Today marks what would have been Naaman VanMeter’s 43rd birthday. I think that the way the Van Meter family has been impacted by Naaman’s life is something we can all relate to. Naaman’s sister Ellie posted this on Facebook:
When you look at those around you, how do you attribute worth? Do you hold in high esteem those who are athletic? Those who are physically attractive? Those who hold power? Those who are financially strong? Those who are able to compose eloquent literature and deliver words in powerful speech?
Some of the most noteworthy individuals I’ve come across in my life have not surpassed others in many of those areas, yet they have impacted hundreds, if not thousands of lives in meaningful ways. These individuals I speak of were not born into bodies that allowed them to care for themselves on a daily basis, let alone allow them to be athletically strong and competitive. They are not individuals who the world gazes upon, admiring their beauty. They, in fact, are so physically limited, that their muscles do not allow their mouths the coordination required to speak. They live their lives unable to verbalize their desires, yet dependent on others to meet their needs. Their bodies seem to be fighting the very movement they want so much to make.
Theirs is the face of Cerebral Palsy. They are loving, engaging, and joyous … conveying their emotions through their eyes, their smiles, their laughter, and their tears. They love life, and enjoy time with their families. They thrive on adventure and new experiences. They hurt. They experience pain and frustration that the rest of us will never know. Those who love them experience love and dependency in a deeper way.
As tomorrow marks what would have been his 43rd birthday, I’m thankful for my brother, Naaman. Thankful for the many life lessons he taught me. Grateful for his patience, and thankful for the ever-present understanding in his eyes and the depth of his gaze. Thankful that he opened my eyes to some of the most amazing individuals, who are so easily overlooked in this society. I am thankful that, because of him, my world is richer. Because of him, I have my son, Jacob. Because of him, I get to know and experience many individuals who also depend on others to provide their daily care. Reflecting, today, on the lives and legacies of many friends who have lived out their days trapped in their bodies. Praying for two special families who are right now saying their goodbyes to such sweet individuals. Looking forward, with anticipation, to seeing each one of them whole, one day, and listening as they are finally able to share their stories.