By Dave Andrusko
As I’ve mentioned many times, I am so blessed that pro-lifers send me stories that appear in publications all over the country. I was especially touched by a column written by Lisa Moore, “My Mom remembers a sister I never met: Alzheimer’s robs new memories, not the old ones,” that appeared this week in the Charlotte Observer.
At one level, Ms. Moore’s story is a familiar one for many Americans. Her mom suffers from Alzheimer’s. As such Rose Beebe has difficulty recalling recent events but remembers distant memories with remarkable clarity.
Now that Ms. Moore’s mother has Alzheimer’s, she is hearing more about her sister, Christy, who was born several years before she was.
Christy, who had Down syndrome, lived only six months “due to heart complications associated with this genetic condition. I don’t recall at what age Mom first told me about Christy, but she rarely talked about this devastating loss that left my parents, who were in their 20s, grief stricken.”
Indeed the column tactfully documents how fresh this loss remains for Rose Beebe. As she reflects back, we read a narrative of pain, what appears to be guilt, a sense of cosmic injustice (“A lot of people don’t want a baby. But it happened and I never got over it”), and the understandable lament, “Why did that have to happen to me?”
Yet for all that, Mrs. Beebe ends with an important insight: “Life can be bad, so many things can happen. Life is a mystery. But we’ve had good times, love and fun.”
Moore writes, “As I fight back tears, I grab Mom’s hand to offer support as she emotes the grief she has been carrying around for more than 58 years. I wish I could erase all the pain she still feels.”
If the story had ended there, the reader would have been blessed. But there’s much, much more.
When her Mom moved into the memory care facility a years ago, Moore writes that she and her daughter, Jazlyn, 17, would visit her regularly. “Perhaps it is no coincidence that the woman occupying the room next to Mom’s has Down syndrome and is around the age Christy would be.”
Moore confesses that she was uncomfortable by the woman’s exuberance, but Jazlyn quickly became her friend. It would be very unfair to merely paraphrase the eloquent ending where Moore explains how this woman became so important to them. So let me just quote Moore’s concluding paragraphs in their entirety.
“On each visit, Jazlyn bounds down the hall and sticks her head in this sweet angel’s room. When she sees Jazlyn, her mouth drops open and she gasps with delight. With outstretched arms she lumbers across the room yelling loudly, ‘Ohhhh.’
“She throws her arms around Jazlyn with the force of an Olympic wrestler and squeezes her with all her might until she shakes. She grabs Jazlyn’s hand and kisses it and then makes her way up to her cheek for a few pecks. She repeats this ritual a few times. Then she notices me and I get lavished with the same attention as she continues to squeal with delight.
“Jazlyn and I have decided this woman is the purest and happiest person we know, untainted and unaffected by the world. Our time spent dancing, playing and laughing with her is such a gift and a lesson in compassion and acceptance. I am touched when I see Mom caress her face and hug her.
“We have learned to speak this lady’s language and it is simple: unconditional love. It’s a language we all know but sometimes forget. I am grateful for this opportunity to stay in touch with my heart.
“This woman has changed my life by helping me appreciate life in all its beautiful forms. And she’s become the sister I never got to have.”
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