My post on Thursday, Human Kindness, brought to mind all the kindness towards my developmentally disabled sister that we witnessed as family members. I want to share with you an excerpt from Dancing in Heaven—a sister’s memoir. I began this memoir shortly after Annie’s death in the fall of 2009 and finished it about a year later. I am in the process of editing it and hope to send out query letters soon.
My sister Annie, in her reclined wheelchair, was hard not to notice. Many times perfect strangers would come up to her and talk to her. Senator John Kerry was no exception. During the 2004 presidential campaign, democratic candidate Kerry happened to attend Mass at Holy Angels, my parents’ church. As they normally did, Mom and Dad had taken Annie with them to church. Because of Annie’s wheelchair, they arrived early to get a seat up front in the handicapped section. As a result, they were sitting right across the aisle from Kerry.
In the church, without the presence of cameras, Kerry stood up after Mass, walked over to Annie, leaned way down over her chair and said, “I just had to come over and say hello to you.” Of course, Annie couldn’t speak, so she gave no response—except for the large smile that she was so generous with.
Annie often brought out the best in people. We were used to people not only being curious about her, but also being kind and generous to her.
A good example is the time we went to Cedar Point amusement park in the late 60s or early 70s. Mom was pushing Annie in her wheelchair as we were walking through the game concourse when a man came out of his booth and approached us. He asked my mom when Annie’s birthday was. She told him May. He said, “Wait here just a minute,” ran back into his booth, and returned with a little ceramic angel for the month of May. He said, “I wanted to give her something since she can’t ride the rides.”
Another time she got a huge stuffed Snoopy dog somewhere.
Friends and family acquaintances sometimes stopped by my parents’ house with a small gift for Annie. Mom liked to talk about the people who came up to Annie and “acted like they’d known her for ten years.” An elderly man at church, after getting my parents’ approval, regularly stopped on his way back from communion as he walked past Annie every Sunday to lean over and kiss her on the forehead. Another man would also come over, lean down close to Annie’s face and talk to her. She always just looked up and smiled.
Annie was a magnet for random acts of kindness. As her family members, we were fortunate to have been witnesses.
Related posts about Annie and my memoir—