This word, this one word is all you need to describe the sibling of a special needs child. They live a life much differently than their friends, a life that kids should never live. 911 calls, and hospital visits instead of birthday parties; too many times they are asked to be far more grown up than their age.
An accidental picture that captured compassion, protection, selflessness and most of all … courage. In the quietness of the night a willing heart, she showed no fear. She knows her life is different, she knows that sometimes she misses out on what being an 11 year old little girl should be. Elizabeth has shown Caroline that you see the world through possibility … a life lesson learned at a very early age that so many of us will live a lifetime never understanding.
While Caroline is caring and has an instinct of taking care of Elizabeth, Alex has a particularly soft spot in his heart for his sister and likes to make her laugh. Of course Alex can bring a smile to just about anyones face! From a very young age, feeding Elizabeth seemed to be his way of helping. Alex will often leave his lunch table, and his lunch to sit with Elizabeth and feed her. The teachers have learned that no matter how much they encourage him to return to his table to eat his own lunch, he won’t until Elizabeth has finished hers.
This moment of worry, concern and the unknown is something that siblings tend to tuck away and not allow us to see. That while at times life can be unfair and things don’t always go their way they somehow understand why. And in turn they become more compassionate towards others who are different.
Growing up Forester hasn’t been easy for these 3. They have had to learn understanding and tolerance; they have had to let go of their own wants and needs; they have had to learn the one lesson in life that will carry them far … to give of themselves for another. If you ask them they will tell you that life is hard with Elizabeth. That they don’t always get to do what they want and that many times they have had to make sacrifices that they didn’t want to make, and they were mad about that. The birthday party they missed, the movie we had to leave early because Elizabeth wasn’t happy, the countless doctor appointments they have been dragged to. But they will always tell you that it was okay, that they love Elizabeth and never blame her. There is something about these siblings of special needs children that set them apart from their peers, something that not even a parent can understand. They see people differently, they look past the physical judgement we as adults to often make before finding out who this person really is. They don’t see a wheelchair, a limp or a crooked smile, they see something deep inside them; something that says I am different but I am me, give me a chance, believe in me.
It takes courage, courage that comes from the innocence of their youth, courage that Elizabeth has taught Caroline and Alex. Courage that Caroline and Alex have taught me. Courage to accept those who are different, courage to live a life much different than many, courage to protect those that can’t protect themselves.
They protect her, because they love her.