As most readers know, I have a special needs child. My six-and-a-half-year-old Shelby was diagnosed at age 2 with autism, sensory processing disorder and global developmental delays.
So, I love to give attention to all special needs children and adults because I know from first hand experience they are not a burden but a blessing and those who have them in their lives should count themselves blessed.
But my family has also been touched by Down Syndrome. My mother’s great-uncle, her grandmother’s brother had Down Syndrome. My mother has said she doesn’t have a lot of memories about her grandmother’s family because they were from Poland and spoke almost no English. She knows they smiled at her often when they met and showed love in other ways. But my mother has lots of memories of Tadjo. But what she has told me about most of all is that he lived with his mother until her death and in the end he took care of his mother. The family did not put him in an institution. They cared for him in ways only a family can and taught him to care for himself. My mother said she remembers her grandmother telling him if he shaved every day she would take him for ice cream and how proud he was to show the calendar full of “x’s” for each day he had shaved so he could get his ice cream.
And recently, my grandmother attended the funeral of an old friend who has a daughter now in her 50’s with Down Syndrome. My grandmother said she lives independently and holds down a job.
Savannah Guthrie shared today the story of her uncle with Down Syndrome and how her grandparents chose to not institutionalize him and how that has positively affected her life, including when her uncle and grandparents came to live with them.
Montana recently enacted a law making it illegal to abort a baby diagnosed with a genetic disorder, such as Down Syndrome. Although I am a bit dubious as to how this law can or will be enacted, I applaud this amazing effort. People with Down Syndrome, just as those with autism, CF, mental retardation or any other diagnosis can live meaningful and fulfilling lives. The “what kind of life will they live” is absolutely no excuse.
As I have said before, God does not make mistakes. This week, just two days ago, Pope Francis so beautifully demonstrated that kissing and blessing a disabled man. If you look at the video and photos, look at that man’s face. Look at his joy, his spirit. I am not unfamiliar with the medical complications someone with disabilities could possibly face and yes, those are not easy times of life, but they do not make a life less worth living.