September 26, 2010

The Power of the Powerless - The Value of Life

The Power of the Powerless: A Brother's Legacy of Love (Crossroad Book)I recently finished a book called The Power of the Powerless by Christopher de Vinck, a truly incredible piece of writing in which de Vinck weaves us a story about his brother Oliver, who was blind, mute, and severely mentally and physically impaired. His body was incapable of rising from his bed, and he died at the young age of 33. Yet, this seemingly useless, powerless life was so rich and full of meaning for de Vinck and his family, leading them to a loving, compassionate, and lively view of the world.

The author not only tells us about the many gifts he received through simply knowing his brother, who most would call "a vegetable", but also tells us about the lives of others who are like Oliver. The parents of each of these children describe not rosy-colored tales, but stories of lives that changed other people dramatically.

Chase is only eighteen months, but I can attest that he has changed our family's lives in ways that a typical child would never have offered. He has opened my eyes to the world around me, and the God who created and protects me. I understand who God is, and what his love for me is about, in new and more accurate ways. I see past myself and am more empathetic. I can't visit Wal-Mart or Kroger without hoping that the greeter or bagger is one of the disabled men who I cherish seeing. I feel joy and love upon seeing a child with a disability rather than the mere urge to stare out of curiosity. I feel more connected to others, especially those who are disabled or have a family member with a medical issue or disability. I understand pain and grief in new ways and my heart goes out to others with an understanding I would not have previously had.

Don't get me wrong - I am still the same sinner who fails in many ways each day. I continue to stress about our busy schedule of therapies and doctor's visits and have not shed the occasional pain that comes from the grief of a profound diagnosis. God is continuing to teach me patience through this experience - I'm not quite there yet. I am still learning and growing and I have a long way to go.

But, I can honestly say that in the eighteen months that Chase has existed on this earth, he has changed me in ways I never would have imagined. His blossoming little life has been more meaningful than I ever would have thought possible, and I know that he will continue to affect my life and others for many years to come.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Aren't these the exact lessons that Chase is working on teaching me?

So to anyone who doubts whether a mother should allow a baby to be born with Down syndrome or any other disability, read The Power of the Powerless. It is shockingly profound, full of love, and is a truly amazing statement on the value of life.


  1. Mer, this is a very moving, touching post by you. Your faith is growing by leaps and bounds (you are light years ahead of me, I am afraid).....I am deeply touched by how the LORD is not only working in you but also little Chase, Trent, and Scott as well. Thank you for being that inspirational star in my life! love you so, so much.--Chris

  2. What an inspirational comment. I have a grandson with a terrible head injury from a car accident and it takes so much patiences to be around him very long. Thank you for your comments.

  3. Thank you for reviewing this book. I had never heard of it, but it's going onto my wanted list. ;)

  4. I cannot wait to read this book!
    One of my uncles was born with Down Syndrome, back in the 1940's. After my grandmother passed away, grandpa chose to institutionalize my uncle. From our perspective, sixty years later, this is sad. I am sure this was the best my grandpa could do, at the time.
    My own father lamented his brother's seperation from his family, as did his siblings. When he became very ill, and was himself "a vegetable," many people suggested a nursing home, where he would have been fortunate if he'd have been so-much as turned twice a day, much less been truly cared for.
    I was untrained, and a single mother of a toddler. My father's girlfriend was profoundly deaf. My much older siblings and the doctors all said we could NEVER care for a 175lb man who was in a PVS, even for the few weeks he was predicted to survive.
    They were all wrong.
    Love made caring for my dad possible...for EIGHTEEN months. No, it's not a lifetime. Was it heartbreaking? Sometimes. My siblings did nothing, not once.
    It was their loss.