I share two sentiments — that the unknown can be fearful and also a desire to be thankful in all things. Giving birth to a child with Down syndrome put those two on a collision course until I learned something that perhaps matches what the original pilgrims celebrated on that first Thanksgiving: all the troubles aren’t over, there is a lot of hard work yet to, but it is by the hand of God that we have gotten through some dark days, so let’s give thanks for the bountiful things we see that He also provides.
We naturally had our struggles and apprehensions our Down syndrome son. There were the tantrums and getting lost in public places, health issues, decisions about education programs, lack of reasoning power (in another word: unreasonableness), and lots of surprises.
We wonder how people he meets will treat him. How will he be taken care of after we are gone? Will we be able to leave financial means to endure through his lifetime? And how will that burden rest on our other children?
On the other hand, my Down syndrome son has been a tremendous blessing. There was a lot of unknown going into it but after he was born we knew immediately that, come what may, he would be a treasure to us.
When people would say they were “sorry” about it upon hearing our diagnosis we would feel sorry that they felt that way. Sure, our lives were different because of this, but what if your biggest trial could also be something you are absolutely crazy about?
There are a lot of parents who know that perspective. They have something that others might see as their biggest trial, and maybe it is a very big trial, but which is also part of someone that they love very much. A child doesn’t have to have a handicap for that to be the case. Amid mixed emotions attendant to all parents, love and hope seem to always rise to the top.
Optimism and sunshine fill our life. The simple things my son enjoys make him very, very happy. He is not demanding at all for things that drain finances. His health is good.
And our other children have proven that they love him as much as we do. He blesses our life with his ability to be surprised and delighted and with his great sense of humor. He brings the simple joys of a childlike, uncomplicated life into our home.
These happy things would be harder to see if their accompanying worries and uncertainties dragged us down. When future paths are unknown they can seem awfully daunting. They could become overwhelming. So, along with all the other things that pop up in life, we have prayed for help with the challenges of Down syndrome in our family.
It is now easy for me to take the scriptural counsel to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38) because of the answers to those prayers.
I know what it feels like to have pains and fears lifted — to literally feel like the destroying angel is passing over me. I know where that feeling comes from. It is because Jesus Christ has felt that pain or worry already so He knows how to lift it from me when I ask.
I am so thankful for that. If I always remember that, I can always stay above the fear of the unknown. That one thing is always known.
I don’t have much else in common with the Pilgrims. But I guess these things are timeless: pressing on, finding joy in building, and learning that even in challenging circumstances God gives bounteous things to be enjoyed.