Friends are a blessing no matter their challenges
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.