Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“From Grief to Celebration”, by Margaret (Gary) Bender. Reviewed by Lisa Nicholson

I have “met” many parents of children with Down syndrome over the 5 or so years I’ve been part of this great blog community. The majority by far have been parents of newborns or children younger than my own 12 year old. That has a lot to do with the explosion of communication and networking that the internet has created and I have to say that I’ve envied how easily a new mom can just hop on the internet and find out all she needs to know about bringing a baby into the world with Down syndrome. However, finally I found Gary Bender, who’s daughter Alex is 7 years older than mine (and who just graduated from HS) through her blog The Ordinary Life of an Extraordinary Girl.

To read about a child older than my own, out into the future that felt so intimidating, was a
remarkable moment and gift.

Then Gary did something extraordinary herself. She took the content from her posts
and compiled them into a book about her family’s journey and called it From Grief to Celebration, How One Family Learned to Embrace the Gift of Down Syndrome .

This story goes deep into the process of acceptance and beyond, “carrying the message of
promise to the next group of parents”. Each chapter takes a step towards the celebration
that many families will discover as they move through the transformation that is having
a child with 21 chromosomes. She uses 10 verbs (and a bonus) to provide a pathway
of success and to describe, not just the inner journey but how her family carved out
their niche in their rural community. Healthy Skepticism is one of my favorite chapters
where “can’t is unacceptable”. She doesn’t skimp on the challenges that greet us as our
children move into adulthood but she shares a perspective of deep possibility that is
encouraging.

Gary is one of the pioneers, a generation who began raising their children in the public
school system under the umbrella of inclusion, with the philosophy of early intervention-
both things that some of the new generation of mothers often take for granted enough to
challenge them to go to a new level. Many people now have written of their journey but
few with such simple, direct grace and wisdom. Gary has not been on the Today Show or
Oprah and she markets her book herself, more evidence of her spirit and determination. I
would highly recommend this book as essential reading.

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Lisa Nicholson



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