3 Things I Learned From Having A Loved One With Down Syndrome

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone laugh as much as my aunt Terry.

She had a sparkle in her eye that never wavered.

She didn’t let Monday mornings, gossip or a lack of money define the course of her day or her life.

Aunt Terry was born with Down syndrome and an ability to smile at life. As a result of that, she relied solely on her ability to give love and to receive it in return.

Everyone could stand to learn a few things from such a delicate and beautiful way of life.

1. Circumstances don’t define you, unless you allow them to.

In life, it's all too easy to let circumstances swallow us whole.

For instance, when the guy you like didn’t call you back, you were passed for the promotion or you locked your keys inside your car.

At times, we allow these minor life events to define the course of a day, not realizing how precious a single day truly is.

My aunt never lived this way. She didn’t sweat the small stuff, and because of that, she had a greater grasp on the “big stuff.”

2. Family comes first.

When I was younger, I dreaded being around my family.

I’m talking 11 years old, kicking and screaming because I had to miss a movie with my friends to make it to Uncle Jerry’s 70th birthday party.

But lucky for me, this didn’t last long.

Because of my aunt, I realized at the ripe, typically blissfully ignorant age of 13 that family, and every moment spent with family, is special.

She was always the one to notice when a family member was missing, and it was almost as if she lived for the next time we would all be together.

I fed off that, and as a result, I grew up allowing my dad to drop me off in the front of the movies, instead of around the corner.

I also took the initiative to bridge the gaps of geography by calling my family members every day.

Without my aunt’s enthusiasm for unity and recognition of our bond, this pivotal piece of wisdom might have surpassed me.

3. Love isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

I’m talking love in any of its forms, including love for a SO, love for family, love for friends and love for yourself.

There's nothing else worthy of over-the-top effort, and there's nothing in the world that skims its importance.

My aunt told anyone and everyone she loved him or her every single day.

One thing I learned from her is to never allow love to become an unspoken staple. It's essential that the immensity of such a feeling be shown or spoken of every day.

One incredible thing about my aunt is she was never frightened by the uncertainity of the future. The fear of ambiguity and the word “doubt” were emotions she couldn’t comprehend.

Because of this, she lived every moment to the fullest, giving everyone she cared about everything she had to give.

In order to vocalize love, we must allow ourselves to truly feel it.

I’m not talking clutching onto the handle bars of a roller coaster. I’m talking front row, hands in the air, embracing the free fall.

The only thing more detrimental than getting crushed by love is bumping shoulders with it on a crowded street and not saying hello.

Life can be overly hectic.

Sometimes, we're so busying stretching ourselves and trying to reach our full capacity, we forget everything else in life is secondary to the strength of this emotion.

Nothing brings more success, more stress, more fulfillment and more knowledge than love, and I never would’ve had the ability to live this notion if I hadn’t been loved by such a selfless individual.

Overall, I’m eternally grateful I was given the opportunity to love someone with Down syndrome.

The amount of grace and eagerness for life she exhibited not only touched my life with the most soothing of hands, but it also gave me wisdom beyond my years.