Friends are a bless­ing no mat­ter their chal­lenges

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - CHRIS COLLETT Chris Collett is a life­long res­i­dent of Can­ton.

New York made the news this week when law­mak­ers passed some­thing called the Re­pro­duc­tive Health Act that will al­low abor­tions up to the date of birth in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Gov. An­drew Cuomo cam­paigned on this is­sue and promised to get the law passed if elected.

I’m not go­ing to get into the abor­tion dis­cus­sion in this col­umn. There are peo­ple who are against it, peo­ple who are for it, and politi­cians who won’t re­ally tell you how they feel as not to up­set ei­ther side.

I rarely, if ever, make a state­ment like I’m get­ting ready to make. Nev­er­the­less, what the heck? I’m go­ing to do it any­way. If for one minute any­one thinks that the politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton, whether Repub­li­can or Demo­crat, give two cents about the day-to-day fight many of us face here in Chero­kee County, I would strongly dis­agree. If any­one thinks that those same politi­cians don’t talk out of both sides of their mouth on is­sues like abor­tion, again, I would strongly dis­agree. The Wash­ing­ton politi­cians have their own agen­das and don’t have enough hu­man de­cency to sit down and have an adult con­ver­sa­tion. When this hap­pens, and it hap­pens of­ten, we all lose.

While many are caught up in the hus­tle and bus­tle of life, they are oth­ers who are suf­fer­ing great pain and loss. In the past few days, I be­came aware of the loss of two of the best cit­i­zens in our com­mu­nity. When I use the term best, it’s not used lightly. The two young men were full of love and full of life. Un­like many of us, life didn’t bog them down with the petty is­sues we so of­ten com­plain about. Their lives were too full of love for any kind of hate to ex­ist. These young men had Down Syn­drome.

Nich Shirey was 37 years old when he passed. It was an honor meet­ing his par­ents, Mark and Vicky, al­though un­der tragic cir­cum­stances. They told me some things about Nich that made me re­mem­ber the things that are right in the world and the things that are wrong. Since I am no ex­pert, I learned some things I wasn’t aware of.

Only mo­ments after Nich was born, an old doc­tor came in the room to talk with Mark and Vicky. He told them if they wanted, he would take Nich away and make him a ward of the state and they could pre­tend as if this never hap­pened. My jaw dropped when I heard this. It wasn’t like this was that long ago. It was only 37 years ago. I didn’t know stuff like this hap­pened. It made me mad. It made Nich’s par­ents mad, too. They put the doc­tor in his place and told him that no­body was tak­ing their son. And, Mark’s a big man. I’d say the doc­tor is lucky he was able to walk out of the room.

Nich had a good life. He had a fam­ily who loved them. Most im­por­tantly, he taught them more about love than most of us will ever know. Mark said he would some­times come home after a bad day and Nich would give a lit­tle tighter hug and say, “I’m sorry.” That is per­fect love.

Pete Foth passed away at 61 years of age. Like Nich, Pete had a good life with peo­ple who loved him. Ernie and Kelly Dar­nell took care of Pete. Yet, this was much more than a care­taker and pa­tient type of re­la­tion­ship. It was a true friend­ship filled with love. When talk­ing with Ernie shortly after Pete’s pass­ing, Ernie said through tear filled eyes, “He was my friend.” He didn’t say my friend with Down Syn­drome. It was just his friend.

There’s a song that’s called, “Thank God for Kids.” There is a line in the song that says, “The near­est thing to heaven is a child.” I be­lieve that to be true. I also be­lieve that those I know and have known with Down syn­drome qual­ify as one of those in­no­cent chil­dren. I won’t pre­tend to be as close to Matthew Tay­lor as some. But, he is my friend. When he leaves me a note on my desk that says, “I love you Chris Collett,” I know he means it. Like Nich and Pete, Matthew only knows love.

If you have a friend with Down Syn­drome, fol­low the ex­am­ple of Ernie Dar­nell. Don’t re­fer to them as my friend with Down syn­drome. Just call them your friend.

Collett

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