Monday, September 22, 2008
This Side of Heaven
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 18:10 (Amp)
Recently my daughter-in-law Lisa sent me a link to a video of a speech given by a high school senior named Soeren Paulumbo. If you have the time to view it, I think you will find it thought-provoking. So if you don’t like to be provoked, then I wouldn’t watch it. His speech starts out talking about a black man who is washing windows in the school and some white girls walk by and tell him he “missed a spot.” His speech leads into a discussion about his twelve-year old sister who is mentally handicapped. “She will never learn to hate or judge,” he shares. “And she receives more joy from watching a bubble float into the sky than most of us experience in a lifetime.” The speech has received a great deal of attention, and for good reason. Soeren was even asked to deliver his speech to the Illinois State Senate. If you’re interested in viewing it, the web address is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoqaNG0Ozqc.
Having a granddaughter with Down Syndrome has opened my eyes and my heart and my world. I have learned so much from Katelyn and from others whom we’ve met along this journey. One of those people is a friend I went to junior high school with in Hudson, Wisconsin. I never knew until recently that Barb had a sister with Down Syndrome. Leslie was child number twelve in their family of thirteen.
Barb has a wonderful way with words. With her permission, I would like to share the following excerpts from her writings:
“With such a large family as mine, Leslie has been a true gift to all of us. From the day she was born my family dynamics changed. My parents became more patient, our inner circle a little tighter, and most importantly, our love stronger within. . . . She is still the light of our lives. She is now 42 years old and doing well. She lives with my Mom and has a job at the local grocery store that she loves. She is a friend to all that know her . . . I am very grateful that I have been raised with her in my life, and my children as adults now, embrace her as well. It was probably very difficult for my parents at the time of her birth, but the rewards have been many throughout all of our lives.
“I sometimes describe it to others as a ‘gift’ and other times a ‘blessing’ to have Leslie in my life. But really it is life changing. Once you have exposure to such a gift and blessing, your whole life changes and the way you look at things is somehow different in many ways. I didn’t fully grasp how much I had gained by having a sibling with a disability until I was an adult. And, then when I had my own children and saw what a difference it made in how I parented and how my children grew up, it was truly astonishing. I sometimes think my gratitude of life stems from my large family and most especially growing up with Leslie. All of my Mom’s grandchildren have so embraced Leslie and have made her their ‘special aunt’. She is the godmother of one of my nieces, and was just named one of my other niece’s ‘most influential adults’ in her high school graduation program. When the rest of us read it at Emily’s graduation, there wasn’t a dry eye in our row. We have all benefited from her presence, and the lessons continue as our family grows.”
Leslie with niece Emily
A father of four from Pennsylvania writes a blog about everyday life with a daughter who has Down Syndrome. (http://downsyndromelife.blogspot.com) He wrote in part:
“Down Syndrome does not define who Amanda is; Amanda defines what Down Syndrome is. Amanda is my loving, beautiful, funny, inspirational daughter, who has a wonderful future ahead of her. If there was ever a button to push or a switch to flick that would make Amanda typical, I wouldn’t touch it, ever. Amanda is perfect just the way she is.
“I can truly say that our outlook of life and the things that we used to consider important has certainly been altered. Things that we used to take for granted and some of life's simplicities are more important than some of its complexities, if that makes any sense . . . Because of her, I will be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend. I know that I am the one that is supposed to teach her how to live, but she has taught me so much already.”
Angels are defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as “any agent God sends forth to execute His purposes.” So if you ever get the privilege of meeting one of these special angels – embrace it. It may be as close to God any of us will ever get this side of Heaven.
“So go my little angel and take
The greatest gift I can bestow
You’re the special angel few people
Ever have the honor to know.”
~ A Special Angel (Author Unknown)
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
~ Matthew 19:14
Posted by Eileen Umbehr at 10:41 AM