By Colleen Roy
My nephew James is a survivor; 90 per cent of the children in Canada with his condition don't survive much past the diagnosis. James is a sweet little pudding pie with a killer smile who just turned 2, and he has Down's Syndrome (DS).
In our beloved country 9 out of 10 women will abort their child when they find out that there is a good chance their son or daughter has Down's: not their fetus; their son or daughter. You and I will pay for this execution, but will we remember to look around a playground and notice their missing faces?
James has had to undergo major heart surgeries, the first only days after his birth. But he fights back with vigour and has overcome all the hardships put before him in his two short years here with us.
A scar on his chest is a testimony to his fighting spirit. This spirit will do him good, I'm sure, as there are many battles ahead of him, with health issues and otherwise.
His mother Amy, my sister-in-law, gets absurd comments from strangers in the street as they dare to look into James's beautiful face and ask if the rest of her children are "normal." She and my brother Sean cringe as they hear the word "retard" used in jest.
People ask her whether she knew about James's disability before he was born, implying that she might not be pushing that stroller if she had known.
I guess they come by the idea honestly. A couple who have a new baby with DS recently won a court battle in the U.S. They sued their doctor because he misdiagnosed their child's condition.
They stood there in front of other human beings, without shame, and actually said they deserved money because if they had known better they would have killed the baby. And they won.
I don't want to sound unrealistic. I know it was very hard for them when my brother and sister-in-law found out that James had DS. After telling them the news, the medical staff said they could schedule a termination within 3 weeks.
Amy could barely speak. My brother told them that would not be the way for them. Then and there they asked for their baby's sex and they gave their son a name: James.
They were told that his heart would need surgery and there would be many obstacles. But their unconditional love, their perseverance, and their peace is a great witness to the world.
The fact that they haven't k.o.'d anyone who's asked them horrible questions is also an obvious testimony to their long-suffering. Amy has told me since how the unconditional "yes" of Our Lady became a source of strength for her.
I've tried to explain what DS means to my sons. They don't seem to make the connection. They look at a picture of James and shrug their shoulders to show me that what I've said is unimportant to them. "Oh, he's so cute!" they say.
My cousin Beverly had Down's. Everyone loved Bev; she was a local celebrity. Bev was known for loving everyone she met, and that is because she was gifted with a child's heart that remained unchanged as she aged; a child's heart that saw the lovability in others, despite their appearance, their IQ, or their ability.
Beverly was a good friend to me when I was little. I would ride my bike to her house and we would sit in her room and play cards, listening to Mini Pops tapes. I cannot imagine growing up without her in the world.
Like Beverly, James will also win over everyone he meets, just because he is so darn cute.
Our world tell us that my nephew James is someone to be feared. Yes, and truly. His very existence, his beauty and innocence, are constant reminders of how it is, in fact, we and not him who are disabled.
What the world calls "normal" is its inability to love those who have so much to teach us about the word love. James looks at me, and I know in my heart that I do not fully know that meaning. It is not James's heart that needs to be repaired, but mine, in its self-loving presumption.
When a person looks into his face they will see God's love for them shining back, shameless, pure, without measure. Looking into the face of God has caused many saints to fall flat on their faces; it is surely something to look upon with fear and trembling.
I do believe that we are the ones to change the world. We can look into James's eyes and cry out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." We can answer Him as He calls upon us to restore a culture of life, a place that acknowledges its need for babies like James.
Happy birthday, James. I wish there were more people like you.