Thomas S. Vander Woude who died in 2008 is part of my personal pantheon of heroes:
Thomas S. Vander Woude, 66, died last week while helping his son Joseph, who has Down syndrome, after he fell into a septic tank while working in the yard, police said. The tank was eight to 10 feet deep, Steve Vander Woude said.
His father climbed into the 2-by-2-foot opening, managed to get under Joseph and was pushing him upward to keep his head above the sewage. Initially, Vander Woude was able to keep his own head above the muck, telling a workman who was helping from above, “You pull, I’ll push,” Steve Vander Woude said. But he eventually sank and was later pulled out by rescue workers, who were unable to revive him, Prince William County police said.
Joseph, 20, was hospitalized last week with pneumonia but was released Saturday and attended the Mass for his father in a wheelchair, connected to an oxygen tank. His family said doctors expect a full recovery. A few days after his father’s death, Joseph’s family sat with him in the hospital and explained to him that his father had died.
Another of Thomas S. Vander Woude’s sons, Tom Vander Woude, pastor at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, gave the homily. In it, he likened his father to Saint Joseph, a man who patiently and quietly supported his family, did odd jobs for those in need and was content to worship God and not seek the limelight, Tom Vander Woude said. Continue reading
Hattip to Pat Archbold at Creative Minority Report. A very well meaning person once told my wife and I that she understood what a cross we had to bear due to the autism of our son Larry. I responded by stating the simple truth: that Larry had never been anything but a blessing from God for us. So he was, from his first day to his last, and continues to be as he went ahead of us to the next world. In this Vale of Tears many terrible things can happen to us, but the birth of a child, no matter what, is never among them.
As the father of an autistic son, who, with his brother and sister, is the light of the lives of myself and my wife, the struggle for the right to life of the unborn is a personal battle. The contempt shown for innocent human life by abortion is magnified when the fact that a child in the womb is less than perfect is introduced into the mix. People like my son, who lights up any room when he smiles, who is as agile and nimble as a cat in her prime, and who likes to cook with the microwave, would be regarded by those who prize abortion as prime candidates for elimination if their condition could be detected in the womb. George Will has a moving column about his son Jon who has just turned 40.
Jon was born just 19 years after James Watson and Francis Crick published their discoveries concerning the structure of DNA, discoveries that would enhance understanding of the structure of Jon, whose every cell is imprinted with Down syndrome. Jon was born just as prenatal genetic testing, which can detect Down syndrome, was becoming common. And Jon was born eight months before Roe v. Wade inaugurated this era of the casual destruction of pre-born babies.
This era has coincided, not just coincidentally, with the full, garish flowering of the baby boomers’ vast sense of entitlement, which encompasses an entitlement to exemption from nature’s mishaps, and to a perfect baby. So today science enables what the ethos ratifies, the choice of killing children with Down syndrome before birth. That is what happens to 90 percent of those whose parents receive a Down syndrome diagnosis through prenatal testing.
Which is unfortunate, and not just for them. Judging by Jon, the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go. It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society’s complexities. They have no choice but to be trusting because, with limited understanding, and limited abilities to communicate misunderstanding, they, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” always depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon’s experience, they almost always receive it. Continue reading
Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin respond to the vile Family Guy attack on Trig, her son with Down’s Syndrome:
People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”:
“When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, so why would anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? As a culture, shouldn’t we be more compassionate to innocent people – especially those who are less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to say that some things just are not funny? Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks. – Bristol Palin”
- Sarah Palin
Perhaps it is partially because I have an autistic son, but words literally fail me to adequately describe people evil enough to mock a handicapped child because they differ with the mother of the child politically.
Charles de Gaulle could be a very frustrating man. Churchill, in reference to de Gaulle, said that the heaviest cross he had to bear during the war was the Cross of Lorraine, the symbol of the Free French forces. Arrogant, autocratic, often completely unreasonable, de Gaulle was all of these. However, there is no denying that he was also a great man. Rallying the Free French forces after the Nazi conquest of France, he boldly proclaimed, “France has lost a battle, France has not lost the war.” For more than a few Frenchmen and women, de Gaulle became the embodiment of France. It is also hard to dispute that De Gaulle is the greatest Frenchman since Clemenceau “The Tiger”, who led France to victory in World War I. However, de Gaulle was something more than a great man, he was also at bottom a good man, as demonstrated by his youngest daughter Anne de Gaulle. Continue reading