Story #3 – “Rosie”

Our family was blessed with Rosie. Although it has been 9 years since she departed this life, It still brings a smile to my face to think of her or even say her name.

My father was the second oldest of 13 children. Aunt Rosie was the 12th child born into the family. Rosie was born before the awareness, education and early intervention of Down syndrome like today.

When “going to grandma and grandpa’s”, spending time with aunt Rosie was always an important part of the visit.  In the summer we spent many hours outside playing tag in the yard. In the winter we’d spend time in aunt Rosie’s bedroom as she made potholders or listened to records. Our dear little aunt brought everyone so much happiness. Her contentment, cheerful laughter and expressions of love made her a very valued and cherished member of our family.

As children we never realized the wonderful life lessons we were being taught from our family. Aunt Rosie, not realizing her strength would often get carried away during our games of tag. She would push us or grab us, happily laughing as we would scream for help. One of her siblings would run to our rescue and remind Rosie to play nice. Then that same aunt or uncle would take us aside and lovingly remind us of Rosie’s lack of understanding and our need to be patient and forgiving.  They also taught us how to understand Rosie better, and to realize how to slow things down when she would get ‘overly playful’ and become rough. As a child I had no idea that through Rosie we were being taught to be patient, understanding and forgiving. Important values to carry through life.

We were always reminded that due to her condition, her heart being enlarged we would not have her forever. We needed to appreciate and love her now. Another life lesson, not to take someone for granted, love them while you have them.

Although Rosie had special needs, being one of 13 children she still needed to do her share around the house. Her job was to clear the table, and wipe it off after meals. She did it faithfully and with pride.

In 1967, after the loss of our grandparents the question of Rosie’s future place of residence needed to be discussed. I was only 13 but soon realized in the family discussion, the problem was not” where will Rosie go” but “how will we divide it that we all get to have her in our homes”.  Wow, what an example that was, Rosie was not a burden, but a beautiful rose, that everyone wanted.  For many years Rosie would stay at one sibling’s home for several months, move on to another sibling’s home for several months and so on.  Years went by with this arrangement running smooth. However, as Rosie grew older it became difficult for her. She was not as resilient to different routines, her physical health was becoming frail and once again the family was faced with determining a permanent residency for her. Rosie entered a nursing home and enthusiastically announced to everyone, “I’m going to college”. Our dear little Rosie thought she was in college.  When you have 12 siblings, 30 nieces and nephews you’re frequently going on day trips and rarely have a day without a visitor. Her life remained happy and active.

There is only one known photo of Rosie and her 12 siblings. Each and every one of us cherishes that picture. As in everything, Rosie is there, front and center, surrounded by the people who love her.

In 2002 when our Rosie left this world we gathered to celebrate her life. She was honored with a church full of people. We reminisced and shed tears of sadness for our loss, but also tears of joy that she was a very vital part of our lives. We were blessed with her so much longer than we ever imagined. During my sister’s eulogy she thanked our aunts and uncles for all the wonderful life lessons and examples of love they taught us. On behalf of Rosie we have been blessed in so many ways. May God bless these special individuals and all who love them.

~ Alesa, Rosie’s niece

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