As parents of children with special needs we spend a great deal of time struggling to find out what is "wrong" with our children. We are forced to focus on getting a diagnosis or “label” for our child. No one wants to put a label on their child, but it seems our society and governments require this label so that we can get the proper supports for our children.
This forced focus on our children's deficits can block our view of the wonderful gifts that we have been given. Even though our children may have special challenges, we need to remember to take a moment, step back and appreciate their uniqueness and all the joy they have brought into our lives. We need to be thankful for the simple fact that they are in our lives- something not every parent can say.
This reflection was inspired by the story of 16 year old Donal Walsh who has been fighting cancer since he was 12. Although Donal has only lived for 16 years and is nearing the end of his journey here on earth he is an inspirational figure. Donal's story appeared in Sunday's Irish Independent. What struck me about Donal and inspired me to write this post is the selflessness he has shown. While in the children's ward going through the rigors of chemotherapy, Donal asked why? Not why he got cancer but why the very young children on the ward got this disease. He empathized with the parents of these young patients and the pain they must be going through.
While in the children's ward, he noted that it really needed upgrading. Over the years Donal fund raised for the ward raising €10,000 to help with repairs.
Donal came to public attention in Ireland when a letter he wrote to a newspaper was published. That letter again illustrated Donal's selflessness. He contemplated why so many young people consider suicide as a way out when he is struggling so hard for a way to stay in. He discussed the sorrow and massive loss felt by family members when they lose someone to suicide and encouraged anyone contemplating suicide to seek help. He knows his time on earth is limited and is wondering what he can do to lesson the pain his family will endure when her dies.
Donal knows the preciousness of life and reminds us all to take a moment and appreciate the gifts we have been given.