Being Thankful

When I had just graduated from law school and before I become a teacher of blind and visually impaired students, one of my former classmates said something curious to me.  First, let me say that she also was a mother of two (I had just the two girls at that time).  Her younger child also had autism.  She too was (and still is) a Christian. She also did a joint degree program (a juris doctor and masters) just like me.  She said, “You know Nalida. Thank God our kids have these disabilities.  Look at us.  We have a JD and a masters. We could have just been in corporate America just making all this money!”  I just looked at her and nodded.  But in my head I was was thinking, “And would that have been so bad??”

I smiled to myself then and now because I really KNEW what she meant.  Our focus could have been only with making it to the top–making money and connections.  Perhaps we would have lost focus.  Perhaps we would have become arrogant.  Perhaps we would have lost sight of the dignity of those most vulnerable.  Perhaps we would have lost sight of God–that would have been the worst tragedy.  Only God knows.

All I know now is that the Lord chose this path for me.  I love my family and I love my work.  There are times that I feel sad when I think about my children’s limitations.  My younger daughter with autism struggles so much with reading. She is 11 and cannot even read at the first grade level.  I get so sad watching her struggling and work with her as well as pray for her that she will develop more educationally and socially.  I try not to worry about the future, but that is an ongoing struggle on which I have to work and about which I have to pray.

But there are many days that I just look at my children, see their smiles and joyful moments, feel their hugs, and hear their I love yous and feel so grateful to God that I could just cry tears of joys. My husband and children have brought me so much happiness that my constant prayer is for us to have a long, happy life together and into eternity in heaven.  I am eternally grateful to God for the gift of my family.

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“Choice”

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Please look at the face of this little boy, my youngest, my son. This is the face of choice. My midwife offered me a “choice” and she said she would support my choice but she could never finish the sentence because it is too horrid to say out loud. The choice was DEATH or LIFE for Michael Jr because of disabilities.

We have been hoodwinked by the rhetoric of “choice,” an incomplete slogan. So if we choose to now open our eyes, the choice is for an innocent life to be taken or allowed to develop. No euphemisms. When I look at this face, I see a beautiful life that, thank God, lived and will live out his potential. On the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, I pray that we as a nation examine our collective consciences and life and death issues without the rhetoric. Even Jane Roe in this infamous case was not too proud to say, I was wrong.

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Baby Joseph Maraachli Lives and Dies with Dignity

Seven months ago Joseph Maraachli, affectionately called Baby Joseph by many, finally won the right to live with dignity.  A hospital and courts in Ontario, Canada refused to perform a tracheotomy that the baby needed so that he could breathe on his own and go home with his parents.

Because of the support of many people and groups including Priests for Life, The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, and Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Baby Joseph was able to receive his needed surgery in the United States then go home to live with his loving family.

Last night (September 27), Baby Joseph went home to be with the Lord.  No doubt, there will be some who ascribe to the culture of death who will say that he only had seven months anyway so the doctors should have just pulled the plug.  But they will miss the point.  We are not God and we should not play God.  Baby Joseph was born in God’s time and went in God’s time.  He was finally afforded the dignity to live with his parents and brother until his natural death.  How many of us, if told that we have seven months to live, would say, “Just kill me now then.”?  We would want to have as much time as possible to enjoy our family on earth.  All children with disabilities, all people deserve to have this same right, this same dignity.

For more information please see the link below:

http://www.terrisfight.org/baby-joseph-dies-peacefully-at-home-with-family

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Radio Interview with Spiritual Downloads

This is my interview with Spiritual Downloads radio show with Anna Stephenson.  I discussed the right to life and dignity of children with disabilties and my blog www.disabledchildrenhumanrights.wordpress.com. Spiritual Downloads is broadcasted in South Florida, Bahamas, (to an area of about 5 million) and via the internet at www.wlvj.com 1040 AM or http://www.jamescrystalholdings.com/wlvj/.

To listen to the interview, please click here:

http://www.box.net/shared/9nno2ceanfl904vcppoi

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Interview on Religion, Politics, and Culture Radio Show

For those who missed and want to hear the interview that I did on RPC, here is the mp3 of my segment.  My topic was From the Womb to the Classroom: the rights of children with disabilities to life and dignity.  It was for 15 minutes.  It was a privilege to be on the show and I will hopefully be back on the show again in the future.

Here is the link to listen–

http://www.box.net/shared/tls16p9yv2a2pe0nmme2

Besson Family

Here is information on Dennis’ show:

The RPC show airs live, Mondays through Fridays from 8:00pm to 9:00pm ET. Radio: in Southeast Florida: AM 1040. Internet: http://www.rpconradio.com/. Nationwide toll-free, call-in number: 1-866-716-1040. A link to each show is on my Facebook wall daily at approximately 10:10pm EDT.

