Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Their Own Words: Fatimah's Perspective

I met Chrystal in high school, but our path crossed again in our early twenties, and it was then that we developed a relationship. I have always admired Chrystal. Her life appeared so perfect. Although I was privy to knowing many of her trials, tribulations, and tragedies, her life still seemed perfect because she bravely handled all of life’s obstacles.

Now, I have the privilege of continuing a relationship with (post family life) Chrystal, and I still think her life is perfect. Sure her life continues to have trials and tribulations, but she is an educated person who has a warm, beautiful, animated and tenacious spirit along with a wonderful husband and a delightful child. When I first heard that Malea had Down syndrome, I felt bad for Chrystal, not because she had a daughter with Ds, but because I knew she deserved the “perfect” life that she coveted. As I sit back and admire her loving family, I see that her life is perfect. She has what she and other women desire. Listening to Chrystal as a friend, as opposed to a parent, gave me more of a hunger to work with children whose needs were not met through mainstream public school.

I am embarrassed to say that being Chrystal’s friend post-Malea, has made me more sensitive to working with and interacting with children who have disabilities. The reason that I am embarrassed is because my own experiences did not motivate me as much as Chrystal’s did. I don’t know if Chrystal remembers, but I had a maternal older sister who had multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. I was close to my sister as a child, although she was put into a group home where she would receive the around the clock care that she needed. I remember visiting my sister often. After my parents divorced, and my mother remarried, I saw her less and less. Throughout life, I thought about my sister ever so often, and when I became an adult, I vowed to myself that I would visit her more since I had the means to do so. But tragically, when I was about 25, she died at the age of 33. Yeah, I cried at her funeral, but I don’t know if the empty promises that I made to myself motivated my guilt and my tears, or if I was crying because she had passed or both. Nevertheless, Chrystal was very supportive of me in that process and she offered me kind and encouraging words. Those feelings, along with many others, motivated me to work with students who have disabilities.

Today, I work with children ages 13- 19 who have mental, emotional and social disabilities. I am a therapist in an alternative, separate day school for children who are diagnosed as emotionally disturbed. The students that I work with are sub-diagnosed with mood disorder, schizophrenia, mental retardation, autism, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. It is my job to help students cope with life’s stressors. Often the students’ behavior interferes with them receiving an education. Listening to Chrystal talk about the exceptions that she has for the professionals who work with Malea helps me to understand what the parents of my students need from me. I am blessed to have Chrystal in my life, and I will continue to value her friendship and admire the wife that Dwight desires and the mother that Malea deserves.

In general, Malea’s diagnosis has made me more sensitive to people who have disabilities - physical, emotional and mental. I also make my children aware of how people are uncontrollably different, and that everyone deserves love and acceptance.

If I could write a letter to Malea, it would be short and sweet. Malea, you have two of the best parents any child could ask for. You are loved by many. You were born with a gift, just as everyone is, and your mission in life is to find out how your gift can and will help strengthen you and help other people. I would also want to tell her to laugh everyday and never be afraid to cry.


sheree said...

another awesome post!

Wow...Chrystal and Dwight obviously have some great support!

Peaches323 said...

Wow Tima,
You made this emotional mute get misty eyed. And you have known me long enough to know that that is a feat all in itself.


Shawndi84 said...

I am loving these post's.. Great idea to have guest bloggers!

Chrystal, I tagged you! Check it out!