Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Life Examined

     Imagine a crazed man with a gun encounters you in your home one evening as you and your sibling are chatting over hot cocoa.  Imagine he makes all sorts of threats and, in a frenzy, grabs your sibling and puts one arm around their neck and pushes the other one, gun in hand, into the side of your siblings' head.  Unable to meet his demands, he threatens to kill your sibling before your very eyes.  You shake.  Your sibling is crying.  You feel powerless as you try to reason with him.  You begin the plea for their life.

     That's literally what I feel every single time I read something about prenatal testing for Down's Syndrome.  Just today, out came an article about how expectant parents are going to be able to take a blood test at a mere nine weeks gestation to determine whether the child the mother is carrying has Down's Syndrome.  Most seem to cheer the news as a way in which the termination of those pregnancies will be able to happen at an earlier gestational age.  Some put the estimate at a staggering 90% of those who choose to terminate upon finding out their child has it.  I shudder.

    So how do I make the case, even if no one is listening, that my sister is worthy of life? That people just like her are invaluable insomuch as any of us are.  How do you communicate with the blind what it's like to see?  How do you put measure upon a person's mere existence?  Seriously, how would you defend any of your siblings' lives?  "Oh, you can't kill my brother! He's a good person."
    Emily Grace Meredith is the definition of good.   This is the girl who, upon hearing my other sister was having trouble paying her bills, collected hundreds of dollars worth of change over the course of several months.  She presented the money to her and merely stated, "I heard you needed some money."  One of my early memories is getting upset over something and I started to cry.  I ran to my room and shut myself in the closet.  Emily followed not too long after, only being a little toddler herself, and hugged me, sitting with me until I stopped crying.  Loving me, as always, just by being there.  Just her presence was, and is, gift enough.  I could easily make the case that Emily is a good person, much easier than I could make the case for myself.

    Or maybe you would say something more like, "Please, spare him! He has a family."  Translation: he is loved and needed.  Emily will probably never get married and have kids.  But she has us.  She is incredibly loved and, more than she knows, is incredibly needed.  Everyone has a soft spot for Em.  She is not hard to love.  She is hilarious, innocent, honest, and pure.  A glimpse of her mind is a vision of the untouched.  The wholesome.  I'll never forget when she first got on Facebook.  She is an avid LSU Tiger football fame and eagerly searched for Les Miles' profile page.  Of course, like all of us know, there are numerous Facebook pages that say they are Les Miles and have his picture as their profile pic.  Well, to Em, that's him.  So she goes to "friend request" one of the fakes and I say, "No, Em, that's not really him."  To which she replied, "Molly, I know what Les Miles looks like and that is definitely him."  Of course I started this lengthy diatribe about how people can call themselves Les Miles and put his picture up to trick people but it's not really him.  Well, she wouldn't have it.  To her, that kind of deception was incomprehensible.  Who would do such a thing?  Exactly.  And, typically, she friend requested the fake.  To see the world through those blue eyes.  To find other people's mockery and deception unfathomable.  To not be able to believe the bad because it's so far away from your own heart.  That is Emily.

     You could probably come up with a million reasons why your sibling should be spared and I could match you reason for reason.  A life is a life.  A sister is a sister.  She, along with my other sister, was maid of honor in my wedding.  She prays for me every night.  She is godmother to my brother's youngest.  She is an artist.  She loves movies.  She rides horses and hikes mountains.  She swims like a fish and laughs with abandon.  She keeps me in line and holds my children.  She is a part of my heart that stirs the deepest thoughts.  I contemplate her existence in the same vein I contemplate the very existence of God.  I love her with every fiber of my being.  I get annoyed with her like every sister should.  I challenge her, she challenges me.  I tell her she needs to exercise and she tells me I shouldn't drink beer.

     Many argue that everyone should have the right to choose whether or not they think they could handle having a special needs child.  And many understand the couple who chooses to terminate the growing life within.  I understand.  But I will never agree.  I honestly ache for the parents who could choose that.  I ache for their lack of understanding the gift they hold.  If they could only peer down the road, see past the horizon of today's sunset.  If they could name the child and feel their hug.  If they could only grasp what a life is, however broken in the eyes of a very broken world.  I ache for the siblings who will be robbed a brother or a sister and may never even know.   The difference that different life could have made.  
     It's my mother's birthday today.  60 years.  She'd probably die if she knew I told everyone that.  That's alright.  I was going to write about her but it's probably right that I write about her baby.  Her youngest.  The girl who literally changed everything for her.  For the better.  The one who gave us sight.  The one who, in her beautifully broken way, continues to lead us.  I know my sister is going to heaven.  And I know, that if I am ever so unbelievably lucky to find myself there too one day, I will enter in holding her hand.


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