A Lesson from Uncle Mikey

A good friend of mine recently attended the funeral of a well-beloved uncle, an uncle who had Down syndrome, Uncle Mikey. The pastor conducting the service took the opportunity to speak about the sanctity of human life—of all human life. He mentioned that some studies, such as one done by Boston Children’s Hospital, place the percentage of children with Down syndrome who are aborted at 90%.

With tests now available that will allow pregnant women to easily and inexpensively determine if their baby has Down syndrome, this number may rise even higher. There is also pressure from many in the scientific community. One high-profile scientist calls the decision to abort a baby with Down syndrome the “ethical choice.”

Yet, the pastor said, other studies done by Children’s Hospital Boston to measure the effects of having a child or sibling with Down syndrome tell a very different story.

-Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome.

-Among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome.

The pastor stopped at this point and told his audience. “The last statistic is the most telling: Among adults with Down syndrome, 99% responded they were happy with their lives, 97% liked who they are, and 96% liked how they looked.”

The pastor looked out at his audience. “If I polled you, how many of you would be able to respond that way?”

He went on to talk about Uncle Mikey’s faith. “Can a person with Down syndrome have faith?” he asked. He talked about Mikey’s favorite songs, which included John Denver’s “Take Me Home” but also the hymns “The Old Rugged Cross” and “I Come to the Garden Alone,” which his mother often played for him.

“But his most favorite, the song Mikey sang most often, was ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ He would tell people, ‘Jesus loves me. He loves me.’ I think that’s a pretty incredible testimony that Mikey knew what was most important.”

When my friend told me about this funeral, tears welled up in my eyes. My faith so often gets muddied with my own performance, my own efforts to “earn” God’s approval. Mikey wasn’t hampered by this silly idea. He believed he was fully loved by Jesus, and he lived in that truth.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Thank you, Uncle Mikey.

NOTE: My friend wasn’t able to remember the exact statistics the pastor said, but I did a little research and may have found the exact sources he used. One was an article at Live Action News; the other was at NBC News. The statistics in italics in the post above are drawn directly from the NBC article.

NOTE: This post reminds me of a picture book written by one of my nieces about the experience of being a sister to a brother with profound Autism. Please read Grace’s story “The Family That I Love.”

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