the unexpected – pt. 2 of infinity [let’s be honest]

Last week my Great-Aunt Marcia unexpectedly passed away in her sleep.

I headed to McPherson [Kansas] for the weekend and her service. To my delight, I learned so many great things, about not only Marcia, but my grandma and their life growing up. I learned that Marcia’s mental retardation had been caused by a severe bout of Scarlet Fever when she was two years old; she had a temperature of over 106 degrees for two weeks straight and it would not subside, even though they tried to keep it down day and night. When she came out of it, damage had been done. At age four, and a few years after, her family had Marcia tested for her development. At both times, these different doctors told her mother that Marcia was an “idiot” and an “imbecile”. This was at a time when anyone who had a disability of any kind was automatically discarded and institutionalized, never to be thought of or dealt with again….can you imagine?

But my great-grandma, her mom, brought her home and announced to the family that they would not listen to the doctors, that Marcia was a part of their family and was to be treated as so.

And so their lives changed, and therefore they changed many others because of it…in a family of seven, Marcia was loved and valued, taught, guided, nurtured, encouraged. She was a gorgeous girl too. Her dad would take her on dates for coffee, they were the socialites of the family…she always said she was daddy’ favorite :) Even in he last months, she would claim that she was mom and dad’s favorite and that she was to buried between them! She had a great, and often surprising, wit. In fact, the day after Christmas she made the family break into non-stop laughter with one of her classic comments. She was also so very warm and loving – hugs for everyone – and strong – had just in weeks previous overcome breast cancer.

Grandma has spent a great deal of her life helping take care of Marcia. One of their other sister’s, Virginia [who flew in from New York and will stay with grandma for a month thankfully], went on to work with the disabled populations [new work for her time!] and even helped forge North Carolina’s first program in public schools to teach others how to best work with people with disabilities.

As I heard these stories, it has made me feel so very proud to come from a line of such strong individuals who made tough, counter-cultural, trail-blazing decisions out of love, and a strong sense of what is right. I can only pray that I will do the same.

While I’m not really a Harry Potter fanatic, I recently found myself watching one of the movies. I keep thinking about something Dumbledore, the wise wizard, tells Harry: “It’s not our abilities that show who we truly are, it’s our choices.”

…In loving memory of Marcia Coate, whose very existence and chance at life made an impact in our world…

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