Years ago, my best friend gave birth to a Down Syndrome baby. Her husband immediately left for two weeks, unable to deal with the challenges this child presented. I visited my friend and we talked quite casually about the immediate difficulties of a Down’s baby. On the Sunday afterwards, I went to church and chatted with my bishop’s wife. She had given birth to a Down’s baby some forty years previously. I asked her for advice, and she and I sluffed Sunday School so we could talk.
“Margaret,” she said, “I didn’t even know my son had a problem until I took him to a doctor after three months. Then the doctor started telling me about Down’s babies–we called them Mongoloid back then–and I had no idea what he was referring to. He told me I should put my son in an institution, that there was no hope for him otherwise. I sat in my car and cried for an hour after the doctor’s visit, and finally called my husband.” She then gave me some excellent counsel about supporting my friend.
This bishop and his wife did more than care well for their son–who is still living. They built a whole school (and these are not wealthy people) called RAH–or Recreation for All Handicapped. It became a place of refuge and help for families and children facing Down Syndrome. That bishop used to say, “You don’t have to tell a Down’s child about Jesus. They know Him already.”
The last thing my friend did in her life was to throw herself over her Down’s baby’s body as her car was headed into the crash which would take her own life. The baby survived.
With this as my context, I read Kathryn Lynard Soper’s new book The Year my Son and I Were Born–just out from Globe Pequot Press.
Many of us already know Kathryn, who manages the Segullah blog and is a frequent contributor to many places in the ‘nacle. We recognize her rich and concise writing style, and her generous heart. This book is full of her gifts, and is relevant to any who have dealt not just with challenged children, but with challenged lives. (Any exceptions?) So much of it is about acceptance and resilience.
How have you coped with unexpected twists in your path? What keys to resilience can you share?
My brother, who was badly hurt in an accident years ago and has since focused on resilience as a field of study, says that a hard change feels like facing a piano and not being able to play any of the keys you are accustomed to playing. The only way to love music again, he says, is to learn to enjoy the keys you aren’t used to.
Lots to talk about. I’d love to hear others’ experiences, and I encourage you to read Kathryn’s book. It’s a great one for a book group or a personal read.