April Smith is a woman whose life was devastated in a recent wave of deadly tornadoes that swept across the southern United States. Before the storm, she was so proud living in her new home with the red door, happily watching her two young sons enjoy their new yard.
Now she lies in a hospital bed, battered by a storm that swept away her home and sons, and says that God is good. She says her sons have fulfilled God’s purpose in their lives and have gone home.
She is my hero.
Mothers like April who praise God in unthinkable tragedy possess a peace I thought I could never have, a perfect submission to the will of God. But thanks to being the mother of a little girl with an extra chromosome, who has been shaping my character over the past dozen years, I am a tiny bit closer to that kind of faith which assures us that God works all things to the good.
When our third child Christina was born, her Down syndrome threatened to shatter the picture- perfect life my husband and I had built over a decade of marriage. We had two lovely daughters in a little house by the sea, our family close by and a close-knit Catholic community around us. We were sure God loved us. Then we had this special-needs child who demanded more of our time than we thought we could give. Her needs caused us to question our parenting.
They stretched our ideas of what was acceptable, caused friction between us and some of our neighbours and wreaked havoc with the comfortable life we cherished.
Christina was like a storm in our lives, upsetting our idea of comfort, challenging us to change. We were mystified when we read that special needs children are considered extraordinary blessings by their families.
Then, as we asked God why He chose us to be her parents, and awaited His answer, He began to change our hearts little by little. He showed us that life was not about peaceful circumstances and warm feelings but it was about becoming heroically generous.
Our love for a girl with innocent love for God and her neighbour has worked wonders in our hearts and we are so grateful.
(Velesquez is co-founder of KIDS — Keep Infants with Down Syndrome — and author of A Special Mother is Born.)