The radio show “Religion, Politics & the Culture” is run by lay Catholics.
To make a contribution:

Via PayPal: Go to www.rpconradio.com (Credit Card, Debit Card or Bank Acct)

Via Credit Card: Go to www.rpconradio.com

Via Check in mail: Please make your check payable to: WLVJ

Please mail your check to:

Dennis O’Donovan
WLVJ
2100 Park Central Blvd N – Suite 100
Pompano Beach, FL 33064

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A Beautiful Soul

A Beautiful Soul, A Forgiving Soul

 My younger daughter Nini is a beautiful girl with a beautiful soul.  That’s how I’ve come to know her and to describe her and I hope that is how others will get to know her.  She used to just be known as the beautiful girl who is legally blind, has autism, and has a seizure disorder.  The autism causes her to experience a myriad of social and academic problems.  But the more that I have gotten to know Nini, the more I have learned that she has a beautiful, forgiving soul that those who don’t have the disabilities that she has would be blessed to have.  In fact, because of her beautiful, forgiving soul, her path to heaven is straighter than many of ours.

 I experienced an extreme grace during the 2011 Lenten journey and I am grateful to God for it.  First, I won’t pretend that I am a holy Catholic Christian.  I, like most of us, am a work in progress.  Though I prayed daily during Lent, I won’t pretend that I spent hours praying daily to make up for the Facebook time that I did not have since I gave it up for Lent.  I even had good intentions about reading some books by some great theologians.  But alas, I did not finish them during this past Lenten season.  I am just a regular person, a regular mother who has begged the Lord for a special grace for a long time and whom the Lord showed that grace toward the end of the 40 days of Lent.

I have a lot to work on (all of us do and most Christians understand that). This past Lent, however, I realized that the Lord really wanted me to work on forgiveness.  That may not have been MY priority when I began Lent but it was HIS priority for me and He let it be known in ways that are His supernatural, spiritual, and subtle (and not so subtle) ways. And He used different people, including my younger daughter, as well as different media (books, others’ personal testimonies, etc.) to help me in this area in which I have struggled greatly.

I am blessed and cursed with a good memory.  It’s not that I remember EVERYTHING but what I do remember, I usually remember well.  My mother once remarked that “Nalida has such a good memory, she remembers when she was in the womb.”  The curse of this memory is that I can remember past hurts and the pain that goes along with them.  Jesus said to forgive and pray for those who hurt and persecute us.  But this has been difficult to do with the people who have caused me great pain.  Priests and spiritual mentors have urged me to continue praying for those people and asking God to help me forgive and one day, it will come.

Intellectually, I can understand the importance, indeed the necessity of unburdening oneself of unforgiveness.  But emotionally and spiritually, it is not that easy.  Yet somehow, my daughter Nini has been given the grace to not even hold on to the hurts in the first place.  She simply does not hold a grudge and is quick to forgive.  And it’s not that she doesn’t understand if she has been hurt.  She will be sad and say, “She hurt me.  I’m sad. And that’s not nice” for instance. But then she quickly lets it go.  If someone tells her sorry, she says, “That’s okay.” And she means it.  She could be teased or her sister for instance hit her and when she forgives, she lets it go and goes on with her activities and her life and truly does not hold it against the person.  She has the gift of being unburdened by grudges and hurts.  She has the gift of being able to forgive effortlessly.  And as I’ve watched her in wonder, I have not been able to understand how.

On my birthday on March 21, I took Nini to her doctor’s appointment and we talked on the way into town.  She takes things literally but then sometimes she is simply uncomplicated.  As I drove, I thought back to how many setbacks she has had, including one a few years ago when she was abused by a school district employee who was supposed to be providing services for autism.  The summer of that year, we were in Maine for vacation and there was a woman who looked like the villain.  Nini actually tapped the woman’s arm and said, “Hi ____.”   It was not the woman but I was flabbergasted.  She knew the woman had done something wrong.  I had asked her, “Aren’t you mad at ____?” and Nini simply looked at me and answered, “No. I’m not mad.”  Nini’s nature is simply to forgive.

As I reflected on this, tears ran down my cheeks.  I thought, this child with all these issues is able to do what many of us cannot easily do, what Jesus did on the cross when he said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”  But even then, I realized that I still couldn’t let go of some deep hurts.

In the next week or so, I was driving and listening to the Station of the Cross Radio and heard a replay of an interview with two men.  One had lost a child.  The other one’s child was responsible for the death.  The testimony was on the Power of Forgiveness and I later purchased the CD (www.brothertobrotherministries.com).  I wept when I listened to their testimony on the radio.  I was so moved by the grace that the man was given to truly forgive the young woman who was responsible for his son’s death.  He talked about how it was a process but that he finally was able to do it.  Again, I continued to pray to the Lord to be able to do this.

