Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Teacher of Life

The pride I felt seeing my sister graduate from college yesterday made me dream of the day my girls graduate. I pictured all my girls on that day, decked with their caps and gowns. First Ellie, gracefully receiving her diploma, a beautiful young lady with a heart full of love and compassion, ready to live out her next dream and shine her light. I saw Nina, walking, yes walking to receive her diploma, with a father and mother sitting on the stands cheering her on and proud to call her our own. I saw Nichole too, and I had to try so hard not to cry.

I don’t know what will be of Nichole’s future. She is only 2 ½ but right now we do see college in her future (there are many programs available now a days for individuals with Down syndrome) It will be a day full of celebration, of empowerment, and of great accomplishment. My friend Leah wrote of her daughter Angela on her essay in Gifts 1, “The sky is her limit.” And so it is for Nichole.

But what if Nichole is not able to go to college? What if realistically her intellectual capabilities are not found in a classroom of higher education, even in programs targeted for others with intellectual disabilities? Will we have failed? Will she have failed? Will there be less value to her life?

She will never be a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist. She will not be the greatest athlete or performer. She will not find the cure for cancer and she will certainly not be the next president. But then I look at Nichole and I am trapped in her eyes, unable to look away, unable to question anymore. The little girl that looks back at me is not broken, and she is not less than perfect. The value of her life is not found in all the things that she will never be, but in the things that she is. And at only 2 ½ her accomplishments are those that many of us seek to someday reach.

Nichole might not be a college graduate, but she is my teacher, my teacher of life. She has taught me what celebration looks and feels like. The power of cheering for others and the freedom of dance. She has taught me that a worthy performance is not found in a basketball court or a stage, but on a living room floor stacking blocks, and in saying “crackers please.” I have seen worship to God that is so honest and seems so pleasing, that it brings me to tears. I see it as Nichole tries to sing along at church, raising her arms to the God that gave life to her, or singing along and dancing to a video while she tries to sing along, “Let everything that breaths sings praises to the Lord, praise the Lord!”

She has partnered with God to work in my selfish heart. A heart that many times is so lost in this world and forgets that the standards I live for are not the ones set by people, but those set by God. She lives them, she teaches them to me.

I have seen joy in her, and wished that I could feel what she feels. It is so pure.

I have felt peace and love through her. At times when I am down, she instinctively knows it and comes to pat my back, and then she pulls me tight into a hug and offers a smile, maybe even asks if I need some crackers or chips too.

And every day she works harder than I usually do to master and accomplish new skills.

No diploma will ever be able to credit the value of Nichole’s life or the meaning of her accomplishments. She is already ahead of me in the things that really matter in life, and therefore she is my teacher and I her student.

And someday, maybe I will get to “graduate” and she will be the one cheering for me saying, “You did it mom! You did it!” And I hope that she is as proud of me as I am proud of her now.


  1. Wow, Ellen, you said it so perfectly! Thank you for reminding me how our daughter has taught all of us so many lessons. Beautifully written! :)

  2. That was beautiful, Ellen! You brought me to tears. Do you mind if I (once again) link it to fb?

  3. What a great post! You know what? A college diploma has nothing to do with happiness. My dad didn't even graduate from high school. He quit school in the 8th grade, and he's a millionaire a couple times over both monetarily and spiritually! How much money you have doesn't measure success, but what you can buy. What determines true success is how you live your life. While it's unlikely our kids with DS will be in the top tax brackets, they will be rich in the gifts God has given them. And you're right, if we watch our children-our teachers-we'll learn more than most parents!

  4. thanks for sharing ellen.. it moved me to tears and although our daughters future are uncertain, we can know for sure that they live each day fully and with pure joy. they don't see the "ugly" side of people, they choose to see the best and offer the best. thank you for being so transparent with your life. god bless... always.

  5. Oh my! She is absolutely STUNNING!! I can see how you can get lost in her eyes. There is SO MUCH behind those beautiful eyes! I Believe..that she is gonna "knock your socks off" with her abilities!! I can't wait to see ALL of the things this girl will set out to do AND Achieve!!
    Hugs to ALL of your Precious Daughters!!

  6. Hi Ellen,

    Jolene Philo gave me your information and I found your blog. You said exactly how I feel about my son Miles! Thank you!



Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. If you do not subscribe to comments, make sure you check back for my reply to your comment.



Related Posts with Thumbnails