If I had caught a glimpse of this girl nine years ago, I wouldn’t have been afraid.
If I had known then that her favorite words of all would be “I love you”
then I wouldn’t have listened to what anyone else had to say.
When the geneticist told me about all the “Fifty markers of Down Syndrome” and the myriad of potential health problems, I was scared. When they announced the words “mental retardation” and “three holes in her heart”, I was terrified. What did that even mean?
A rather patient pulmonologist drew me a picture of the chambers of the heart. He tried to fill me in on the high school biology I should have remembered in the middle of the night in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Understanding the heart as a simple mechanical muscle was easy, according to him. He also said they could fix the holes.
But what about “mental retardation?” What does that mean? As I thought about it, I realized it was much easier to contemplate “giftedness” and “deficits”. Because I like visual things, I drew myself some charts, which included headings such as Social, Intellectual, Creative, Spiritual, Financial.
I also included ideals I valued, like Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness.
You get the idea. Then I started filling people’s names into my chart. For example, Alfred is a creative genius, but is financially deficient. Betty is spiritually gifted, but socially inept. Carla is intellectually superior, but awfully unkind. See how I changed their names, so they can live on in blissful ignorance? I’m so intellectual.
The next day, I cornered a cardiologist.
“Who says being intelligent is any more important than being creative? Why do you think being intelligent has more value than being spiritual? How can you tell me that having a high IQ is better than having much joy?”
I surprised that poor cardiologist. She responded with a get-back-in-line attitude. “I have spent my entire career helping those with physical disabilities and weaknesses to live a full life. And I have known many intelligent people who have a disability in kindness, or a disability in finding joy.” She may also have said “So back off, Mama!” but I’m not sure.
As Stella grew, the holes in her heart began to heal. The big one closed, all by itself.
As Stella grew, the deficits in my own heart began to heal, as well, but not all by themselves. I needed Stella to help me. Stella is peaceful, kind, gentle, loving and joyful, all those ideals I valued. She is not so good at math, or at tying her shoes. But she is teaching me to become patient, because I have always stunk at that. It was my heart that needed healing, actually.
And Stella is the one who is the genius in healing hearts.