Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2, 2010

One year ago today I boarded a plane that marked the beginning of my journey to Ukraine. I was filled with a mix of nerves, excitement and uncertainty not knowing exactly what lay ahead but knowing that it would change me forever.

That very same day in Ukraine, a woman went into labour. Although I was not there, I imagine she was feeling many of the same emotions as I was; nerves, excitement and uncertainty not knowing exactly what lay ahead but knowing that it would change her forever. For this expectant mother however, the day did not go as she had planned and dreamed that it would. She gave birth to a baby girl with beautiful blue, almond shaped eyes and an extra chromosome. I don’t know all the details of what happened next but I do know that the day ended in heartache with an empty-armed mother and a precious baby girl named Dasha left alone in a hospital crib.

Today would have been Dasha’s first birthday… had she not died on an operating table 5 months ago. Today however, I do not want to dwell on her death. Today I want to celebrate her life. Dasha may have only lived 6 ½ months but her life mattered, her time on this earth made a difference… Dasha made a difference in my life.

Dasha and I on the first day that I met her

Before I got inside the baby orphanage, before I got to know my kids at the special needs orphanage, Dasha was the first child to truly open my eyes to the beauty, the blessing, the wonder of Down syndrome (you can read my previous posts about Dasha here and here). I went to Ukraine to work with special needs orphans but deep down I still had my reservations. The moment I held Dasha in my arms, all of my fears and discomfort were washed away. She was perfect, there was no doubt in my mind, and she will forever hold a special place in my heart.

My favourite picture of Dasha,
taken on the last day that I got to hold her in my arms

Over the course of the past weeks, I have been praying about how I could remember Dasha, to celebrate her life and acknowledge the difference she made in mine. Unfortunately, Dasha’s story is not that uncommon. She is just one of the too many children on Reece’s Rainbow who have died waiting for their forever families to bring them home. Some, like Dasha, had families who were fighting hard to bring them home when their time ran out. Others had yet to be chosen. As I scroll through their faces I can’t help but wonder how many of them never experienced a kind word or a loving touch. I thank God for the privilege He gave me to be able to love on Dasha during her short time on this earth. Today all these precious angels are being held in the arms of their Heavenly Father. There is nothing more we can do for them but we can do our best to make sure that no other children have to die alone and afraid, never knowing the love of a forever family.

There are so many others out there facing the same fate as Dasha… There’s little Alexander with Down syndrome who will be turning one-year-old this month just as Dasha would have. He’s still so young and would so greatly benefit from a family during these formative years. Then there’s Reid who shares the same birthday as Dasha. He is turning 5-years-old today which means he could soon be facing transfer to an institution, where 50-80% of children die within the first year. He needs a family before it’s too late. And then there’s Lilly, Vanessa and Angelina who all have significant heart defects that require surgery just as Dasha did. They all need families quickly before their time runs out.

Today, in honour of Dasha, I am donating to little Sophie.

Sophie had her first birthday a few months ago. Like Dasha, Sophie has Down syndrome. Sophie also has heart problems (like Dasha) as well as several other medical conditions which require attention. She desperately needs a family before she too runs out of time.

Would you help me to celebrate Dasha’s life and honour her memory by donating to one of these angels or any of the other waiting children on Reece’s Rainbow? The number children facing a similar fate is overwhelming but every little bit counts. Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference and play a part in rescuing one of these precious little ones… No child deserves to die alone.

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