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Love Makes All the Difference

Larry McClarey

Approximately 92% of mothers who learn they are carrying children with Down’s Syndrome abort their child.  The Daily Mail has an article by a deeply evil woman who bemoans the fact that she didn’t have that option:

Questions I couldn’t answer raced through my mind: Had I caused his disability? How terrible would his life be? What impact would it have on his brother Andrew, then only two? How on earth would Roy and I cope?

That was the day normal life ended for Roy, Andrew and me.

Perhaps you’d expect me to say that, over time, I grew to accept my son’s disability. That now, looking back on that day 47 years later, none of us could imagine life without him, and that I’m grateful I was never given the option to abort.

However, you’d be wrong. Because, while I do love my son, and am fiercely protective of him, I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I’d had an abortion. I wish it every day.

If he had not been born, I’d have probably gone on to have another baby, we would have had a normal family life and Andrew would have the comfort, rather than the responsibility, of a sibling, after we’re gone.

Most people will think twice about attacking this woman because they will want to appear understanding.  Taking care of a handicapped child is not an endless bowl of cherries, as I well know, and so most people who have not had that experience will be reluctant to criticize someone who has had that duty.  Fortunately I have been in the category of having a handicapped child to care for, and how I wish, with all my heart, that I was still in that category.  As faithful readers of this blog know, my beloved son Larry died of a seizure on May 19, Pentecost Sunday, last year.  Due to his autism Larry and I never held a normal conversation.  He could say yes and no, and single words, but that was usually all that he was able to do.  He would never have been able to hold down a job.  In many ways his life was not dissimilar to that of the man described in the article. Yet he was the light of our lives for my wife and me.

I guess the difference is in how we perceived our son and how the evil woman, I refuse to write her name, views her poor son.  Larry to us was never just his autism.  He was always a unique individual with his own personality.  He was our great adventure.  How I miss seeing him puttering about the kitchen fixing snacks, hearing him laugh, having Daddy readings with him each morning, outings with him where he would always position himself to be at my right hand.  Did I wish he had not had autism? Sure.  Did I ever bemoan his life because of the autism?  Never!  Like all our kids, he filled our lives with love and we were the gainers by that love.

At the conclusion of my son’s funeral mass, taking as my text Job 1:21:  The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away.   Blessed be the Name of the Lord., I read out this remembrance of my boy:

To those who did not know Larry well, it might be assumed that he was dealt a pretty poor set of cards in this life.  Autistic, afflicted with seizures in his later years, and a brief life of 21 and three-quarter years.  However, to those of us who had the great privilege of knowing Larry well, he was blessed with many gifts, just as his life was a blessing to us.

1.  At his birth he was blessed with a twin brother, Donnie, who all Larry’s life would be his constant companion:  playing with him, and caring for him and guarding him from harm.

2.  He was blessed with two parents who loved him more than mere words can possibly convey.

3.  He was blessed with a beloved baby sister, a loving grandmother and grandfather and a cherished godmother, all of whom helped guide his steps.

4.  He was blessed with a wry sense of humor.  I will never forget the lopsided smile on his face as a toddler as he pretended to touch the computer printer paper roll because he knew that would always get a rise out of Mom and Dad.  His default expression was a smile.

5.  He was blessed with a joyful zest for life, from swinging on swings much higher than they were intended to go, to grooving to music he liked, swaying back and forth and rocking his head, to closing his eyes as he savored the big hamburgers he loved.  Life never grew stale or prosaic for Larry.

6.  He was blessed with a bold spirit.  At a year and a half he decided in May of 1993 that it would be a very good idea to walk to Renfrew Park without bothering to get permission from Mom or Dad!  In his later years he was fond of midnight strolls, once again without telling Mom or Dad!  One of my most cherished memories of Larry is him running ahead of the family like a gazelle, to Mass or to some other favorite destination. Life with Larry was an endless adventure, whether we wanted it to be or not!

7.  He was blessed with self-reliance, as I can attest from picking up the remnants of late night snacks that he had fixed for himself in the kitchen after Mom and Dad went to sleep.  Some of us march to our own drummer.  Larry, ever a rugged individualist, marched to his own brass band.

8.  He was blessed with a warm heart as the hugs he gave indicated.

9.  He was blessed with a good mind, defying the odds of his autism to learn to read and to memorize long prayers.

10. He was blessed with a love of God.  At Mass he said his prayers and always understood that Mass was important and solemn.  His physical presence at Mass with my family ended with his funeral Mass, but not the presence of his spirit.

11. Above all, he was blessed by being the child of a loving God, who for His own purposes took him into His heavenly kingdom in the wee hours of Pentecost.

Larry enjoyed all these blessings, and he was a blessing to all who knew him, from the first day of his life to his last day.  May the same be said of all of us when the tally of our days is reached.  Goodby my son, until we meet again in the Kingdom of Love Eternal.

Christ gave us as His two great commands:  Love God and Love our Neighbor.  No one is more our neighbor than the children God gives us.  Without this love, a pale reflection of the love that God has for each of us, we are but poor beasts indeed.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

20 Comments

  1. Perfection. Your love for God and family is nothing less than perfection.

    Todays psalm 24:3,4 reads; “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He (Larry) whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”

    Your description of your love for Larry is incense so sweet and so pleasing to God most high. It’s extremely sad that the woman in the story could not find what your family has such an abundance of…love.

