This is Charlie.
She is our grand niece. She was born with Down Syndrome. Her parents were aware of this before Charlie was born and chose to continue on. They are young and have their whole lives ahead of them, but against the grain of most who face this particular decision they brought her into the world and loved her.
She was also loved by everyone else who came in contact with her, including friends, family, and random passers-by at the grocery store. Her Grandmother, my sister, would gush about how precious she was, and how life would have been incomplete without her. Rather than being a chore, she brought joy.
Last week, I attended her funeral. At four months old, she passed away unexpectedly, but gently in her sleep. It’s hard to distill the feelings one has into words even with time to reflect, and writing emotionally is very difficult for me. On one hand it is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child. On the other, her family felt joyful that they were at least able to spend some time with her on Earth, short as it was and the joy they all felt together is stronger than the pain.
This song, by Martina McBride, was shared at the ceremony:
You can spend your whole life buildin’
Somethin’ from nothin’
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
When I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway
This world’s gone crazy and it’s hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart
For all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away
love ’em anyway
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah, sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love
There are many lessons that we can learn from Charlie and her family, but this is my lesson, “Take the time to love.” Obviously it may sound trite, but I want to love deeply, even when there is no hope, to do it laboriously, even if it is not noticed or reciprocated, and to do it personally, even when it is easy to assume that someone else will take care of it. All of those things have been difficult for me in the past, and it is a change that I need to make. The choice Charlie’s parents made was tremendously heroic and it should be recognized as such, and although it may appear that they were rewarded with tragedy, they would have made the same choice and lived the same way again without regrets. And what more could anybody in this life wish for?
I am extremely proud of them and pray that the next generation is lucky enough to be blessed with such people as these, and that the world find the time for more Charlies.