The loss of my son has been difficult for us. Lance had cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, cortical blindness and supersonic hearing from birth. With a lifetime of support from others, Lance led a full life – he was an accomplished flirt, a person of faith and filled with joy. Lance received recognition for his work at the Art Center, worked as a greeter at the Bistro and the Ballroom Dancing Class. Although he never walked, Lance did decide to verbalize at around age 35, in appropriate and complete sentences! After several hospitalizations last year, Lance’s body continued to shut down. Indicating his choice that it was time to let go, he passed away very peacefully with his family present.
June 8th is Lance’s birthday; he would have been 43 years old. Although Lance was a resident in a living center after aging out of the public education system, I spoke with him by phone daily, visited weekly and he came home monthly and all holidays. Our home had a hospital bed and a patient lift; we also had a ‘good times van’ with a wheelchair lift. We made a lifelong effort to provide a balance of how to live, work and play in his world.
Remembering those “perfect days” and finding joy
Lance enjoyed “home visits’ with breakfast in bed (custom scrambled eggs, a biscuit with gravy, serious chocolate milk). He enjoyed relaxing listening to his simple FM radio for hours. His older brother Scott, who he adored, would drop by the house (mom was kicked out of Lance’s room and they would have a nice visit), and perhaps go out for a ride in the ‘good times van’ – jokingly announcing they were going “crusin’ for chicks.”
At the living center, I would come and pick up Lance for the day and we would go out to lunch. Mexican food at Los Cucos and a piece of cheesecake to go for an after-dinner snack, or grilled fish and a ‘loaded’ baked sweet potato at KBob’s and a piece of cheesecake or chocolate pie to go for an after-dinner snack.
Then, we would go to the movies nearby! They knew our order by heart: pack of plain M&Ms and a small Sprite, easy on the ice. After we were seated, ‘created our nest’ (with his favorite lap quilt, soft travel pillow, and a festive bendable straw for the Sprite), mom’s job was to feed Lance one M&M at a time as he requested “more.” Sometimes, we would switch to Junior Mints to add a little variety. Lance’s eyes would sparkle with delight at the surprisingly new flavor and texture!
Following the movie, we would go for a drive in his ‘good times van,’ listening to favorite Johnny Cash or Elvis tunes. Lance would spontaneously start to sing so loudly, passionately, and then break into laughter at himself.
When Lance’s brother, Scott, would join our leisurely drives, from time to time I would want to go into a place to pick up items. These two guys would wait for me, the mom, in the van. However, when I came out of a store or restaurant, I could not find them! Scott would drive around the side of a building or pick a distant spot in the parking lot and wait for me to exit the store or restaurant, standing there bewildered… and then drive up to get me. Lance would be laughing like crazy for what seemed like forever at their silly pranks. They were indeed ‘partners in crime’ for life, so to speak.
Please know that Lance’s brother, Scott, and I formally toasted both Lance and his recipient of the successful corneas transplanted at our Thanksgiving meal – giving thanks for the miracle of the new gift of sight. This honor, this toast is now our first new annual Thanksgiving tradition. 💘 Lance’s corneal transplant would not have been possible without the initiative of the remarkable medical team at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Brenham.
“Lance’s Mom” was my identity/job for 42 years; reinvented now simply as “Momma McKinney.” I remain a volunteer and a weekly reader to Lance’s roommates and friends at his living center.
Peace be with you –
Wish you a smile,
Nancy Beth McKinney