Friday, November 24, 2006

A life of consequence

Wow. November is nearly done and soon we will re-enter the season of Advent. Time seems to be flying so fast this year!

Last weekend, my husband, two daughters and little son attended a local hockey game. We haven't been to one in several years, so it was a treat!

My youngest daughter, who has a sense of style that is all her own, was decked out in a pink jacket and very fuzzy pink mittens. She did look rather sharp.

As we were waiting in line to have our hands stamped, we passed a man with Down's Syndrome. Where we live, this is not at all unusual as there are good facilities for assisted living in this area.

What was unusual was that he quickly whipped his arm around my daughter's shoulders, said something about the colour pink, and gave her a kiss on the cheek! She was rather tickled.

As I passed behind her, this fellow gave me a light punch on the arm and told me my daughter was special. I told him I agreed and said he was special, too. He told me he knew that!

As we watched the game, we noticed this fellow and a friend of his, also with Down's Syndrome, enjoying the game thoroughly and dancing to the music played when the game halted for some reason. I realized I remembered this pair from games several years back. Their joy in life was so clear.

I have always been familiar with people living with Down's Syndrome. My mother's step-sister, who is about 8 years older than I am has Down's. I have always been familiar with it. It does not bother me in the least.

My aunt has lived nearly her whole life with my grandmother. In recent years, she has taken residence with a sister, while my grandmother resides in a seniors' home. She is now in her 90s and wisely considered that my aunt should learn to live with someone else before her own death.

As people with Down's go, I gather my aunt is very highly functioning. She taught herself parts of several languages, drew quite well, played music, had a sense of humour (which could be rather harsh on those who displeased her in some way!)and learned to cook simply by observing her mother who did not think her capable of doing the task.

My younger children do not know my aunt, as they have lived their entire lives 1000 miles away from her, but when my older children were small, my aunt was very attentive to them.

She has been such a blessing to my grandmother. She has given many people pause with her witty observations coming from an obviously 'challenged' body.

As she is now, I think, over 50 years of age, she has reached a good age for someone with her disability. Her health is good though, and she doesn't have the common ailments of others with her characteristics. If she is like her female forbears, she will live a long time yet.

I find it so amazing that some would not have allowed her to be born.

When my grandmother gave birth to her, she chose my aunts names so that her initials were 'JEM'...a jewel.

A friend of mine has a young daughter with Down's. My friend was not of advanced age when she had this child, so it was unexpected. Not knowing that Down's children often are lacking the reflex to nurse, my friend happily breastfed her, giving her the very best thing the baby would need.

My friend attempted to network with other parents of such children, but was very upset to see that these other families stopped having children after they gave birth to their 'jem'. My friend believes strongly that all children are a gift from God. She has gone on to be very gifted and now has three children younger than her jem of a daughter!

I think we really do not know what we do when we start practicing the sort of eugenics that would not allow these, or other children with challenges, to have life.

God help us!