I thought of my Aunt Helen last week when a friend told me her cousin’s baby was tested for Down’s Syndrome. Aunt Helen would tell her she’s about to have an angel in her house. She would know.
I wasn’t the favorite. My sister’s weren’t either; nor were any of my cousins. Chris held that title. Of all the aunts and uncles, she was their favorite. You might have thought she was extraordinary!
I was eight when I first saw her. She was lying in her bassinette waving her hands wildly at me. She had the brightest blue eyes and a goofy smile. The adults were talking about Chris’s problem. I couldn’t imagine a problem. I thought she was perfect.
As Chris grew older it was always a treat when she arrived. My mom bought her favorite soda and fancy desserts. It was always a special occasion. Her every word brought the aunts to laughter. She got extra hugs and presents from all the aunts on her birthday. Seriously, you might have thought she was a princess.
As Chris got older, her charm blossomed even more. She’d bring her mom flowers and she learned to sign I Love You. At a crowded party, you’d see her signing to our aunts. They melted each time. She loved a good party. If there was music and dancing, she was the first one on the dance floor. Naturally, the aunts followed. This charming, sweet act was very difficult to follow for the rest of the cousins. We were always out-charmed.
When Chris visited Ireland with who else, but the aunts, she entertained an entire pub with her singing abilities. The band had just set up when Chris began to sing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. They quickly grabbed their instruments and joined in. Within a few minutes, the entire pub was singing in harmony with her. They insisted on an extra verse. So maybe this night she was really spectacular.
Chris liked to come to the parties at my house. She called me “the party girl” and very rarely called me by name. I’ll admit that she made me feel special with that nickname.
She always wore a grin that would quickly turn into a genuine smile. An unkind thought never crossed her mind. In that way, she really was lovely.
Chris had Down’s Syndrome. When she was born everyone worried about her future. There was no need to worry. She brought so much love, light, laughter and happiness into our families. She knew more about love than all of us. She expressed it in simple, but meaningful, ways.
She just recently passed away. She was fifty-two. She’s in Heaven with the aunts now. I have a feeling that all of Heaven thinks she’s perfectly lovely too.
I shared this thought with my friend. It’s not easy for parents to get that news. I only know the difference Chris made in our family. Her mom just joined her in Heaven. Our family is missing two angels on earth.