I once read an article by a woman who was trying to save a voiceless, ever shrinking people group who were being “targeted for genocide”. She spoke of their gentleness, compassion and sense of humor. She went on to detail their unique physical features such as very bright eyes and manner of speaking, usually dotted with laughter. She then stated that many in this group lived in America and that if we did not act quickly they would be eradicated, possibly within only a few years. I was horrified. As I read further I discovered that she herself had been able to save one of those targeted for destruction.
I can not tell you the shock and queasiness I felt when she revealed that she was speaking of babies who were diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
You see, my dear sister in law, Cecilia, who lived off and on with us for over twenty-five years had Downs. She was, in a word, delightful. Cecilia always had a good word to say to everybody. She never complained (never!). She lived to serve others (she worked at McDonalds for over ten happy years) and was, to the end, curious and full of life. I cannot imagine our lives without her. She made me and all who knew her, better people. When she passed away (and it was from cancer, not something “Downs related”) her entire hometown in West Virginia came to her funeral. Everyone from the 7-11 workers to the Bank president was in attendance. All loved Cecilia.
I write this because tomorrow is the March for Life here in Washington D.C. In America we have “choices.” Even though the American Bald Eagle’s eggs are protected as we recognize that the eagle begins in the egg, we somehow do not recognize the same for humans. And though I have not chosen to write on this neuralgic issue before I wanted to share my own story and personal plea for a people group who are endangered, voiceless and so often overlooked. And to encourage--because a diagnosis of a “Downs baby” is not the worst news one could ever hear. My dear husband, who deeply loved his sister, said it best when we were waiting in the doctor's office to hear if our own child had Downs due to my “advanced maternal age”. He held my hand and whispered, “Mel, don’t be afraid. In this world we all have troubles. We all deal with joys and sorrows, ups and downs. But have you ever known anyone happier than my sister?”
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with this issue, I want to encourage you. There are support groups (click here ) and many advances in medicine (click here ). You are not alone.
Late one night when my mother-in-law and I were having a heart to heart conversation about life and Cecilia, I asked that if she were given the opportunity to simply wave a magic wand and make things different-- what would she do? She looked me in the eyes and sweetly stated:
”I wouldn’t change a thing--not a thing.”
May God give you an abundance of grace to handle all He calls you to embrace.
“My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4:19-20.
Please give me the grace to handle all that you place in my path and the strength to help others who are struggling on theirs. Give me compassion, mercy and love and the eyes to see as You see. Break my heart for what breaks yours.
I ask this in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Pictured above are Cecilia, her dad Dale Sr. and my sweet Dale.