Down Syndrome Awareness Month Celebrating Persons of Worth Part 1
Are you aware of the beauty that enters the world when a baby with Down Syndrome is born?
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
In this series, which Janet and I put together for Bear Paw Creek, we have three goals:
- To appreciate the wonderful people in our lives who have Down Syndrome.
- To encourage family members who love people who have Down Syndrome.
- To replace society’s fear of Down Syndrome with knowledge about and respect for people who are born with it.
This is part one of that series.
How Do You Measure the Worth of a Person?
Two years ago, I told my friend Jackie O’Connor that my perspective of beauty, and a life well lived, was changing. Jackie then began sharing with me about her Aunt Shirley. As she spoke of her Aunt, who was born with Down Syndrome, tears came into her eyes and her voice was filled with love and affection. Fast forward to last week, as I told Jackie how excited I was to be writing a post for Bear Paw Creek about Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Jackie spoke again to me of her Aunt Shirley, and again, the tears came.
I knew in that moment that I wanted Jackie to write about her Aunt Shirley for this post.
A great way to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, this October, is by celebrating the people we admire and love who have Down Syndrome. So you’ll get to read about Jackie’s Aunt Shirley this week. Next week, you’ll get to read about a wonderful boy named Russel. And if you missed Janet’s message about her nephew, Brandon, I’ll be linking to that as well. Lastly I’ll be pointing you to another blog written by our friend Joy, with a message about raising children with Down Syndrome.
Now, I hope you enjoy reading about Jackie’s Aunt Shirley as much as I have.
Shirley, by Jackie O’Connor
When I remember my Aunt Shirley, I remember her laugh.
When Shirley laughed, everyone around her laughed as well. She seemed to spend her life laughing;I mean real laughing. Eyes scrunched up, can’t catch your breath, belly laughing. You can’t help but laugh along with that.
Shirley went to be with the Lord 12 years ago. I miss her, but I hold my love for her close.
Remembering her fills my heart. I remember her sweet smile. I remember her silliness in things like how she would encourage me, saying that someday I would be “tall like her”, even after I outgrew her tiny five-foot frame. She honestly couldn’t see that I was a head taller than her. Remembering Shirley brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart, just like every moment I was blessed to spend with her in this life.
I remember how she was a creature of habit. Once Shirley learned something she did it forever. In school she learned about the dangers of electrical appliances causing fires, so she spent the rest of her life unplugging things. I remember my grandmother, time and time again, trying to use her mixer, or can opener, or even a lamp, only to find that it was unplugged.
I remember how Shirley loved to paint her nails. She wasn’t particularly dexterous, which meant that nail polish became finger polish, but she kept her nails painted, because to her it was pretty, and why else would you paint your nails? She also always wore a watch. She couldn’t tell time, but that didn’t matter. If you asked her what time it was, she would look at her watch and say “5:30 after 6:00”. She didn’t quite understand time, but it didn’t matter. We loved to ask her. Not too many times, because that would feel like we were making fun of her; just now and then, so we could smile at how cute she was.
I remember things like Shirley always having gum and how she would use that gum as a way to get us kids to behave. If the gum wasn’t working she would tell us “mama said” or “daddy said” and if all that failed, she would pull out the Bible and “read” (she couldn’t read) where it commanded whatever behavior she was trying to elicit.
I remember how Shirley loved. So purely. She loved the Lord, simply, and without question. She also loved singing with Elvis Presley. Oh, how I long to hear her sing again. She never knew the words, never stayed anywhere near the tune, but she would sing from her heart, and I sure miss hearing it.
Shirley was stubborn and unrelenting, she was joyful and fun, she was innocent, she was beautiful, she was as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen.
Links to more stories and information about Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
- Straight Talk with Chris Burke: Down Syndrome Awareness Month
- Home Page for NDSS.org (National Down Syndrome Society).
- For more stories about and by people with Down Syndrome, My Great Story: Virtual Story Book
- Janet’s tribute to her nephew Brandon.
In an age where the media discusses the dangers and merits of designer babies, where does that put people who are born with an extra chromosome? It puts them exactly where they have always been, as precious people of worth in our families and in society. Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to remind each other of that.
Let’s break down fear, and draw back the curtain on how much people with Down Syndrome contribute to our lives and our culture.