Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two parents make headlines - for extremely different reasons

The Hoyts finish the 2014 Boston Marathon (Photo: Boston Herald)
If your inspiration gauge is hovering around empty - and whose isn't from time to time in our world? - then this story will re-fill your tank to the brim.

I know I'll be guilty of repetition in writing about Dick and Rick Hoyt [here] but I just couldn't resist the warm-all-over feeling that they radiate.

Apparently I'm not alone. To quote the Boston Globe's Barbara Matson: "Their story is no less remarkable for having been told over and over again."

Here is a synopsis of it:

Rick was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, unable to walk or talk. His parents ignored the advice of doctors who said Rick’s situation was hopeless, and instead fought to get their son access to all kinds of activities. When he was 15, Rick asked his father, Dick, to push him in a 5-mile fund-raising road race for a local lacrosse player recently paralyzed. As Rick told his father after their first run, "When I’m running I don’t feel handicapped."

Thirty seven years later, the Hoyts have run in more than 1,000 road races, marathons, and triathlons and are known throughout the world for their extraordinary athletic achievements.

Last Monday, the pair ran in the Boston Marathon for what they say will be their last time. Apparently Dick suffers from painful back problems (yes, he is human too!) Just a fraction of his devotion to his son would do me.

While we probably all pale beside Dick Hoyt, the mother in the horrific tale below will surely have you donning a halo - and a well-deserved one.

Three of Tania Clarence's four children were born with the genetic disease spinal muscular atrophy. On April 22, all three were found dead in their home and she was arrested on suspicion of smothering them. (Read more via Daily Mail UK.)

Ms. Clarence has been described in the media as "a talented graphic designer", a "devoted mother". A relative who saw her in October 2013 said "She was absolutely normal and fine and coping."

Which leaves me wondering whether similar demons lie dormant in some of us just waiting for a trigger to ignite them.

Bear in mind that many of us have far less help with our children than the Clarences did. They lived in a seven bedroom, 3 story house that had been recently renovated to accommodate wheelchairs with features that included a lift and ramps. A nanny and other carers were employed  by the family.

And the children weren't nearly as profoundly affected as some of our children are: "Neighbours said they had last seen the children playing in the front garden on Sunday ‘larking about’."

C. hasn't done any larking in all her nineteen years.

No doubt most of us are capable of neither Dick's nor Tania's actions. We are the silent majority of parents of profoundly disabled children; we plod through each day as best we can.

Dick Hoyt can encourage us to persevere with our struggle. But how will Tania Clarence influence us?

True, she is not the first parent to have murdered her disabled children. But, from the reports I've read, she seemed to be grounded, competent and coping well with her situation. Was she working too hard to achieve perfection? Was the "normal" she aimed for an unrealistic goal? Is that why she snapped?

Whatever lessons we learn from this tragedy, I do hope that the murders will be recognized as just that. The praise and compassion expressed for Tania are likely to serve as her defense in court. Along with an emphasis on the severity of the victims' disabilities they could achieve an acquittal.

What would such a verdict tell the world about the value of our children's lives?

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