I went to the cemetery today to water Max’s flowers. We have a hanging basket of bright yellow strawflowers there. Curiously, there is a “sport” now growing amidst the blooms. For those of you who might not be into obscure botany terms, a “sport” is defined as a sudden variation in habit of growth or blossom color from the rest of the plant or others plants of its kind. This is caused by a genetic change that may be accidental or spontaneous, or intentionally induced. Therefore, if an orange flower appears on a yellow variety of Mum, it is said to be a sport of that variety. At the edge of our beautiful basket of bright yellow strawflowers, there is a new strawflower plant growing. The blooms are pure pink. In horticulture, “sports” are a desirable thing. These naturally occurring variations spring to life randomly and unpredictably, but are valued precisely BECAUSE they are different. They add beauty, unexpected color and variety to the world. They bring delight and appreciation for the wonder of nature to be able to create such beautiful things.
Max had much in common with a “sport.” He had a different number of chromosomes than was “typical” and expected. We were repeatedly told, or warned with the direst predictions, how he would blossom “differently” than the rest of the world. Unlike the world of botany, this difference was not appreciated or celebrated in any way. Because Max was expected to bloom at a slower rate, and with different size and color of flowers than most children, he was viewed by much of society and most especially the medical professionals we dealt with as “undesirable". He would require more care, have special needs. His “care instructions” might have a few more steps than the typical flower. But what they missed when confronting us with their solemn faces and hushed tones delivering the words “cognitive disability” “genetic defect” and their oft repeated advice of “termination” is the beauty, joy, and unexpected colors Max brought to our lives.
(Dedicated to Maximilian Kolbe Newcomb, born 6/1/11, entered eternal life 6/16/11, prenatal T21 diagnosis at 13 weeks, forever in our hearts.)