A Blessing In Disguise
Someone once said, “God doesn’t give children with special needs to strong people. He gives children with special needs to ordinary, weak people and then gives them strength. Raising a child with Down syndrome doesn’t take a special family, it makes a special family.” Years ago I wouldn't have given these words any thought, but here I am and it couldn't be more applicable to my life.
♥ Dear Austin,
First and foremost, I, as your sister, want you to know how truly and deeply I love you. You mean more to me than your little mind can possibly fathom. I have so much to thank you for, so much to look forward to, and so much love to give to you as we continue on this journey called “life”. I must admit though, I had a lot of resentment in the beginning. It only took me a short amount of time to realize that every hurdle and every trial was just a minor set back in the grand scheme of things and that you alone were going to be worth it all.
* * *
It was roughly ten years ago when I found out that mom was pregnant. I was a shocked, mad, and confused teenager that simply tried to ignore the fact that I soon would have another sibling to ruin my life. After all, that’s what siblings are for, right? Corrupting their older sibling’s world, one slow, agonizing day at a time? Okay, maybe not. Like I said before, I was a teenager, and I was very content with where I was in my life. Dad, Mom, Morgan, and I were a strong, close, fast-paced family and I was not ready for any of that to change, though I knew change was on the horizon.
It would be an understatement to say that we were in total disbelief when we found out that you were diagnosed with Down syndrome. Emotions went awry, chaos started happening, and questions began to surface. Were you going to be alright? Was I? Would that firm foundation that my family was once so accustomed to begin to weaken right beneath us? I didn't know all the answers. In fact, I knew close to nothing, but I'll tell you what I did know. I knew at that very moment that life was now going to be full of challenges - challenges I knew I had to face and conquer.
The early years were the most difficult, I believe. I was having to get used to a younger brother, and on top of that, a younger brother who had Down syndrome. Having previous knowledge and prior experience with special-needs children was beyond practical in helping to raise you. Time began to fly by and my time spent with you made me immensely regret my initial devastation to your diagnosis. I was ashamed at how selfish I had been by not wanting to share my wonderful childhood with another human being. In my opinion, wonderful didn’t even begin to describe it. I had a mother who was at my beck and call, always willing to help me and who was committed to my needs. I had a father who wholeheartedly devoted his time and his love to me. I had a sister who at times I utterly despised, but I knew she meant well and I loved her. It was soon that I realized that by God’s grace, you were destined to be a part of this family.
I was right and I knew I was right. You belonged in my life and I belonged in yours. A missing puzzle piece, you completed our family. Nine years later and things are as good as they have ever been.
Austin, you are an open book, with a wonderful story, thus far! You have the potential to light up a room and crack the most difficult of smiles with your charming personality and contagious laugh. You have an insanely funny sense of humor and the most amazing capability of warming my heart. You are outgoing, determined, athletic, joyful, silly, loving, and remarkably smart. Your impeccable style is one that many kids your age envy; I promise you that! Still to this day, you continue to impress upon me the importance of some of the most powerful and significant characteristics. Though you are only nine years old, I find you to be quite the mentor. You have affected my life positively in numerous ways.
Over the years, you have helped to strengthen what little patience exists deep within my bones. You move at your own, sweet, little pace and I am more than willing to match your steps. Without you, I might have missed some of the smaller things that life has to offer. I get so carried away in my hectic life that sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses, but you -- you help me to tread much more slowly, allowing myself to value more qualities in life. You have also taught me to be both strong and accepting. I must acknowledge every day that you are not defined by Down syndrome, despite your diagnosis. Above all, you are a nine year old boy who has more love, dedication, and courage than I can conceptualize. It’s through your resilience and perseverance that I have learned to be strong. Last, but certainly not least, you have taught me appreciation. I never fully understood the word “appreciative” until you entered my life. I initially cherished you for just existing in my life, but it evolved into something so much more than that. Your accomplishments, no matter how trivial or momentous they may be, and the delight on your face bring me so much joy!
I can’t wrap my head around the thought of a life without you in it, though often times I wonder what that would have been like. It would have certainly been a life with a lot less frustration and stress, but it would have also been a life without big hugs, sweet kisses, and lots of good times. Your eagerness and willingness to try new things is always keeping me on my toes and for that, I thank you. You have allowed me to see life in a whole new light, that is filled with hope and love, and you have touched my heart in ways I can and cannot see. As you grow up, you may change your hobbies and learn new notions, but I know that you will never lose your power to love unconditionally. You are one of the best things that has ever come into my life and without a doubt, the coolest, sweetest, most inspiring young boy that I have the privilege of knowing. Calling you my brother will forever be the greatest honor and pleasure. Through the ups and downs, Austin, you are nothing short of a blessing in disguise. Thank you for letting me love you with every fiber in my body.