Easily my biggest fear when first they said the words ‘Down syndrome’ was how she’d be treated. The extra chromosome tangled up in her DNA sets her apart–it’s noticeable. I imagined staring and whispers and doors slammed shut. Fourteen years in and I can honestly say that indeed some stare. Some whisper. The doors, though, they’re surprisingly wide open.
Last Thursday we dressed up and sat in a gymnasium to watch as an entire class of 8th graders promoted to high school. My Cass was among them, set apart and noticeable as always. She paraded in with the rest of them, noticeable because she stands a good two feet shorter than most. She walked the stage like the others, noticeable because of her beaming smile. She returned to her seat like they practiced, set apart because she was the only one who danced back to her row, waving her certificate in the air all the while.
On the night she was born, I called home–2500 miles to the west. I steeled my voice and said it: They think she has Down syndrome.
They were right. I was the one who had it all wrong.
Doors don’t slam in our faces; people open them for us. I have planted in my heart the names of people who I’m sure will be wearing the most sparkling crowns when they get to heaven. They are Jacquie and Chris, Amy and Rosalynn. Cheryl and Tina and Sarah. Countless more who through one small act or a whole series of them have given us hope by the bucketload. They are an army of people who love and people who give and people who I am so very humbled by. They are an army of the most caring individuals, constantly marching us closer to where we need to be. They pass a baton–each one eager to pick up and run right from where the last left off and without them we’d still be standing dumbfounded at the starting line.
I’m writing this for Cassidy because not every day but most days she surprises me with what she can do and who she is. She surprises me with the words that she says and the thoughts that she thinks and the girl she has become. But also I’m writing this for our own little army of lovers and givers and passers of the baton because they have been such an unexpected blessing in our lives and if only my words could convey the place I have them planted in my heart.
The world will never be void of the whisperers and the starers and the shunners. But they fade into black, shadowed by the light of all the rest. Proof–I’m here to tell you–that miracles are as real as they’ve ever been.