One of the stranger experiences my wife and I went through while trying to adopt was filling out a questionnaire about what types of physical and mental handicaps we would be willing to accept in a child available for placement with us. We were asked to check boxes saying we would want a child with a club foot, a cleft palette, mild retardation, severe mental disabilities, born with a drug addiction or potential fetal alcohol syndrome. It was a very difficult process as we tried to determine "how much" of a handicap we thought we could handle--and it made us think about all of those parents who didn't have this "choice" when their own handicapped children were born.
Two of those parents are my Uncle Ron and Aunt Angela. Due to complications during birth, my Cousin Violet was born with severe physical and mental handicaps. It was clear from early on that Violet was never going to speak, was never going to walk, was never going to attend a "regular" school and was never going to be able to take care of herself. But that didn't stop Ron and Angela from loving her with their whole hearts--and making countless sacrifices to ensure Violet lived as comfortable a life as possible.
That meant changes to their house, specialized vans, beds and bathtubs, therapy sessions, special schooling, round-the-clock care, lifelong diaper changes and special food preparation. Trips to see family here in Wisconsin required extensive planning and co-ordination. I'm sure there was never enough money and never enough time for just themselves. But they remained committed to their daughter and meeting her every need. When my Aunt experienced her own health problems a few years ago, my parents and my Aunts and Uncles traveled to Oklahoma to help with Violet's care while Angela recovered.
My cousin passed away last Sunday at the age of 24--far longer than the doctors originally expected her to live. I'd like to think that it was the dedication of my aunt and uncle that contributed to that longer-than-expected lifetime. Due to distance, work requirements and time constraints, my wife and I are not able to attend her funeral this morning--but I wanted to take this opportunity to honor her memory and to salute the efforts of my Uncle Ron and Aunt Angela--because they took the boxes that my wife and I left empty on an adoption questionnaire and they filled them with the greatest love of all in real life.