Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Fifth Sister, Our Greatest Blessing

She came into this world May 2, 1956--not kicking and screaming like most,but quiet and still. The doctor didn't tell Daddy and Mama anything was wrong. They took her home not knowing. She couldn't nurse right. They changed to bottle feeding. Still she lay limp in her mother's arms. After a while they could see she wasn't thriving. She couldn't hold up her head; couldn't situp. They didn't have much money, with six other children to care for, but they took her to another doctor in another state. They needed to know what to do. The doctor recognized the signs right away. Now they say "Downs Syndrome." Then it was Mongoloid. The Doctor said, "Mr. Powell, all you can do is take the baby home and love her." Daddy cried, cursed, and cried. Then he made his peace with God. "Just let her live and I will care for her all my life. I will care for her all my life."

He said, "She is my Greatest Blessing, She's my Brightest Morning Star." He took her home, he cared for her, and, oh how he loved her. She progressed slowly. She learned to sit up; about the age others learned to walk, but still she sat up on her own. Next she learned to crawl. Finally, when she was about five, she learned to walk. She was slow learning everything; except one thing--learning to love--unconditional, accepting love. And we all loved her back, but Daddy loved her best of all. She was our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star. When he first said it, maybe it was just wishful thinking, but through time it was undeniably true. She was his Greatest Blessing, his Brightest Morning Star. She brought sunshine and happiness to us all. One thing was always certain, Debbie was love. She never learned to do a lot of the things others children do. She never attended school. She never learned many of the things other people learn--to lie or be spiteful and curel. But she learned loyalty and trust, and she loved us all. But she loved Daddy best. She live just 27 years; never learned to read; never held a job; never did so many things others do, but still: She was our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star.

She was sick a lot. When she had to go to the hospital one of us had to stay with her all the time. Dr. Wallace was "her doctor." She wouldn't let any other doctor treat her, just "her doctor." Memorial Day week-end 1983 she got really sick. Dr. Wallace prescribed antibotics. She seemed to improve, but the evening of June 30 Mama found her lying by her bed, still and lifeless. She was our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star, but now she was gone. We called and they sent someone for her. We watched as they put her on a stretcher and into the van. As they drove off down the road from home I thought, "This is the very first time she has ever left this place without one of her family with her."

 She was our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star. We gathered at her grave to say good-bye. Her baby brother was late. We told the preacher to start anyway. He said maybe her brother isn't coming. We all said, "Oh yes, he'll be here, we'll all be here." She was our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star. Her brother came. We were all there to say good-bye. When we got home that day I heard Daddy say, "Mama, our job is done." He promised to care for her all his days, but he was ill and thought he might die before her. Now his job was done.

We got a marker for her grave; a pretty, little white marble heart with her name and the dates. We needed something to put on the back of the stone. What would we say? She filled our hearts with love and now she was gone. What could we say? Her oldest and wisest sister said just write, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." We look at the stone and cry, but we know the angels are singing, "She is our Greatest Blessing, our Brightest Morning Star."

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