A couple months ago, I visited my sister-in-law’s family. While we were there, her daughter chose Becky as a subject for a school photography project. I received the final pictures and have enjoyed them immensely. While the model is front and center, my niece’s budding talent is clearly in focus.
And she’s only 12 years old.
These pictures made me pause and reflect for a moment. For some reason this photo shoot brought to mind another picture and a question that Josephine asked awhile back.
Several months ago, I walked into the house after running some errands. I heard voices coming from our room and walked in to find this scene. Josephine had climbed into Becky’s crib for a cuddle. They played with some toys and then settled in for story time. Apparently, the same book was read multiple times. Josephine was amazed that repeated recitations could hold Becky’s interest.
As I captured the moment with my phone camera, the girls looked up at me and giggled. Josephine then asked me a question, “If you could, would you trade places with Becky?”
Josephine always asks the soul-searching questions.
Not knowing how to respond, I asked a question back, “What do you mean?”
Josephine expounded on her thoughts. It went something like this: “Well, imagine you could accept all of Becky’s medical problems. Her limitations. Her disabilities. Her shorter lifespan. All the unknowns about her future. But in exchange, you would get to be happy all the time. You would wave to strangers and smile at anyone you see. You would be instantly loved by all who meet you. And everyone would be your friend. Would you make that trade? I think that I would.”
I’ve thought about the question quite a bit. And identified some of my own prejudices about people with disabilities. Most often, I feel sorry for someone with an apparent disability. If I’m brutally honest, I often judge the success of their life against how closely it aligns with a normal one. Whatever normal means.
Can they walk? Can they talk? Can they work? Can they go to school? Can they live independently, making a contribution to society? These questions are part of how I have always measured a life, at least my own.
This thinking actually devalues the merit of another’s life. For a life has value by mere means of its existence. Not for how it measures against another life. Or against some ever-changing societal standard.
Becky’s life is full of immense joy. I’ve never had an easier baby, which might sound odd if you’ve followed her medical journey thus far. But in terms of her disposition and temperament, she’s an absolute angel. She draws people in and melts their hearts.
When you hold Becky, she slams her little body into yours, wrapping her chubby arms and legs around you like a tree frog. She nuzzles her face back and forth into your chest as if she is inhaling your very essence. She rapidly kicks her legs against you while squealing with sheer excitement. Just because you are with her and holding her.
Becky inspires acts of service and love for our entire family. Prayers have poured in from all over the world. People who have never met her, follow her story and rejoice in each positive milestone and success. At the ripe age of 19 months, she’s a force all her own, impacting those around her just by her presence. And teaching profound life lessons without speaking a word.
Would I trade places with Becky?
Josephine’s question makes me wrestle with its many nuances. Truth be told, I’ve often looked down upon people like Becky from my perch of supposed normalcy and wholeness.
Perhaps I should be looking up.