Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Maggie was born with cerebral palsy and would never walk, talk, feed or dress herself. Her parents were told she'd be lucky to live past the age of two.
Maggie grew and was nurtured by an incredibly strong, courageous and beautiful mother and grandmother who never complained about the circumstances of Maggie's life. They loved her and treated her as they would any child. They shared stories of her victories and progress and they bragged like any proud parent or grandparent would. The condition of Maggie's body was secondary to the condition of her soul. They saw Maggie for the love she brought to their lives.
She communicated with her family in a way they understood and brought a sense of celebration to every single day. When she turned three she was transported by a wheel chair to make it easier for her mom to move her around. As fate would have it, Maggie defied the odds and continued to thrive.
At age five, Maggie started kindergarten. She was the same age as my son. They went to the same school and attended many of the same school functions. I got to know Maggie's mom on a friendly basis. While I watched my son play with his friends or race from game-to-game at the school carnival, Maggie's mom wiped drool from her face and fed her from a spoon. Maggie would give her mom a sideways smile.
In the time I spent dropping off my son at the playground and waving goodbye, Maggie's mom would face weather conditions and curbside snow to haul the wheel chair out of her van. As I zipped past, Maggie would be strapped into the chair and her mom would be carrying her backpack and supplies into the school to meet the special assistant.
Maggie's mom always waved and smiled. I rushed to my next thing, giving silent thanks for my son's perfect health.
In the third grade, Maggie's body began shutting down and she was admitted to the hospital. Her schoolmates rallied around her and sent personalized cards. They created a poster the length of the hallway and each student and faculty member signed a get-well greeting. They collected hugs for Maggie in the form of monetary donations and they hoped she would return to school quickly. From home, my son and I would check Maggie's caring bridge website and send good vibes for healing and peace. We looked forward to the day she would return to school. Maggie’s Spirit was stronger than her body and later that spring, she passed away.
On the last day of school, I saw Maggie's mom in the hallway and my eyes filled with tears of compassion. I hugged her and told her I was sorry for her loss. Her response was gracious and bold. “I didn’t expect her to live past the age of two,” she said. “I was blessed by every moment, every day. I had the privilege of spending an extra 7 years with my angel.”
I thought about our children's paths and how different our experiences had been. Maggie's mom and I had been pregnant at the same time and given birth a few weeks apart. While I was busy rushing off and giving thanks for perfect health, Maggie's mom was giving thanks for the blessing of another day. While I watched with sympathy as she wiped Maggie's drool from her face, Maggie's mom was happy for one more moment with her child.
I began to question why I was comparing my relationship with my son to her relationship with Maggie and determined that in my sympathy, I was judging; in my gratitude for perfect health, I was judging; and in my compassion for her loss, I was judging.
She was happy simply living in the moment and being with her child.
I wondered if I were truly the lucky one for having a son with perfect health, or was she the lucky one for having a child whose presence was a constant reminder of precious time and small joys? Was I genuinely “compassionate” for her loss, or was I thinking her burden had been lifted?
I don't have the answers, but I suspect we were both lucky, and both right. I've come to believe that any time we compare, we judge. Because when we compare, something must be right, and therefore something must be wrong. I've come to realize that the universe doesn’t make mistakes and nothing is ever wrong, just different. Anytime we think something “should be” we judge and dishonor “what is.”
Being present to this moment allows us to remove judgment and recognize what is occurring around us. Often times what seems like a blessing can end up being a curse; and what seems like a curse could be end up being a blessing.
Gratitude and Acceptance are Powerful Perspectives -- qualities that begin with awareness and move upward toward love.
Receive stories, self-coaching tools and tips each month. Sign up here.