Thursday, February 15, 2007

Think of Me First As a Person

" Think of me first as a person who hurts and loves and feels joy,”
--Dwight Core Sr.

A home movie about a boy with Down syndrome lingered for years in a cardboard box. But, lately, the film about Dwight Core Jr., "Think of Me First As a Person," has won many hearts and an honored place in the Library of Congress.

Read the story of Dwight Core, Jr. & and watch the amazing video created by his father nearly 50 years ago.

Dwight Core, Jr. "D" was born with Down syndrome 48 years ago, and like many children with Down syndrome at that time, was institutionalized in a special "training school" when he reached school age.

I'm so thankful this film was made, because we have such preconceived notions of people with Down syndrome 50 years ago. We know that families were told to institutionalize their children, and many doctors recommended telling people that this child had died, and having no contact whatsoever with them.

In my area, institutions have closed within the last 8-10 years that have housed people with Down syndrome who have never lived any other way -- whose parents signed off all rights to them, and have long since died. Many of these people have names that are different than their birth names, as their parents legally changed their names when they sent them away, thus even if family members remember or know that their relative with Down syndrome is still alive, in many cases its virtually impossible to find them.

I'm so glad we are able to see this account in a real light -- Dwight was not a child that was thrown away by his family, and not a child that was unloved by any means. His older sisters loved him very much, and were devastated when he was sent away.

His father shows himself to be a man who loved his son very much, and who saw what many people of that time did not - a beautiful young man he was proud to call his son. I think they did only what they knew to do at the time, and made a heart-wrenching choice that they thought was in his best interest.

Thankfully, as Maya Angelou says, "when you know better, you do better," and we no longer send our children with T21 away from their families.

We have learned so very much about people with T21. But this family knew those lessons as well. D's sisters adore him, then and now, and cherish him as he is. They see his beautiful soul.

We've made many advancements in the world of T21; but as we've taken two steps forward, science has given so many the opportunity to take one step backward - by suggesting that we try to eradicate people like Dwight simply because they have Down syndrome.

We still have so very much to learn about love, and acceptance, and true joy.

As I watched this movie, I fought back tears many times, especially when his sister spoke with such love about him, and how he said good-bye to their mom.

But, the overwhelming thing I felt in watching Dwight, both young and as he has gotten older is this...

Although I don't wish these wonderful days of childhood away, I hope and pray that the good Lord blesses Paige and me with the gift of longevity, because I cannot wait until she is grown, and I am old, and we walk down the street, hand in hand, humming a song only the two of us know.

I can't wait until we sit on our front porch together and watch the world go by. I hope with all my heart that our transition from mother and child to best friends happens as beautifully as I anticipate it will, and that I spend many of my final, most lovely days in the glorious company of my children.

6 comments:

Tara Marie said...

Oh Besty....thank you for this post. I just wrote about it on my blog.

I stopped by to wish you a very Happy Birthday, and here you are giving me a gift.

I too, pray for longevity, as I cherish every moment I have with Emma Sage and I so look forward to living life with her as we both age. What a blessing.

My GodMother lives in Canada. She is in Nova Scotia. She was one of my Mother's dearest friends, and she reads my blog daily. I hope she visits yours, as I know she will just love and adore you as I do.

One beautiful thing about Burney, is that she has been an Advocate for a man with Down syndrome. He is now 47 and she is his only 'soul' in the world. Like you mentioned, he was institutionalized and his family is gone. She is his family.

I find it truly amazing that I was given the 'gift' of Down syndrome in my life, but my GodMother 'chose' that gift.

I love you dearly Betsy, and I am so thankful for the gift of T21 and that our paths crossed....we are truly blessed.

jennifer said...

Happy Birthday!

And thank you for your post, and your beautiful blog, which gives me such inspiration and hope!

Granna Richard said...

I am so pleased to find Bits of Betsy and EmmaSage. The touching comments that have been made concerning our film "Think of me first as a person" are very important to me. My son, George finished the film. My brother, Dwight has been so happy with all the terrific attention. Our family couldn't be happier. Thanks

Rebecca said...

Thank you Betsy for such a beautiful post.

Happy belated birthday.

George said...

My mother sent me a link to your blog. My name is George Ingmire - I recovered the footage after my Grandfather passed away. It's truly an honor to see his work and my uncle recognized. After some rights clearance, I will make a DVD version of "Think of Me first as a Person" available for viewers. Feel free to contact me at miabuelo@miabuelo.com for info.

Shelley said...

Betsy - I loved your post - it brought a tear to my eyes let alone when I watched the video of Dwight and his family. There is something so magical about old family films isn't there and I loved seeing the loving relationship between Dwight and his sister. Beautiful - thank you for the find.