Then, about a week before Palm Sunday, I was reading a Christian novel where one of the main characters had struggled with unforgiveness and holding onto and nursing grudges until is really hurt her spiritually and emotionally.  I had no idea that this supposed light reading would have had this theme interwoven in the book.  But it did and I couldn’t help but wonder that the Lord knows when we need to hear something because it just kept coming up.

 

That week, I woke up early one morning and something in my soul just said, you really just have to do it.  And I agreed and said yes in my spirit.  Even those who have really hurt me in the past, I said to myself, I will let the unforgiveness toward them go.  Then I felt a nudge in my spirit saying, even the woman who hurt Nini.  And I immediately said “no, no” and wept quietly.  My child’s pain had hurt even worse than mine. But another thought came in reply, yes she is your child but you have to forgive just as she is able to forgive.  But I still could not. I just redirected my thoughts elsewhere and did not think of it again.

 

Then on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, something happened, not of my own doing but by God’s grace.  I woke up and could hear my children quietly in the house.  I felt so grateful to God for all three of them.  I smiled as I thought that Nini was probably checking in on her baby brother in his room as she is now always looking out for him.  I heard him giggle and something broke inside of me.  I began to weep quietly, not wanting to wake my husband.  I went to the bathroom and showered and continued to weep.  I couldn’t stop.  I finally felt the deep heaviness lift from my chest and begin to leave my soul.  I silently wept and kept saying, “I forgive you_____” adding all the names that I could remember, even the one who had hurt Nini.  I finally remembered what a spiritual mentor had told me years ago when she asked me why it was that I carried those heavy burdens when all I needed to do was hand them to the Lord and he would unburden me.  I finally received the grace to begin to forgive and unburden myself.

 

So, in that final week of Lent, instead of my becoming more deeply knowledgeable on theology, God instead gave me the grace that I needed—to begin unburdening my soul and begin truly forgiving so that my journey could continue on the right path toward Him.  And I’m still amazed that one vessel that the Lord used was my little girl with her beautiful soul to guide me in this part of my journey.

my beautiful girl

my beautiful girl

 

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Through My Daughter’s Eyes

My beautiful daughters

My older daughter Mika has a unique perspective.  She sees things a bit differently because she is legally blind, has other disabilities, and is looking through scarred eyes.  Yes, her eyes are scarred through eight eye surgeries (the first 4 were unsuccessful by two different surgeons and the last four sucessful by one great surgeon who is her current ophthalmologist).  Yet what has scarred her eyes most are the way others treat her and react to her because of those scars. 

 
Mika has been teased because of those scars.  She has been told that her eyes “look funny” because of them and because her eyes are not aligned and often each move in different directions and are not straight.  Although we tell her she is beautiful and others agree, she sometimes gets the blues and questions that.  Last night she gave us a look of what she sees through her eyes. 
 
School mates often ask her questions about her eyes–why do they look that way, why is one up and one down, why do they look funny, why does she have the scars, why is she using the cane.  Then, she says, they ignore her and talk to their friends.  “They just ask me questions about my disability then they high five each other and talk with other people but they aren’t my friends.  My only friends are the other people with disabilities.”  I find this particularly sad at an inclusion school.  Somehow these kids have been taught that they go to school with other kids with disabilities but they haven’t been taught that these kids with disabilities are KIDS just like them and are more than their disabilities.  They don’t think to ask what shows does Mika likes, what music, what she does for the weekends.  And they don’t give her too much of a chance to offer that information because they “just ask their questions,” she says then basically dismiss her after feeding their curiosity.
 
This is what my daughter was telling me last night.  Then she said something that broke my heart.  “Look at me, look at my eyes!  I have all these problems.  Who’s ever going to want me?! Who’s going to marry me?!”  We assured her that she is young now and because of some people’s ignorance, she feels that way but that she will grow and develop and realize that she is unique and can have a husband, family, and full life one day.  I gave her examples and reminded her of people who have disabilities who are married and happy.
 
But my sleep was troubled last night.  I woke up at three AM reading scripture and listening to two songs.  I recalled that scripture says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)  And if we see others through God’s eyes, we will see His image, and therefore cannot disregard the dignity of every person as we are all made in His image.
 
Then I listened to these two songs that I shared with my daughter this morning.
 
In My Daughter’s Eyes
 
If I Could
 
My daughter sees me as a hero.  When I told her I was teased as a middle schooler too and that I too felt insecure at that age, she said, “But Mom you are so strong and tough. And you’re beautiful.”  My response, so are you.    This morning, I said to her, “Yesterday you asked me who would want you. The man who would want you is a godly man, one who knows the Lord and respects the dignity of every person and will be able to see your beauty and recognize that you also made in God’s image and love you for who you are as a person.  That is the kind of man you deserve.”  I smiled  and frankly was surprised when she asked, “Does that man exist?”  I answered, “Yes, I’m sure he does.  You have to pray about it and take your time though.  But you’re still young.” 
 
And oh, I reminded her that dad is not letting her date any time soon so she may as well relax about it anyway.
 
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