What are the odds? When we first learned that Madeline would have Down Syndrome, I remember thinking that we would be all alone, the only ones. Why? I guess from all the stats I heard about pregnancies being terminated after a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
I have said many a time that the day I learned Madeline would have Down Syndrome I broke down in a puddle of tears and a heap of fear. “I swore I saw the sky turn a different color of blue that day.” Perhaps this moment was the foreshadowing of things to come. The new sky a vibrant blue for the joy we would know.
When Madeline was six weeks old in September of 2009, her and I boarded a plane to Virginia to settle into our new life and learn our lessons about joy. We spent much of this time in somewhat of an isolated state due to multiple surgeries and hospital stays. Aside from Doctors and Nurses, I was not exactly making new friends. And with all that we had going on with surgeries, cross-country move, new job, new schools and a side of Autism, you could say it wasn’t my focus.
Finally, in the Spring of 2010, we were able to get out a bit more and I began to take Madeline up to The Brother’s school for different occasions and I began to meet other families. It was there that I learned that not only was I not alone in my new world but I indeed had someone who lived under the same vibrant blue sky of joy. Her name was Linda and her joy came in a little package of sass named Olivia.
Ms. Olivia and Ms. Madeline were born just months apart and both had the same golden hair and heart melting smiles. My conversations with Linda became more frequent as we discussed everything from Down Syndrome, navigating the military Exceptional Family Member program, Navy life and a common interest in running.
Our goal was to get Ms. O and Ms. M together for a little battle of the sass but crazy schedules and Madeline’s fragile health didn’t seem to leave time. And then, like that, it was too late and we were out of time. God called Madeline home one November morning in 2010 and my sky went from vibrant blue to a haze void of color.
In my raw pain and grief I recall saying, “I can never see Linda and Olivia again, it is too much, I can’t take it.” “I won’t be able to take it.”
Word must have gotten to Linda and I’m not sure but I think she said, “it is too much, and I won’t let you live under a new sky void of color, you must visit often under this vibrant blue sky because once you know this joy it must be shared.”
Why do I think this? Because the morning after Madeline’s death, my doorbell rang at 7:30 a.m. on a stormy November morning and there was Linda to wrap me in a hug, let me know I would not be alone and with her quiet strength has remained by my side.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s not all warm fuzzies, who do you think is part responsible for my Cafeteria Lady Gig. She was also the one to ask me if I ever would be interested in running a half-marathon. I said, “maybe,” and the next day she handed me my training schedule and we were off and running, literally. Four half-marathons later and we never learned our lesson. Except the lesson on friendship. That lesson I think we’ve got.
She has shared her bundle of Sass with me over the last 2 years and let Ms. O become a special part of my life. That little piece of vibrant blue joy in my world. Ms. O isn’t a push over either, and I love to hear her little voice yell, “NO, ABY, NO!” When I come towards her with a hug. And at times, I think she just knows I am too sad and comes at me with a hug that causes whiplash. I crave her fiestiness and sass. Her presence can always make me smile. They have brought me much healing and love as I navigate this new chapter of my life without Madeline. And now yet a new chapter must begin.
As is the downside of Navy life, the time has come that I have been dreading. Their time in the Navy is done and they will begin a new chapter of their life in Michigan. I will miss them all terribly and this good-bye is so hard we have avoided it…but soon we cannot. We must give that final hug but I think I will refuse to say good-bye. Maybe see you around. Even though my sense of direction stinks I can get myself to Michigan and I will be pounding on her door to get a much need hug.
Someone recently told me, “you know you’ve got a real friend in Linda.” I simply said, “I know.”
Thank you, Linda! Thank you for sharing your love, your joy and your vibrant blue sky.