The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
It was at my friend's wedding that I had one of those moments in life that make a lasting impression.
I met a beautiful young woman who, when I first met her, I could not help but feel a deep sadness for what I perceived to be one of the great tragedies of life.
Her world was so different from anyone I had ever met that I tried to imagine what it might be like to be her.
Her name is Amber, and she will never know these words nor even the concept of the world most of us live in.
Something happened during her birth that resulted in a life without sight or sounds. Amber can touch and taste her world, but she is unable to see it, or to hear it. She is totally dependent on others to meet her everyday needs just to survive.
I watched during the night of the wedding as Amber's caregiver would take her by the hand and guide her through the evening, first the wedding and then the reception. Even though she might have had no perception as to what was going on, it was still important that she was a part of the celebration, if for no other reason than she was a member of the family, and at the very least that she was capable of being there.
As the night went on I discovered that there was more going on than just Amber being there, and that it wasn't just a story about her, but those who were a part of her life, and what at a glance was an extraordinarily constant outflow of patience and understanding on the part of many others.
First it is a mother who for almost thirty years had dedicated herself to a daughter whom many others might have consigned to an institution. She loved and nurtured Amber, dedicating countless hours to the most basic things, with her reward being little steps of progress that would have been taken for granted by most mothers.
Than there are the gentle people who throughout Amber's life have been her caregivers and teachers. Three of whom I had the opportunity to see that evening and to my surprise, two had been good friends of mine for many years.
When I had first arrived at the wedding I saw my friend Debbie, who was Amber's caregiver for that evening.
Debbie explained why she was there and what she was doing and that she had been a part of Amber's life in one way or another for more than ten years. I watched as she helped and guided Amber first through the wedding service and then the reception dinner.
This young woman who could neither see nor hear celebrated her brother's wedding by feasting on foods that she not only enjoyed the taste of, but also thoroughly delved into the feel of each food.
As I watched the way she chose between the assortment of wedding snacks that were presented to her, it was obvious that texture and taste had to be such an important part of her limited world.
It was later in the evening that as I was talking with two other friends, both of whom are speech pathologists, that I learned that Julie had been Amber's speech therapist for seventeen years, but had been out of touch with Amber for a number of years. Julie had worked with Amber to teach sign language when she still had had limited vision
I was curious as to what sort of recognition there might be and how Amber might respond to Julie, so I asked Debbie to bring her over. There was not an immediate recognition, but an obvious comfort of familiarity, which was perhaps because of the years that had passed since they had been together last.
What did strike me though was Amber's reaction to Julie's husband. Tim. She brought her hands to Tim's eyes, and stood there gently feeling them with her thumbs as Tim patiently stood there.
At first I wanted to read more into Amber's approach to Tim than perhaps was there. Maybe she was trying to communicate something about vision, or perhaps it was just that she found it interesting - the soft feel of his eyelids. But it made me wonder long enough about what she was thinking to appreciate some things I, like most people, would usually just pass over without a second thought.
This young woman - no matter how profoundly disabled - seemed to enjoy her life. I did not sense unhappiness on her part, but what I did find was an impression of people doing good things for someone in need.
From Amber's family, to Donna, Debbie, Julie, and how many others there has flowed that special kind of giving of care that can't really be understood by most of us.
We can only try to imagine the efforts necessary, and the patience needed, and the love unbounded to serve this special person in our community. Are not all of these caregivers, from her family to her teachers to her caring professionals, truly Treasures in our Heartland?