Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life is a gift...precious...fragile.

Because we have two birthdays in our household within 10 days, we have been doing a lot of thinking about the GIFT of life. It is such a beautiful, precious, and wonderful gift. Every person experiences the gift of life in different and unique ways. Today I'd like to tell you about one specific life that has changed mine forever.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from the grandmother (and caretaker) of a former and beloved student (B). With tears in her voice she relayed the news that her grandson had passed away that morning...

Several years ago, after graduating with a degree in special education, I came out to the Navajo reservation in AZ, to teach. I was placed in the one classroom that no one else wanted. Why didn't they want it? I have no idea. To me, is was a little piece of heaven on earth.

In this double wide trailer (my classroom), I was given the beautiful opportunity to meet Our Lord in the poorest of the poor; the most helpless children I had ever met. I was given the gift of teaching, caring for, and loving 10 precious children who were (and still are) medically fragile.

They could not walk, talk, or eat as you and I do. Some of them had feeding tubes, some of them needed chest percussion treatment 1-2 times daily (more if and when they caught pneumonia, a common occurrence due to their fragile conditions), all of them took medicine at different time throughout the day, all of them received range of motion, physical therapy, and massage therapy,and some of them were deaf in one ear.

Some of them needed nebulizer treatments and some of them needed to be close to a suction machine (they were in danger of suffocating if they accidentally swallowed too much of their own saliva/mucus). All of these children wore diapers and needed to be changed several times a day, and most of them required a "two-man-lift" in order to get out of their wheelchairs and into bed.

The world may have called these children "vegetables". *shutter* Vegetables they were not. These individuals where the most HUMAN, human beings I have ever met...and "B" beautiful.

Of all of the children in my classroom, his existence was the most see, "B" was born with many rare conditions that most babies would have died from in their first week of life. In fact, one of his conditions was that he was born with out a brain...he had only a brain stem.

The doctors told his grandmother (he was abandoned by his mother at birth) that she shouldn't expect him to live for more than two weeks. Every doctor and specialist that they have seen over the years, has told "grandma" that there was nothing that could be done, and that she should expect his passing at any time. They told her "be ready".

To look at "B", you would just KNOW that HE was a MIRACLE. His head was 1.5 times bigger than it should have been (due to hydrocephalus) and the back of his head was a few inches from meeting his back. He weighed no less than 18 lbs and no more than 25 lbs at any given time. His body was bent and twisted in such a way that both his head and posterior nearly touched his back. His hands where mangled and the skin was constantly cracking. The circumference of his tiny thighs was no larger than the circumference of an egg and the circumference of his arms was no bigger than a quarter. Yet, he smiled, he laughed, he cried, he lived and he loved.

Do you know how old "B" lived to be? 22 1/2!

Now THAT is a testament to the love that he was given...most especially by his saintly grandmother...but also to the love that he held in his own, precious heart.

I can't begin to tell you how this experience, how these individuals, have shaped me as a person.

I take lessons from those couple of years into everything I do and into every relationship I have. I thank God for the gift of life...the gift of these lives, the gift of "B's" life, and the gift of His life. I hung up the phone, I thanked God for "B" and that I was one of the blessed people, on this side of eternity, who's life was touched, and changed, because of the GIFT of his life.

Note: I would love to share some pictures of "B" with you but am waiting for permission to do so. Stay tuned.

I Am The Child

I am the child who cannot talk.
You often pity me, I see it in your eyes.
You wonder how much I am aware of -- I see that as well.
I am aware of much, whether you are happy or sad or fearful,
patient or impatient, full of love and desire,
or if you are just doing your duty by me.
I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater,
for I cannot express myself or my needs as you do.
You cannot conceive my isolation, so complete it is at times.
I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and repeated.
I do not give you answers to your everyday questions,
responses over my well-being, sharing my needs,
or comments about the world about me.
I do not give you rewards as defined by the world's standards -- great strides in
development that you can credit yourself;
  I do not give you understanding as you know it.
What I give you is so much more valuable -- I give you instead opportunities.
Opportunities to discover the depth of your character, not mine;
the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities;
the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible.
I drive you further than you would ever go on your own, working harder,
seeking answers to your many questions with no answers.
I am the child who cannot talk.

I am the child who cannot walk.
The world seems to pass me by.
You see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children.
There is much you take for granted.
I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, oh I've dropped my fork again.
I am dependent on you in these ways.
My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune,
your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself.
Sometimes people appear not to notice me; I always notice them.
I feel not so much envy as desire, desire to stand upright,
to put one foot in front of the other, to be independent.
I give you awareness.
I am the child who cannot walk.

I am the child who is mentally impaired.
I don't learn easily, if you judge me by the world's measuring stick,
what I do know is infinite joy in simple things.
I am not burdened as you are with the strife's and conflicts of a more complicated life.
My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child,
to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love.
I give you the gift of simplicity.
I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I am the disabled child.
I am your teacher. If you allow me,
I will teach you what is really important in life.
I will give you and teach you unconditional love.
I gift you with my innocent trust, my dependency upon you.
I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted.
I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams.
I teach you giving.
Most of all I teach you hope and faith.
I am the disabled child.

-Author Unknown


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful testament. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing. I worked with a student in a similar situation to "B". People like him are precious!