3/22/2013 10:23:00 AM Mom writes about raising son with autism
Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Wil and Carrie Wilson Link pet family dog Flicka in a park nearby their home.
Everyone at Safeway knows Wil. He’s the little boy wearing a cape made of jammies and carrying a Big Bird plush toy, while mom pushes him around the store. Sometimes she buys a few items; sometimes she just paces the aisles with her son. The grocery store is one of the only places where the little boy’s crying eases, and the duo can be found there daily, sometimes more than once.
Today, Wil is a teenager, and his mother Carrie Wilson Link has published a book about raising a child with autism. With humor and insight, she tells the story of an often-difficult child who loves hard, joyfully and unconditionally.
Playing a major role in Wil of God: Embracing the Relentless Love of a Special Child is the Holy Family Parish and School community in Southeast Portland, which embraced the boy and his family throughout their journey.
Link spent seven years writing the book.
“I wrote the book for many reasons, but the biggest one was I felt compelled, or ‘called’ to,” Link said. “The ‘voice’ that told me I needed to write a book would not be quieted.” She knew the title before the pages were even written.
Readers follow Link and Wil’s journey, which includes much laughter and some despair, from the boy’s birth to his early teen years. As an expecting mother, Link prayed to God for an easy baby. Instead she received an infant who cried incessantly for nearly two years and required full-time care. But from Wil, Link said, she learned patience, compassion, empathy, tenacity, unconditional love gratitude and faith.
Teaming up with Dorothy Coughlin, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s office for people with disabilities, Link will speak during “An Evening of Hope and Inspiration,” from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 30. Families, clergy, Religious, pastoral ministers or anyone wanting to learn about living with a person with disabilities are welcomed to the event at the archdiocesan pastoral center, 2838 E. Burnside St. Link will share insights about her spiritual journey.
The night will offer families an opportunity to draw strength from the retelling of stories that tap into common experiences, Coughlin said.
“Families will come to know new companions on the journey who understand,” she said. “Hope will be refreshed in discoveries of God’s active presence in both the sometimes overwhelming challenges and the unsuspected blessings.”
As someone who had always kept journals, Link began blogging in 2006. Stories about Wil always generated the most feedback and views on her blog, which can be found at carrielink.blogspot.com.
In fact, Wil developed quite a following.
“That validated for me that he had something to say, and that I was the only one that could really help deliver his message — love, unconditional love,” Link said. “My blog is titled ‘love.’ because the period is important. We make it so hard, but really it’s simple. Wil has shown me that over and over again.”
Link’s book opens and closes at Easter with Wil’s baptism and first Communion. He is 14, and has been anointed. The family’s parish priest helps Wil out of the font, where the boy stands on the ledge. The parish music minster launches into the “Alleluia Chorus,” and the boy raises his arms like a conductor, standing before the congregation. He finishes the song with an enthusiastic “Amen!” and the crowd launches into laughter, applause and tears.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says another Holy Family School mother, tears in her eyes. “What is most compelling about Wil of God is Carrie’s ability to articulate not only the narrative of her family’s story,” Coughlin said, adding, “But as a skilled writer, she enables the reader to enter into her family’s profound spiritual journey as she discovers the deepest truths revealed by her son, Wil.”
Link’s church community has responded to the story about their golden boy, Wil, with emails, cards, gifts and requests for copies. Church leaders are promoting the book in bulletin and school newsletters, even selling copies in the parish center.
The book is also available for sale at La Salle College Preparatory, where all proceeds will benefit the Signum Fidei program for students with learning differences. Wil is a student at La Salle and enrolled in the program.
The book is also available at Amazon.com for $12.95, paperback, or $9.99, e-edition. The most important message, Link said, is for people reading the story to realize that no one should feel isolated in their struggles and difficult feelings.
“I wrote the book so that we would see ourselves in each other, and each other in ourselves,” she said.