12 02 2010

A year after Jacob’s near drowning he found his voice again. Then, over a course of many months, he rediscovered the vast cache of vocabulary and language patterns that had miraculously remained stored in his oxygen deprived brain. As far as I can tell, Jacob’s understanding of language is normal for an adult. He can read, he follows conversations, and he participates appropriately. He listens in church and whispers comments to George or me that assure us he’s tracking with the sermon. And sometimes his insight is astounding.

But Jacob also has his own unique flavor of communication. “The Jacob Syntax” as Zach Fleury, one of Grace’s college buddies, dubbed it. At least in part, it seems to stem from a compulsion to express distinctions most of us take for granted. Instead of saying, “You look like a clown,” he would say, “You’re like a clown to my eyes.” When he’s frustrated, he often says, “Why am I so hated on the earth?” (Yes, he’s dramatic.) He adds “on the earth” because, even in the midst of frustration, he doesn’t want to suggest that he is hated “in heaven.”

For Jacob, no question is rhetorical. He’ll answer it. No part of a sentence intentionally left unspoken by someone else remains so. He’ll fill in the blank. Even if the speaker is on television. He’s always anticipating. If you pause to consider your words, he’ll venture a guess. Music, especially, quickens his mind. He remembers song lyrics after hearing them once. His ear is particularly attuned to end rhyme, and if it’s missing, he often supplies it.

Which brings me to the title of this post. A while back I noticed that, when the word “pain” was the last word in a line of a song, Jacob sometimes sang, “painbows.” When I asked him why, he couldn’t explain. For all I could tell, if there was a reason, he’d forgotten it. But he kept singing it anyway. After months of this, I confess it got on my nerves, and I said, “Jacob, ‘painbows’ isn’t even a word. The word is, ‘pain.’ Why don’t you sing that?” He did what he often does when confronted about something he feels compelled to do. He just looked out the window and remained silent.

Then one day we were listening to Jon Foreman’s CD, Limbs & Branches, and suddenly it all made sense. Jon sang, “And heaven knows, heaven knows/ I tried to find a cure for the pain.”

“Painbows,” Jacob sang.

Ah, I thought. It rhymes with “knows.”

Several songs later, Jon sang, “So, we gather up our things and we head out in the cold/ And your eyes are where you carry the pain.”

“Painbows,” Jacob interjected.

I was about to explain once again that “painbows” isn’t a word–that he only felt compelled to use it because of the rhyme–but something (or Someone) stopped me. Before I spoke up, I considered what “painbows” might mean to Jacob. Simple logic suggested a connection to the real word that most resembled his invented one. Rainbows. Those spectacular, miraculous swathes of color in the sky. In the Bible, a rainbow was a sign of God’s faithfulness and promise. When light shines through rain, breathtaking beauty paints an arc of hope over past storms.

So, what happens when the One who calls Himself Light shines through pain? If anyone would know the answer to that question, it would be Jacob.

I don’t complain any more when Jacob sings about painbows. Instead, I sing along.



17 responses

12 02 2010
Meg Moseley

What a beautiful boy you have, Jeanne. And he’s blessed to have a loving, insightful mother who takes time to understand what he’s thinking.

12 02 2010

Painbows – now that is a beautiful word.

12 02 2010
Amy Storms

Oh, my goodness. Love it.

12 02 2010
Kathleen Overby

Anyone who loves rainbows and has a life full to the brim with any sort of pain will be blesses beyond measure reading this. It is a never to be forgotten
word, full of comfort. Thank you for this. I’m posting you to fb, I think someone might need it today.

12 02 2010
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

What a stunning word picture, Jeanne. I’ll forever look at rainbows with a richer understanding.

12 02 2010

I love this. Love it.

12 02 2010

Painbows – out the rain the light shines thorugh to make something beautiful.
God bless you all.
Thanks for sharing.

12 02 2010

This could change everything. A beautiful way of seeing pain.

12 02 2010
Kelly Langner Sauer

Wow. What perspective…

12 02 2010
Megan Willome

Tell Jacob he has enriched my vocabulary and brightened my spirits.

12 02 2010

Just incredible. Thank you, Jeanne.

12 02 2010

Oh Jeanne, this is just…I don’t even have the words. Thank you for sharing this.

12 02 2010

Hey Jeanne, just read about your son, Jacob and painbows – I understand …I have a Joshua with a lot of special needs but non-verbal…am praying….somewhere over the painbow 🙂

12 02 2010
Courtney Stephens

I love you, Jeanne and jacob! God bless those painbows!

14 02 2010
deb@talk at the tabl

I kept thinking about this after I read it… it’s perfect isn’t it.

16 02 2010

I stumbled across your blog today via fb, Grace was my wonderful R.A. at SPU years ago…thank you for this beautiful post, what a poignant reminder of God’s grace for His children.

16 02 2010
Lisa McLean

Your telling of this, along with the photo, pulls at my heart. You’ve created such a sweet, though “pain”ful mood. *sigh* It’s beautiful. Thanks.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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