Life is Full of Bittersweet Moments

I was looking through pictures on my phone the other day and came across a picture that caused me to pause.

The special picture is of Brian with his cute cousins Lilly and Leah. Brian, Lilly and Leah were born within the same year of each other.

They live in the same community, attend the same schools and share the same last name.

Life’s big moments

I remember thinking how fun this could be as the kids grew older.

I envisioned them having mutual friends, attending the same gatherings and sharing milestones.

I pictured in my head the snapshots of life’s big moments that would culminate on a hot June evening in 2022 at High School Commencements. Brian, Lilly and Leah would attain their diplomas and have made plans for their futures.

These 3 kids would close out the 2nd generation of Lunds graduating from Upper St. Clair High School. Something to celebrate.

It would have been very special. I will admit the thought crossed my mind of the potential trouble that could be waiting ahead for us during the High School years with these three.

Sounds very strange I know but oh, how I would welcome that trouble. The years could not have played out more sideways.

The milestones

Where we are today is a complete 360 from those snapshots I imagined.

The first milestone that hit me like a brick wall was First Communion.

I envisioned my adorable boy in a navy blue suit (showcasing his blue eyes of course) standing in between his pretty cousins wearing their white dresses to snap the perfect picture.

He would have his arms around them and be their protector, if you will. I’m an old fashioned girl and totally okay with boys taking on that role, sorry if that is offensive to some women.

That spring day the picture was taken, sadly without my Brian. His skill level did not allow him to participate in any meaningful way so why force it?

Sad moments

I knew from that day on the family dynamic was going to be packed with sad moments for me and I was going to have to learn to live in a constant state of silent grief.

Brian started kindergarten with the girls but as circumstances demanded he repeated second grade. He is not in the same grade with the girls anymore but I still think of him when the girls experience new things.

This past year has been a little rough for me. The girls started high school, made their confirmations and attended dances.

Again, I had envisioned Brian attending all of those events and being right there in the picture taken to commemorate the moment. He wasn’t.

Those days caused me deep sadness that I still can’t seem to escape. There will be many more big moments, I know that.

I will keep myself in check and try to share in the joy of their parents.

Life is full of bittersweet moments

When bittersweet moments creep up on us we may shed a tear at the bitter but hopefully the sweet will be enough to get us through. That is the case with the youngest Lund trio.

The role of protector has reversed. Lilly and Leah have acquired that role.

They have been in middle school with Brian and have taken on an active role in his education and social experience. Even some of their friends have joined.

They check on him, challenge him, high five him and ultimately love him. The love is reciprocated by Brian.

He loves and places great trust in all his cousins.

I’m so relieved this unconditional love exists because I’m praying these kids will always be this engaged with him as life moves on.

I hate to think of what happens after I’m gone but I must because it is inevitable and of great concern.

Brian is number 10 out of 11 first cousins who I hope will always be in his life. Not because they feel it is their duty but because they want to.

I feel that foundation has been laid and that is one of the sweets among the bitter.

Brian loves his family and is happiest when surrounded by all of us.

This life is not what I imagined, not by any stretch of the imagination and I know you’ve heard me say that before. But it is okay.

I have felt loss that has caused intense pain but I’ve seen love, lots of it. Brian exudes love and to be in his presence is a gift.

I refuse to look at this any other way

The 3 cousins will be reunited in the coming school year at high school. He also will have his idol, his older cousin Ben, at the high school with him.

It is not how I envisioned his high school experience and I’m preparing now for all the bittersweet coming my way.

Homecoming, athletic events and prom will knock me for a loop. I’ll hide under my rock for a few days but I will reemerge! You’ll see.

However, I think these 4 kids can be a force to be reckoned with and really bring inclusion into the forefront.

They have the opportunity to demonstrate to their peers that are not as familiar with special needs just how special it can be and how true friendships can exist among all populations.

Many talk the talk but I know these kids will walk the walk and take this opportunity to make a difference and contribute positively to the culture of the school.

Full disclosure: I’m dreading this transition. I’ve already started agonizing and it is only March, by August I will be hysterical.

For a child that has had sleep disturbances his entire life the thought of the 7 am bus pickup makes me break out in a cold sweat. But Brian has lots of family that he can count on and some loyal and devoted friends to help him and I guess I do too.

Bittersweet for sure but we can do this. Together.

Written by, Donna Lund

Donna Lund is the mother of four with two boys on the spectrum.  You can follow her at

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.

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