January 11, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Missing out on the amazing grace of new beginnings

Cynthia DewesDon’t get me started on how ridiculous I believe the phrase “new beginning” is. I think it’s redundant and unnecessary since both those words mean almost the same thing. Beginnings are always new, aren’t they? And newness always implies the start of something, doesn’t it?

Whatever. Still, as much as I dislike the phrase, this is indeed a time of new beginning. The New Year brings both a nostalgic look back, and a resolve to do something different, hopefully better, in the coming year.

This brings me in a convoluted fashion to a book discussion I heard on NPR. It was about a book by a man who had researched the attitudes of families, which included what might be called problem children.

He talked about physically or mentally disabled children. Or those with behavioral issues or even criminal tendencies. He mentioned the difficulty experienced by heterosexual parents of a homosexual child. He studied parents’ feelings about what they gave up or what they gained by having such children.

He asked parents how their lives would have been different if their child had been “normal.” Would they have changed anything if they could? Would they have aborted the child if they knew of the problem before birth? He asked how the children themselves felt about their situation.

It disturbed me that the author appeared to sympathize with women who had aborted in such cases, seeming to condone their actions as an indisputable right. But then, his research went on to deny the validity of that choice, as has my own experience and that of many others I have known.

As he had asked his subjects to do, I reflected on what would have been different if our two sons with disabilities had never been born.

If Andy had never existed, we wouldn’t have needed a baby sitter for an adult child. I could have worked full time. The other kids wouldn’t have been asked to stay home with him now and then or to miss out on things which conflicted with his needs. We wouldn’t have worried about who would care for him when we were gone.

On the other hand, we would have missed the funny things, like his determined mixing up of the price tags under grocery shelves. Or his startling the neighbor lady when this boy she didn’t know dropped in uninvited and sat down with her kids to watch TV. We would never hear about neighbor children protecting him from bullying on the school bus.

If Peter had never been born, we would have missed out on innumerable hospital crises, but also on 28 years of laughing at his Gitarzan rendition, his spontaneous breaking into song or his making his nurses laugh in the somber intensive care unit. We’d miss his conviction that every new day was a potential party.

Indeed, our lives and the lives of many others would have been different if Andy and Peter hadn’t lived. We all made sacrifices but, in the end, we all think they were worth it. And when they had taught us many lessons of unselfishness, hope and courage, God took them home.

How sad that the women who chose to abort such children will miss out on the amazing grace of new beginnings.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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