this house for long.
A couple weeks ago, while I was looking for a special dish, I found a box labeled “kitchen,” and I decided I would unpack it. Inside the box, I found my favorite coffee mug; I was surprised! I had not seen this mug for six months, and I had forgotten about it. I didn’t even realize it was missing.
Today, a picture showed up in my memories on Facebook. I posted this photo three years ago. It was a reminder of a day when I found something else that I hadn’t realized was missing: acceptance. In 2013, I saw that a group of people were planning a special event at Disneyland called Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland. This sounded like a wonderful idea to me. I am always in support of raising epilepsy awareness to everyone I meet. We were unable to attend that year, but we planned ahead, and we did partake in this event on November 6, 2014.
I am a strong person. I had an idea of what this day would be like. We would have fun because it’s Disneyland. I always enjoy a day at Disneyland. But we would wear our purple shirts, and we would show other attendees at Disneyland that day just how many people are affected by epilepsy. We would raise awareness. As a family, we had been living with epilepsy for over 15 years. This was not a day about support, but about publicizing how many people in this world have epilepsy.
When we arrived at Disneyland, the number of people surrounding the tables to pick up shirts was astounding. We were all strangers, but we had a strong connection. I felt as if we had walked into a small town filled with friendly, understanding people. Everyone had smiles on their faces, and patience running through their veins. We calmly waited our turn to pick up our packets. We changed into our purple Mickey Mouse shirts, and we entered the park.
As we walked down Main Street, I saw a sea of purple shirts. Every person donning those shirts had their own story about epilepsy. Some people wore helmets. Some showed slight disabilities, and many showed no signs of any kind of illness whatsoever.
Standing in lines, waiting to go on our next ride, we met several people. We did not talk about epilepsy. We didn’t even bring it up. But we smiled, and we spoke with the others in purple shirts as if we knew them. We asked if they were enjoying their day. Many young children gave Bella hugs, and their parents were at ease. We were strangers, but we knew that we shared this thing called epilepsy. We knew that we had all seen the inside of hospital walls and doctors’ offices too many times. We knew that a seizure could happen at any time; and we knew that more people around us would remain calm, and would understand the situation we were in.
What I experienced that day was an understanding and an acceptance from strangers that I had not realized was missing from our lives. While I have been in public before when my daughter has had a seizure, or even just a meltdown from her seizure medications, I have never felt relaxed. I have carried with me a defensive attitude. I understand her epilepsy. I understand her medications, and their side effects. I often feel like I need to defend decisions that we have made with her neurologist to complete strangers, even though I am one hundred percent confident we were making the best choice at that time.
That one day, however, I knew I was surrounded by other people just like me. I knew that every person wearing that purple shirt often faced the same scrutiny under the public eye as me. For that one day, we were surrounded by strangers that would not pass judgement. We felt love and acceptance that we shouldn’t have to look for, and that we should never have to find.
So as I sip my coffee out of my favorite mug, I think about my hope for acceptance in this world. While I didn’t realize it was ever missing, it is something I have carried in my heart since that day. Unconditional love and acceptance from a complete stranger should not be such a rare treasure to find.