This is part one of a two part story about Special Needs Ministry and Sunday School.
September 22, 1986 was warm and sunny. I made a brief visit to the office of my OB/GYN and then was sent straight on to the hospital (Obici in Suffolk). I was overdue and a c-section had been ordered for that afternoon.
Just 2 weeks earlier, I had my 39th birthday. Still, I had no clue what was about to happen. We welcomed a daughter that afternoon, the first/only girl in a group of 9 grandchildren, and named her Rebecca Leigh (Becky). We were SO excited!!
Later that evening, my OB/GYN stopped in to have a quiet talk with me. She said that they suspected Becky had Down Syndrome and so they were ordering a series of blood tests to make sure. The tests came back positive.
Grief overwhelmed me, as it does for all parents who learn that their child is not perfect in every way. All the stages of grief have to be experienced. Of course, NO child is really perfect, but for those of us who have children with special needs, the inevitable disappointment(s) in your child come early, too early. All those dreams for your child have to be adjusted to accommodate the sudden reality that your child will take a different path. Your special child will need extra help and will not likely accomplish some of the goals you had for him/her.
Fortunately for us, there was a mainstreamed infant stimulation program near us. At first, they came to our home to teach us activities to do with Becky and lots and lots of reading materials. Then we started taking her to the facility for the day program. At the age of two, she started public school. And from that time on until her death at the age of 16, we learned how to be her strongest advocate.
Oh, the stories we could tell: how she often made us laugh, how she developed her own personality and was totally winsome, how she worked hard and learned to do her best.
When Becky turned 13, I started taking her to Eagle Eyrie for the annual Special Needs Retreat, held every mid-October. She loved this event and it was her last big outing before her death in 2002. I had begun teaching at this event and had even gotten my husband involved. The year after Becky’s passing, however, was a little too soon for me to attend. BUT my husband insisted that we go and honor Becky’s memory.
Since that time, it has become my privilege to take on a leadership role for the retreat. I cannot say enough good things about the retreat and how God has blessed us through it. The teachers, many of whom are special ed teachers, are high caliber, but the students who come really make it special in every way.
This year’s retreat will be October 21-23 at Eagle Eyrie. On July 1, you can go online to www.eagleeyire.org and follow the link to Upcoming Events for registration and other information.
Mary and Mark Buckner live in Stanardsville and are active members at Belmont BC in Charlottesville. They are both retired.