There is no one who exemplifies courage more than my younger sister, Bev. She was diagnosed at birth with Mental Retardation due to anoxia, a lack of air at child birth. In the late sixties, mothers were blamed and ruthlessly sought out for the outcome of this diagnosis. The incorrect and cruel ideology was that the mother must have done something during pregnancy to cause this tragedy. Not true. It’s actually my mom who taught Bev to be courageous. To defy fear. To do her very best. To be happy and grateful in all things. To confront others attitudes and relentless teasing and bullying with courage and a smile.
Little did we know as a family how challenging it would be to navigate life with Bev. Teaching her to walk, talk, bath, eat and just be a kid, was no easy task. Much of the credit goes to my parents who have an extremely deep love, dedication and yes, patience with Bev. They even balanced jobs, three other children and a home. We also realized, because we endured the hard times, what a true blessing it is to have a member of our family with a disability. I would never have known loyalty, dedication, strength and courage otherwise. I am certain, I would not be the compassionate or perseverant person I am today without this strong example of courage.
Over the years, Bev has overcome enormous obstacles . With the lack of “special schools” in the seventies, she was integrated into mainstream education. Sink or swim. She graduated from a adaptive public school in the midwest. If not for the help of Special Education teachers, her dedicated and determined parents, and siblings who spent countless hours playing learning games, reading with her, and riding bikes, who knows where she would be today. Later in adulthood, and with the help of an organization that aligns “mentally challenged” adults with work opportunities, Bev worked for more than twenty years before she retired. She braved each work opportunity as a social engagement with co-workers like no other person I know. She “got to go to work” not “had to” go to work. Her laugh, joy, and courage are exampliary and noteable.
As a sibling of Bev’s I am constantly reminded to be incredibly courageous and seek out each adventure in life as if it were my last chance. Further, I am encouraged to have confidence that I am capable of more than I can imagine. To be tenacious. As a result, I built my own home with my husband in the foothills of Colorado. We had to trench water and electric lines, hire contractors for the septic and excavate multiple times. Over the course of two years we faced financial changes, timing issues, availability of skilled labor, slope issues, power outages... constantly stretching our patience and energy. Multiple times, we thought about selling the place. We felt too old for this much work and challenge. We prayed. We sought marriage counseling. We endured and pressed on because we embraced our inner courage and faith. Our home is valued at over double our initial investment, our marriage is intact and our faith ever stronger. The lessons we learned were priceless. Courage drives us to be able to accomplish anything we set our mind to and not apologize for what it took to get us here. Courage is essential.