Happy Birthday, Aunt Linda
posted by John
Today would have been the 69th birthday of my Aunt Linda.
Hit with both Down’s Syndrome and, later, Alzheimers, it would be easy to conclude that life just isn’t bloody fair, sometimes. Yet Linda Williams was one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the privilege to be around – kind, compasionate, and pure of heart, she was the very essence of what we all should strive to become.
My grandmother – my mother’s mom – died before I was born, so someone was needed to look after my mother’s youngest sister, Linda. Instead of sending her to an institution (which, in the late 1950s would not have seemed an unreasonable option), my mom and dad, then a young married couple, took Linda in. She lived with them for most of the rest of her life, until the Alzheimers was too severe, at the very end.
I can’t even imagine the sort of commitment and sacrifice that entailed on the part of a young couple – and it leaves me in awe of my parents – but it was also one that reaped enormous blessings. The main blessing for me being the privilege of knowing Linda, and having so much time with her. She was like a big sister to me, growing up. Then at some point I became like a big brother to her. Life is full of role reversals: I never expected this one to occur so quickly. Yet looking back, I found both roles joyous.
So much is said about the childlike nature of people with Down’s Syndrome, it’s probably best to send folks to the “Myths and Truths” page of the National Down’s Syndrome Society. I’m no spokesperson: I only know that knowing Linda, and having her in my life, left an indelible impression on me. I like to think I’m a better person because of her. She is possibly the best person I have ever known.
I miss you so much, Aunt Linda. The whole family does. If there is a heaven, it is truly graced by your presence. Thank you for teaching me more than you could ever have known.
How one who was given so little could give so very much to those around her amazes and humbles me to this day.
I love you.