This morning, the world lost a great woman. She likely isn’t known by anyone who reads this blog, but within her sphere of influence, she was a force to be reckoned with. She was opinionated, maybe even a bit bossy at times, but just slightly below that exterior was a incredibly generous heart. She loved animals and knew the names of each and every pet owned by her siblings, nieces and nephews, and almost anyone she came in contact with. She never made a lot of money, but if respect was a currency, she would have been one of the wealthiest ladies on the planet. She loved her family, friends, and God. She was faithful, diligent, determined, compassionate, loving, and giving. Who is she? My aunt Rachel.
What made her even more amazing was that she did this while dealing with the struggles of day-to-day life as someone with Down Syndrome. Heart problems, laboured breathing, and walking were some of the physical struggles, but the biggest hurdle came in the form of public perception. Seeing her, people had difficulty imagining she has much to contribute, but ask anyone who met her and you knew there was so much to her than her condition. She had an incredible memory and knew so much. She didn’t just know this information, she could piece things together and develop her own thoughts on virtually any subject.
I only had the opportunity to meet her one time in person when I was about 13 or 14 years of age. Even still, when mom and dad would visit her up until this last year, she would remember us and talk about us kids as if that day was still fresh in her mind. To her, it was incredibly important to remember details about a person since people were important to her. It didn’t matter what job you had, how much money you had, or how beautiful you were, just being you was enough for her.
I’ve learned a great deal from her. She taught me that people are important for just being people. I came to understand how valuable it is to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. I am struggling to be as gracious as she was in the face of adversity and to not let obstacles stop you from doing what you feel is right and good. I know she lived her life as if the next day could be her last. She also didn’t let things get her down. Yes, she had her bad days, but she didn’t keep it bottled up or stop her from moving on; she dealt with it and then left it in the past.
Rachel, we will miss you. You have taught us so much in your 57 years on this earth. You were truly a gift to us and your memory will help us to be kinder, more loving, and more understanding to others. Most of all, you taught us that nothing should ever stop us from being the change we want to see in this life. As the tributes to you pour in from all over the globe from people you have touched over the years, may others learn what it means to never judge a person on their outward appearance, but to dig deeply and find out who they truly are.