There were just a handful of people at the visitation and funeral, but two of them were adults with Downs' syndrome. One was a member of our congregation who was 101 years old.
Her family was small: just two children and their spouses, four grandchildren and their significant others, a few cousins. She was well over ninety, so many of her friends were already gone. Her husband had preceded her over forty years ago.
Her family was small, but it had been bigger. Her tall son and smiling daughter told me that she had borne five children, actually. One of them I knew about: a daughter born with cerebral palsy, who lived in a facility for adults with disabilities. She had died just a few years ago. I remember that she would speak of her daughter. The other pastor officiated at her funeral.
She had had two other children. One was born with a hole in her heart, and died when she was 9 months old. The other had Downs' syndrome, and died when he was four years old. "It seemed like he was always sick," her daughter recalled, with sorrow.
She loved piano and singing, and especially men's voices. Her husband had a wonderful singing voice. She was proud of her Norwegian heritage, and her Korean grandchildren. She loved to cook and bake, and she always made too much. She had a good sense of humor, and could laugh especially at herself. She had a calmness and a light about her.
She always wondered why. Why did she have so many children who died, who had special needs? Did God ever answer her question?
She was an elementary school teacher. It was her vocation, her calling. Being a mother was her calling too, a mother who laughed and cooked too much food and made her children take piano lessons and go to college. She took time off when her children were young, and when she went back to teaching, she decided to study Special Education. She taught many children with Downs' Syndrome.
Did God ever answer her question?
I don't know if she would ever had said she was passionate about her work, her vocation. I know she loved the children, and she was good at what she did. We often use the word passionate to indicate the fire and enthusiasm with which we work. But there is another side to passion. Passion also means suffering. Her suffering was a part of her vocation. She loved her children who had died, and she loved these children who lived.
There were just a handful of people at her funeral. She was 90 years old, after all. And she had a small family. At least the ones you could see.
Now I am sure, though, surer than I am of many other things, that her life is hidden with Christ in God. And that her family is so big, so much bigger than the eye can see, so much bigger than the heart can hold.