We were at the annual four-day getaway for the frum DS moms in Israel. There is always a nice mix of women, coming from different perspectives and different d’rachim of avodas Hashem, united by our children.
One night, a young mother was pouring out her heart about her fears for her son’s future. He was a cute, smiley one-year-old, but she was stuck on what will be when he is a not-so-cute-20-year-old. What will he look like (will he be like those obese, unkempt people she had once seen), what will he be doing (packing bags at a grocery?), how will he take care of himself ... She was agonizing so much about the future that she couldn’t enjoy the smiley engaging baby she was holding in her arms. Many of us tried to explain how we love our children, how the pain and concern doesn’t go away but it need not take over your life, how you can come to be truly proud of something you would have once thought was “that’s it.” But, it didn’t help.
From the middle of the ever-increasing circle of “experienced” mothers, there came a soft gentle voice. The woman was about 4’10”, dressed in a conservative brown suit typical of Meah Shearim, a delicately flowered kerchief tightly covering her head. Her face was wrinkled, and it looked to me as if not a drop of make-up had ever touched it, yet it was bright and alive, inviting in a deeply human way. Her eyes had a sparkle of someone whose extensive experience has made her both wiser and more joyful, despite obvious challenges.
“Right now,” she said gently to the tearful young mother, “you have a precious one-year-old. The Eibershter has given you the tools you need to handle the challenge of a one-year-old with Down syndrome. Every drop of siyatta diShmaya that you need to get through the stage you are in now, He sends you. Of course you can’t bear the thought of 20 years from now. You are not there yet, and the siyatta diShmaya that you need to face that challenge is not yet yours.”
A few years before, the Rav of Zichron Yaakov gave us similar chizuk. He asked why Avraham and Yitzhak were able to withstand the challenge of Akedas Yitzhak, but Sarah Imenu upon hearing the “almost,” passed away. The answer was simple, yet profound. The challenge was most directly Avraham and Yitzhak’s, and so they received the greatest dose of siyatta diShmaya. Sarah also had a challenge, but more peripherally, and therefore the siyatta diShmaya was less.
We experienced this up close, when the son of a close friend was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, lo aleinu. One of their older children commented that she thought we were having a harder time then they were. Then we remembered how broken they were when BD was born (the mother works with special kids so she knew how wonderful they can be, but how challenging as well) — seemingly more so than we. That is when I put all of this together. We got BD, along with the tools we would need; they got their challenge (not that I am comparing them in any way) with tools they would need.
None of this means it is easy. It just means that most of the time it is do-able, and that Someone is giving us what we need to do it.
This article first appeared in issue #15 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us