    God is Love.
    Peace Mr. McClarey.
    Peace.

  2. Donald McClarey: “Christ gave us as His two great commands: Love God and Love our Neighbor. No one is more our neighbor than the children God gives us. Without this love, a pale reflection of the love that God has for each of us, we are but poor beasts indeed.”
    .
    Stunningly beautiful.

  3. Such a gorgeous and elegant response to that horrifying article, Mr. McClarey. My twin brother Patrick is autistic and also has seizures (though he hasn’t had one in over a year, thank God). He can be such a pain sometimes, but this just affirms the fact that he’s human. Thank you so much for this wonderful post.

  4. Yours is the story and the example that should have been presented to the recent Synod on the Family, Donald. You turned a Cross – the disability of your son – into a Crown of how life should be. When I read your description of Larry and his disability, I am reminded of what St Paul wrote, that the power of God is made perfect in human weakness. Thus does disability turn from detriment into asset. Should we ask to become half as disabled? If only to become half as holy? For without holiness no man shall see God.

  5. Veritatis Splendor – 80. “[…] Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator.” (132)
    .

    Sipping from the poisonous cup of social justice . . . Doubt and confusion. Muddy the waters. It’s how they rationalize advancing abortion and all the evils attendant with progressivism.

  6. My hope is that you may be led to reach out in love rather than reject in condemnation.

    Is this woman, who has expressed her feelings, not your neighbor?

    Might you consider laying down the stone and sharing your love?

  7. Elizabeth, this woman wishes she had slain her son and encourages other women carrying Down’s children to do so. The height of love is sometimes to tell someone when they are acting like a monster.

  8. You have brought tears to my eyes Donald, esp when I got the the two words, “my boy”.
    That love and the difference between you, your wife and other children, and that woman.. is grace. Available to her too, but it must be received.
    You have grown closer to God no doubt because of Larry. Thank you for being willing to share with us.

  9. Thank you Anzlyne. My eyes often well up when I think of Larry, but that is counterbalanced by the fact that I know I will see him again. That, and the good memories of him that will remain with me throughout the rest of my journey through this vale of tears.

  10. Mr. McClarey, you and your family accepted your son Larry as a blessing rather than as a cross to bear -although I’m sure there were times it felt like a cross, as all parents who love their children know.

    Children with disabilities force their parents to realize that these children will always need them and that the carefree retirement in the Sunbelt and long vacations and ocean cruises aren’t going to happen. The ones who look to the Lord can find the strength to deal with the situation. Those who are selfish – and who isn’t a little selfish from time to time, as I can be – act like the lady in the Daily Mail. One day she will meet her Maker and answer why she did not want to carry her cross.

  11. Extraordinary words and writing, Mr. McClarey, and beyond “touching the heart”.

    I have briefly commented before that I am honored to be the guardian for my brother, Joe, who like Larry was, is an autistic adult; in Joey’s case, is blessed with extraordinary good health and strength; but like Larry did, he makes our lives every day unique, intriguing and decidedly un-dull. Like Larry, he loves to lead us in prayers, esp. before meals (can’t drop that!), and prays the “Eternal Rest” prayers also for all the family before every sitting; he also loves going to Mass and knows it is something very important about God and Jesus and “Sweet Virgin Mary” (=his articulation). At Mass: he is quiet as a mouse–amazing! And perhaps best of all, I am/we are always fortunate to have someone who will always say the Rosary with me/us, no matter how long the drive and no matter how many Mysteries we’ve gone through already. A veritable Rosary Machine!
    I can only imagine the hole in one’s life without Larry, based on how much I wonder how poor would my life and a very generous Mrs. Phoenix’s life would be, without Uncle Joe.
    ….
    What is the value of a life, and its meaning? “I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I had an abortion. I wish it every day.” (Daily Mail excerpt) Some people will never know: the value of a life. It is the secret of a life, the secret of the Rosary, the secret of God’s presence in unbelievable circumstances. Franz Werfel said it best: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible”.

  12. “I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born.”

    Less complicated, maybe, but happier? That is the fatal assumption far too many people make in our culture of death: that less complication, less inconvienience, less effort and less pain always equal more happiness. Many people discover, far too late, that this is not true.

    Oddly enough, I stumbled across a VERY lengthy article in Newsweek (online) yesterday concerning a rather sordid case of a wealthy New York woman on trial for murdering her autistic son. The article goes off into quite a few tangents about the mystery of autism, the search for cures, the “neurodiversity” movement (which advocates accepting autistic youth and adults as they are rather than trying to change them), etc. but way, way, down toward the end of the story is one priceless quote that could apply to any disability:

    “A day at Oak Hill (a residential school/facility for autistic youth in California) reminds you that autism spectrum disorder is exactly as complicated, frustrating and inscrutable as human existence disorder. This, I think, is where the neurodiversity crowd, which can sometimes lapse into anti-science, has a point: Autistic people are, above all, people. We all have our own pathologies. Some are visible. Some are not. Some we can cure. Some, not yet. Some, maybe never.”

  13. “You have one here who is greater than the prophets.” Jesus Christ was not referring to His divinity. Jesus Christ was referring to His humanity. Jesus Christ was referring to the opportunity of people to love.

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