Sunday, August 15, 2004

Angels Among Us

Published August 2004

About 15 years ago, I met a young man, Adam, who went to our church. He was very close to his family, seemingly always cheerful, and had a smile for me every time I saw him. He was openly affectionate to his parents, giving them hugs and saying hello to everyone he met. I found myself staring at him wondering to myself, “what is he so happy about all the time”? Each week I would look to see if he was at Mass. He was so demonstrative in his affections and completely unashamed by his own joy, I wanted to see what he would teach me next. When I didn’t see him, I felt disappointment. I looked forward to the next time I would say hello to him. Adam was 16 and he was born with Downs’ Syndrome. But for some of the facial features that are typical with Downs’, he was like me in every way, except one thing, he lacked cynicism. I admired him and envied him at the same time. We moved out of the area and I think about him now and again. He and I would have been lifelong friends I’m sure.

I was at my favorite lunchtime cafĂ© 8 years ago, when I asked the guy across the counter from me who made the best big salad in the world, what happened to his co-worker who usually worked the espresso machine. “She’s out –something medical” Won’t be back for three weeks.” I was concerned and he hinted without saying too much that she was 4 months pregnant with a ‘Downs kid’ and was “taking care “it”. I knew what he meant by that. I went back to my office and cried. I cried for her and I cried for the baby. I hardly knew her but for the fabulous lattes she brewed. I never saw her again. Someone said she never got over what happened to her. I understood and wished somehow that she could have known Adam.

One month ago, a very dear friend of mine Barb, gave birth to a baby girl. Her name is Madeline. The moment I met Madeline, I fell in love with her. She is the most beautiful girl with lips like an angel, and a ‘Gerber baby’ wisp of hair with the pudgiest cheeks you’d ever want to eat! I look forward to getting to know her as she grows up. I told Barb that I can see her as young girl already, in pig tails, full of joy and expectation to see her friends, making sure that all get a warm hello and a hug. I see her working at Starbucks someday, and I imagine all of us meeting there to have coffee just so when can see her and be near her. She will be the one we will look to when all seems cynical and hopeless. I admire my friend Barb and I envy her at the same time. Two of her seven children have special needs, but Maddie’s special gifts will more than outweigh any of her special needs.

Yesterday I drove threw my neighborhood and saw a new neighbor I never noticed before waving frantically at me like we were old friends. I looked at her and waved back. She had the most wonderful smile. She had a spring in her step. She not only waved to me and my kids while out getting her exercise, she waved to the people driving behind me too. She changed my mood for the entire evening. I must find a way to formally meet her, the next chance I get. I have a feeling we’ll be lifelong friends.

Yes, God created the angels for heaven but the most special angels, the ones with Downs’ Syndrome, he created for the earth.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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