When Marcus was born, an uncle of his father thought it would be nice to give me the gift of the book,Angel Unaware: A Touching Story of Love and Loss by Dale Evans Rogers. From the liner notes: “Written in a poignant, tender style, Angel Unaware is the compassionate story of Down’s Syndrome child, Robin Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of Roy and Dale Evans Rogers. A timeless message of hope and faith for parents of Down’s Syndrome children, as well as for those with other illnesses, this enduring classic has sold more than 500,000 copies since its first publication in 1953.”
OMG – isn’t that baby beautiful?!
The baby dies.
As I read the book, a new and quite young mother, I went back to the copyright page again and again and reminded myself: 1953. 1953. 1953.
For those who have suffered through the greatest imaginable pain, losing a child, I can see offering this book as a testament to the love parents have for a child and the value of every child’s life. Also, as the name implies, it deals a lot with heaven and God and angels and all that; it is how Dale Evans Rogers found her comfort I’m sure.
I was thinking about this recently because I read another short piece written in honor of a child with Down syndrome who died while still a girl. I do not know anything about the child except her name, Mary Beth, and that she was a student at the Madonna School in its early years.
This was written by the school’s founder Sister Mary Evangeline, R.S.N, and was included in her autobiography I Have Seen Him.
For Mary Beth
Did you ever sit by an open window at 3 o’clock in the morning and listen to the whispering sounds of the silent world? This must be the way it was when God made the world – the way it was this morning when I was thinking about Mary Beth.
I know that the mystery of the giant trees outside my window shedding nearly holds somehow a part of the answer to my bold wonder. I know God directs every leaf that falls, as He directs our lives – – and as I watched them leave the trees and float silently to the earth – all falling to the ground to become part of the nurture that will make the world come to life again next spring. God was giving me an answer to the question he knows is in my heart. Why? I know he is with us – I know he loves us – I know he sends us to earth and calls us back home – but when two people love – one can ask the other wide and know it is only asked that the answer will strengthen the faith that makes love stronger.
So many times, Mary Beth would smile and say to me, “It’s all right, sister – it’ll be okay!” And now I remember – and I thank God for the message he sent me through Mary Beth. “Don’t worry,” she often told me – and somehow these difficult days, I cannot recall what I did for Mary Beth or what I brought her or if I brightened any of her days – I am only remembering the patience she had with me, her attitude that whatever it was, was all right. In so short a time Mary Beth learned what some of us are still trying to figure out.
Mary Beth’s life was filled with love, from her parents who had enough for their family and plenty left over to share with anyone who needed it – and suddenly the answer is clear. God has asked us to stop a minute in our wild race from day-to-day and to know that he has his hand over us. He is saying, “Don’t worry, it’s all right – this is the way I planned it.”
I read once about children that “you may house their bodies, but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit even in your dreams.”
And now that Mary Beth knows how to multiply, or to read fourth-grade reader or knew the names of the states – all this seems unimportant now.
God sent Mary Beth to bring us a message – as He sends each of us to bring His message to each other. He asks us to have faith that what He does, He does for love – and that is a story 2000 years old, manger to a cross on a hill. He asked us to have faith when we can’t find an answer to his ways, to have faith when days are lonely, to have faith when everything is dark and getting darker.
He had faith when He sends us children who need us more than most children do – faith that we will be closer to Him because we didn’t know him and his precious gifts.