Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I witnessed greatness

In my life, I have met stars on Broadway, Pulitzer winning writers, famous TV stars and brilliant academics. They have my respect and admiration for their great accomplishments. But, nothing they have done comes close to the accomplishments of thirty-one young adults I met at a graduation ceremony at Village Glen School in Culver City, California.

My niece, Emma, graduated with her classmates on a recent morning. It was a simple stage adorned with helium balloons. The graduates entered to Pomp and Circumstance wearing red robes and mortar boards with gold tassels. In the audience I sat with all of their parents, friends, and extended family. Like all graduations, there was a thrill of accomplishment in the air.

I can tell you, that nothing comes close; nothing comes close to the respect and awe I felt in the presence of the graduates.

I have thought for several days about how to write about this experience, how to do it justice. Perhaps the young man who stood up to speak can describe it best. “When I was four years old, my parents were told that I was autistic. They were told that I would never read, never speak in full sentences. I’m here today to tell you that I can do those things.”

I have had a front row seat for the past nineteen years watching my sister fight for her daughter. Emma did the work, but Deb paved the way. My sister is my hero and Emma is my beacon in this world that says all things are possible.

You see, I believe that a fine example of true greatness are these kids and their families who have written their own futures in spite of what any diagnosis was given in early childhood. Greatness comes from the teachers that work side by side with the children year after year. Greatness comes from perseverance, set backs and victories.

Until you have watched a child struggle to use scissors in an OT session, you do not know the meaning of hard work, for the child, for the teacher and for those adults that love them. None of it has been easy, in fact, everything is hard, very hard. Yet, the victories and accomplishments are huge.

Through the speeches on that graduation stage there was a recurring theme. “We deserve a chance”, “Even more challenges ahead”. “We believe in us”.

To the graduates and especially to Emma I say this…I am humbled by all of you and I know that you represent all that is good in this world. You are brave, you are capable and you will continue to amaze me.

At the end of the ceremony, Charlie, one of the graduates, sang a song and played his guitar. Perhaps you know the song from Wicked...

I've heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Congratulations Class of 2011….Village Glen West School...

I wish you a world and a future that is worthy of you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

100 Sounds To See: 16 years ago today...I heard the first cry

100 Sounds To See: 16 years ago today...I heard the first cry: "Gracie made me promise that I wouldn't post anything on Facebook about 16 years ago. Mothers love to announce to the world the 'event' when..."

16 years ago today...I heard the first cry

Gracie made me promise that I wouldn't post anything on Facebook about 16 years ago. Mothers love to announce to the world the "event" when their little boy or girl came into the world. Sometimes there are even a few comments about labor. She made me promise. Well, this is not being posted on Facebook, but it is going into my blog. Too bad Gracie! Moms have rights on this special day.

We had a rough road getting to this day 16 years ago. Multiple hospitalizations, unknowns that sent my anxiety through the roof. Never have I fought so hard or wanted something so much. My prayer was a simple one. "Please God, bring her to me. Let her come into my world." It became my mantra.

At 31 weeks, I went into early labor. My friend Beth stopped by the hospital to give me the heads up on a c-section. I remember seeing the fear in her eyes. It wasn't about the c-section procedure, it was the words that no one wanted to say out loud. Thirty-one weeks is early and Gracie was going to be a little over 3 pounds. As I write this, I can feel the fear creeping back. All I know is that something inside of me was stronger than that fear. It was simply faith, that I was going to have this baby and she would be ok.

Mark saw her first. He tells of how she looked right at him. There were more doctors than one could count. This was no ordinary delivery. It was chaos as the doctors and nurses rushed about and loud rock music was playing in the surgical unit. Suddenly the room erupted into cheers. I knew this was good news. She must have cried? Dr. Streicher ordered silence. The music turned off, everyone was quiet. Then I heard daughter cry. "I can hear it!" I shouted to everyone.

And that my friends, is the most beautiful sound I will ever hear.

Happy Birthday Gracie...