Raising a disabled child: Selfishness? Is that a virtue?

A sweet friend shared a treasure with me this morning. I haven’t quite recovered from the effect that it had on me.  She has a child with Down Syndrome and I have a daughter that is blind. We often wonder how we have enough – enough of everything that is needed to do what is needed. Of all the support that people have provided to encourage me as I have cherished my daughter – and her disability – this was a tender thing to read just one month before she turns 18. I hope that sharing it will bring peace to someone who needs the sentiment it brought me today.

God Chooses Mom for Disabled Child, Written by Erma Bombeck Published in the Today Newspaper Sept. 4th, 1993 Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger. “Armstrong, Beth; son; patron saint, Matthew.” Forrest, Marjorie; daughter; patron saint, Cecelia.”Rudledge, Carrie; twins; patron saint…. give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.” Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.” The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.” “Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”

“But has she patience?” asks the angel. “I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it.” “I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence. She’ll have to teach the child to live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.” “But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.” God smiles. “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.” The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”

God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive.

Yes, there is a woman I will bless with a child less then perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says “Momma” for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it!

When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.”

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see—ignorance, cruelty, prejudice— and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.” “And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in midair. God smiles.  “A mirror will suffice.”

I’m still teary-eyed hours after reading this. I don’t assume too much about what God’s perspective is or what he thinks is best, but thanks Erma Bombeck, for this sweet written work that helped me forgive myself for feeling so inadequate yet so trusted. I don’t feel like an angel or a saint, but we’ve sure made a lot of heavenly memories as we have progressed in this life together.

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