Please accept my thanks for today revealing to me a glimpse of Your wondrous master plan in my life. The mystery began for me 18 years ago this day on the cold, hard floor of Fort Hamilton-Hughes Hospital’s dressing room where new Dads could shed their scrubs after joining in the delivery room for the miracle of birth. I had just welcomed Amber Beth into the world at the side of her loving mother and was excited to change to celebrate the birth of our first child. As I knelt on the floor for a brief prayer of thanks, I felt overwhelming joy as tears streamed from my eyes, as they are now just recalling that beautiful moment that gently changed the course of my life through the stars.
I know You recall the words of thanks I spoke as I prayed my short, yet earnest prayer. I do, and my memory is not near as good as Yours. Little did I expect the mystery that was to be revealed to me moments later.
After visiting Amber through the glass windows and bidding her Mom a temporary farewell, I was on my way to the elevator to begin the tradition of passing out cigars and to enjoy a celebratory steak breakfast. That’s when the doctor caught me and asked for a word together with her Mother. Apprehension surrounded me as You began to prepare me for a journey, the destination for which I only recently became fully aware.
The doctor was somewhat brief, but highly compassionate. I know, Lord, that You remember all the details, but all I remember were the words Down syndrome, mongolism, mental retardation, delays, special education, confirming DNA testing. The rest was just a blur to me.
In the shocked daze that lasted years, I remember the anger that I expressed toward You for cursing this defenseless child… for damning my life in destroying the dreams I held for her. I remember visiting Fair Acres School for “special” children and sitting in my car sobbing uncontrollably as to why You would touch so many babies and children with the kind of handicaps they endured. The questions of why never stopped… until now.
It’s been 18 years. And now I know. I am humbled and plead forgiveness for not trusting in Your plan in my life and doubting for an instant that, indeed, to everything there is a purpose under Heaven.
Much has changed since my journey began on that cold hospital dressing room floor 18 years ago. As Amber and I shared a special evening together night before last, we privately celebrated the miracle of her birth and — together — enjoyed the steak I never ate the morning of her birth 18 years earlier. It was a moment of overwhelming joy and revelation. While I am always and forever honored to be in the presence of either of my children, that night was different.
I realized the incredible peace, love and happiness that she possesses and freely shares with all who come near her. I am sure that no other 18 year old daughter would have been so happy to have spent a Friday night with just her Father, even insisting that we both sit on the same side of the booth to begin our meal. With her small arms tightly holding my arm nearest her, I knew that I could feel You holding me through her love and absolute contentment she has found in life. I know You were present for that meal when I thanked Amber for choosing me to be her Daddy out of all the daddies in the world she could have chosen. I really did — and do — feel privileged that she came into my life… that You chose me to be her father. I truly am not worthy of such an honor and am humbled by the realization.
This week I have come to fully realize just what her role was in changing my life as part of Your plan for me and those whose lives I touch. At the time of Amber’s birth, I know You remember that I was fortunate to be a broadcast journalist. But I was never to deliver another newscast again as a full-time broadcaster. Realizing that I needed to be close to Amber and assume an active role in her infant stimulation classes and subsequent therapies, I immediately resigned my broadcast career.
As I found other career opportunities, thank You Lord for having someone ask me to join the local Association for Retarded Citizens, months later gaining appointment to the county’s Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD). Unknowing of Your gentle guidance, I became immersed in policies and programs to help children like Amber with education and acceptance. Within a few years, I found myself working as public information officer with the Board of MR/DD, in whose loving programs my Angel was enrolled.
While I had never stayed at a job more than about a year at a time before being lured to better positions, I remained with the Board of MR/DD as its spokesperson for an unprecedented five years. But, Lord, I recognize Your touch did not end there in my life. It was during those five years that You blessed me with abilities I never before knew I possessed. By placing me in the position to create multimedia presentations and promotions for much-needed tax levies, You were merely preparing me for the place I was to assume later in life.
Eventually, I felt I had accomplished all that I could for the Board of MR/DD and bid my friends farewell to start my own public relations service. That was 10 years ago. After pondering the course of my life on the occasion of Amber’s 18th birthday today, I realized that her presence in my life is far more than a blessing, but she was Your touch in my life to help me reach my potential and to realize — in part — a destiny that I had no idea I had 18 years ago.
Then there are the beautiful people who have touched my life… the parents, the other children with handicapping conditions, caring staff members, my former co-workers.
Parents of children without handicaps may never fully realize the divine gift I know I have through Amber’s presence.
Most such parents hope that they can be their child’s guiding light and mold them into what they are to become. Amber, on the other hand, has molded me into what I have become. She has been my life’s greatest teacher. I can only ask You, Lord, to let me know the secret one day to her uninhibited happiness and peace. I can only ask You to allow me to approach the levels of her absolute love and forgiveness… and to see the world by just one ray of her life’s brilliance.
I cannot help but wonder if Amber and others with her superiority are the ones created in Your true image and likeness, and that those of us who consider ourselves “normal” are not really the ones who are handicapped in Your eyes.
Dear Lord, thank You for Amber… Thank You for letting me be her earthly Father…
Thank You for revelations You have only recently enabled me to begin to understand.
Above all, thank You for the patience You have had with me in my life. I am humbled in Your presence and ask that You touch my life and allow me to touch others as You have allowed Amber to touch me.
March 15, 1999
In honor of and in observance of the 18th birthday of Amber Beth, an Angel sent to show me the way in life. (Amber is now 26 years old and is an example of true happiness in life.)