Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be about romantic love, it can be a time to reach out and perform an act of kindness to brighten someone’s day. There is even a whole WEEK dedicated to it every year around February 14. For many years I have tried to find someone to reach out to in a positive way around this time. Sometimes it is by lending a helping hand, and other times it is in order to say “Thank you!” to someone who had a positive influence on others. Six years ago I helped classmates contact a former High School teacher, who was also very ill, because we wanted him to know that he had made a difference in the lives of countless students. Turns out it was just in time. Continue reading
“All my friends are dead!” Two days ago a dear family friend stood at the coffin of my grandmother and those heartbreakingly honest words escaped her lips. My spirit ached for her as I watched tears fall down those beautiful cheeks. She is in her nineties and is one of the sweetest, most beloved individuals you would ever meet. Yet aside from her devoted son, who stood at her side, she feels alone.
Due to her limited mobility and the passage of time she feels that life has continued at its customary pace but cast her aside. She can no longer be a part of the activities that used to give her joy and community. Her community is also dwindling because over the decades she has watched as, one by one, her friends left this earth.
“It’s so special that you could be here today,” I said.
“I’m not special,” she replied. I hugged her as tightly as I could to show her differently. I made sure I hugged her every chance I had for the next two days.
I was also reminded that I needed to go seek her out and give her more hugs more often.
Today I encourage you to make sure that no one you love feels left behind. Go give them hugs, a LOT of hugs, every chance you get. Don’t let them be alone. They are special. Make sure you BOTH remember that.
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Every year it seems that my house is last one on our street with Christmas lights still shining. I like to leave them up until around Epiphany/ Three Kings Day. To me it feels too hurried to spend a month of frenzied preparation, only to have it culminate abruptly in two days of even more frenzied celebration (depending on your family situation). The very next day we all seem far too ready to simply move on with our regular lives, because “Christmas is over.”
I need more than that. I need time to simply sit, and revel, and bask, and it seems that it is only in the stillness of the days following all the activity of celebration that I finally find Christmas. Once I find it I also wish to keep it for as long as possible. I totally understand that some people want a fresh, orderly start in time for the New Year, and that’s what works for them. But in my experience no celebration of a New Year feels complete without also bringing along the last of the light of Christmas. It serves as a beacon of love, and joy, and hope; illuminating our path for the new days ahead.
I gaze upon those lights of ours, rending the darkness one last night, and I try to draw their brightness deep into my heart. Their warmth reminds me of this truth:
Christmas has come, Christmas is here, and Christmas will remain.
I can cling to that, even if I find myself in the dark.
Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration. Continue reading
In honor of World Down Syndrome Day (in March) and Down Syndrome Awareness Month (in October) I would like you to meet my friend Kaitlyn.
Now that you have met her, I wish she could meet you. I mean that with all my heart, your life would be better for it. Just one of the countless reasons why it is so agonizing that she was taken from us too soon.
Kaitlyn passed away in December, 2013 after a brief battle with illness. Her loved ones were stunned with grief, and it sent a shockwave through the local special-needs community. It seemed inconceivable that her light was snuffed out; so young, so bright.
Today is the first World Down Syndrome Day that her family will be celebrating without Kaitlyn. It is a bittersweet observance. They mourn the loss of their sweet girl, but celebrate her life, her legacy, and the many lessons she taught all of us. We are richer for having met her, and poorer for having lost her.
Kaitlyn lived enthusiastically & loved unconditionally. Among her favorite things was the color pink, Disney movies, music, dancing, and her family. She showed those around her that true beauty lies in being, as her mother so eloquently put it, “Perfectly imperfect.”
Her memorial page on Facebook is filled with memories, pictures, and this adorable video. How can you watch such a sweet girl and see her as any less than perfect?
Kaitlyn’s brief time on this Earth urges us to redefine the world’s standards of value and perfection to embrace a life well lived-and well-loved. She was truly beautiful, and she is truly missed. So today, on World Down Syndrome Day, I thought you should meet her. Kaitlyn may no longer be with us, but her light continues to shine.
Update: Kaitlyn’s mother, Tracy, has this to say~
On World Down Syndrome Day, I remember……
15 years 4 months and 3 days ago, I gave birth to one of the greatest gifts of my life. November 18, 1998, weighing in at 7lbs 4 1/2 oz, & 18″ long. We found out at 6 months pregnant that our baby girl would have Down Syndrome. The words leaving the Dr’s mouth that evening, made me go deaf temporarily. We were scared, and the battle for faith commenced. For 3 more months we waited, we fought off the perinatologists best efforts to convince us she should not be here. Hydrocephalus they said, major heart defect they said, vegetable that would never leave the hospital they said, think about the quality of life they said, you’re young and can have another baby they said. Another baby??? But THIS was our baby…she had grown inside of me, I had felt her every move. I watched the screen as she’d move and bring her hands to her face. She was mine, right from the beginning, and as mothers aren’t we to protect our young? Isn’t that our purpose as mom’s? You would never dream of having a baby and the Dr saying, “by the way this ones defective we’re just going to end it’s life” The moment came, and it was clear…put our faith in God and he will take care of it.
Kaitlyn Dee Laramore was born. Her first cry brought a rush of relief over my soul. There was no breathing assistance needed, no NICU needed, no extended hospital stay. She came home with us 2 days later. I can remember standing over her cradle in amazement at all the things she was, and none of the things that they told us she would be. She had heart surgery at 6 months and we never looked back. For 15 years and 8 days shy of 1 month, she BLESSED our everyday life. She was a ballerina that loved to dance, reading anything she could get her hands on, Katy Perry, Doc McStuffins, Mary Poppins, Disney World, and to be anywhere her family was. She wanted to be a princess when she grew up. Always a smile, a hug and a how was your day, especially when it had been a rough day for one of us. Always so considerate and kind, and full of love and a smile. The unconditional love we learned and received was the greatest lesson of my life. People that are faced with this “decision” after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Downs…I BEG you, quiet your mind and open your heart. Trust, and have faith. It won’t always be easy, but it is without a doubt the greatest pleasure of my life to have been her mommy. The hardest part of having my daughter who just so happened to have Down Syndrome, was the day God said he needed her back. December 10, 2013. The world lost one of its brightest lights that day. Her race was run, and her purpose fulfilled. The greatest teacher of my life. Wouldn’t change a thing, except keeping her with me forever.
One last question…..Would you turn down a piece of heaven if it was offered to you? They are as close as we can get to it in this unkind world we live in. The world NEEDS them. Let them teach us. We have so much to learn! Happy World Down Syndrome Day