From a young age I remember wishing that I could wake up and it would all be a dream. I remember wishing that none of this happened, that it wasn't my family that was different from everybody elses. I remember asking G‑d why it was me who was given a special needs brother, why it was me who was given this extra hardship to cope with.

We didn't need their pity, we needed their love

It always bothered me that nobody else I knew had a special sibling, so I simply never told anyone that he was special needs. I didn't need to see their scathing looks that cut deep into my heart, making me wish they would at least try to understand. To understand that we didn't need their pity, we needed their love.

Then one day something happened. Something etched in my memory forever. I was only eight at the time but it affected me enormously. I woke up one morning to find my parents and brother gone. My older sister told me that my brother had gone to the hospital during the night and had hemorrhaged severely. He had lost a lot of blood, too much, and was in critical condition. What happened after that is a blurred memory. They kept him in the hospital for weeks. He could not eat which resulted in excessive weight loss and he had to be put on a drip. I was very disturbed and distraught and each night before I went to bed, I would beg G‑d for my brother's recovery, praying that he wouldn't, G‑d forbid, die. It was a terrible time. I have a vague memory of my mother leaning over his still, limp body and every time I think of it, I have shudders running up my spine.

Then after what seemed like an eternity, he began getting better. After weeks of recuperating, he was finally discharged. We will forever be grateful to G‑d for bringing him home but I didn't, I couldn't, forget. Life continued, but I never forgot the pain and suffering my family went through. A few years passed and living with his behavior became less challenging but still difficult… It was hard to comprehend that with all his sweetness, he would still never be like everybody else.

I had to endure many hurtful comments; people looked at him fearfully, and averted their eyes or simply crossed the street when we walked by. Many special needs children have their own little world in which they occasionally disappear into, and I sometimes wonder what he is thinking as I watch him staring into nothingness.

You might ask why I could even think of considering such a child as a "hardship" but only those in my situation can fully understand why I felt that way. But one day that changed. The day when I stopped listening to the voice in my head, the voice that demanded to know why I had to have this burden, the voice that demanded justice.

I remembered te sleepless nights worrying about him

Justice for whom, you might ask? For myself? For him? For my family? I began to cast my mind back to those dark days. I remembered the countless nights spent in the hospital, I remembered the sleepless nights worrying about him and I was angry. How could G‑d have let it happen? But then another thought occurred to me. I realized that it was G‑d who saved him too. I remembered who had given me this "injustice" — it was Him. He who is merciful, He who loves us, He who does everything for our good. But how could this be good? How could the tremendous pain and distress be goodness?

I was once once told something that truly helped me understand how this "burden" and how all burdens are in essence goodness, how we can't live a complete life without them. Imagine you have a puzzle of a sun setting behind a dark ocean. Some pieces are totally black, others are colorful and glittering. But when you piece them together and get the entire picture, you realize that without those dark, black pieces the picture wouldn't have been complete. These dark pieces are what we see as life burdens. How can there be good in something that doesn't seem to have goodness in it? In essence, everything that happens to us in our lives is goodness. We don't see the whole picture, but G‑d does. It took me a long time to finally learn this; I went through a lot of pain and grief to fully appreciate what I have.

I know that there will always be people out there who will make it that much harder for me, people who don't know what true love means and people who are too heartless and insensitive to understand. It's not easy to listen to people who judge without thinking, it's not easy to think that everything that happens is for the good, and it's not easy to keep quiet when you hear somebody making fun of these special children who didn't choose their fate. But who said it was easy? It's not, and never will be.

I've learnt many lessons, but this was by far the most powerful one. So now, when I kiss him goodnight and listen to him singing the Shema Yisroel prayer in the sweetest voice I have ever heard, I remember that no matter what may lie ahead, I will always be thankful for the gift I didn't know I had.