Linda was a “special delivery.” Doctors were first to use the word “special” when it came to Linda. From the moment of Linda’s delivery, she was labeled “special.” Through the years, hundreds of well-meaning neighbors, friends, and teachers followed suit, maintaining that little Linda was indeed “special.” For Linda, “special” meant she was born with Down syndrome.
It didn’t take Linda long to realize that sometimes being special doesn’t exactly feel that way. All she ever wanted was to be normal, to feel normal. But everyone around her always reminded her that she’d never be like the other kids — she was special, after all. Being special meant she was ridiculed by her classmates and ostracized by a culture that demanded perfection and could stomach little else. Luckily, Linda and her family found their way to a place filled with people who understood grace.
At our church, Linda began her life’s work — redefining “special.” It was obvious that Linda needed our church; she needed a place filled with grace, joy, and God’s love. In those early days, though, none of us knew just how much we needed her.
Despite all odds and obstacles, Linda taught herself to sing, play the piano, and use sign language. Each time Linda played the piano or sang during a service, we could feel the angels bending low to hear her. When she signed a song, we all knew she could hear songs of the kingdom that none of us had ears to hear. Through the years, Linda’s sincere worship taught our congregation how to worship in spirit and in truth.
When a dear congregation member passed away, all of us wanted so badly to honor this woman at a memorial service. People waxed eloquently and at some length — but none of us could quite capture the true spirit of our dear friend. That is, until Linda meekly rose at the back of the church and said, “She always hugged me and told me I was beautiful.” With those 10 words, Linda hit the mark we’d all been aiming for.
Years passed, and Linda’s aging mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t long before Linda was taking care of the mother who’d taken care of her for so long. In the final days, Linda was the only person who could comfort her mother and convince her to eat. They had a special bond that none of us could truly understand. In those last days of her mother’s life, Linda demonstrated nothing short of miraculous love.
Recently Linda was scheduled to sign a song during a church program. With her usual tenacity, she invited her unchurched cardiologist to attend. Much to everyone’s surprise, he actually showed up. Witnessing Linda’s performance and her sincere love for God made a difference in this doctor’s life. Shortly after coming to see her perform, he gave his life to God and hasn’t missed a service since.
Linda has given our church much more than we’ve given her. She works in children’s church every week and delivers a smiling, hugging ministry that can melt even the hardest heart. In our worship services, we hear musical specials almost weekly. Yet it isn’t very often we’re blessed enough to meet and come to know “specials.” When the doctors laid baby Linda in her mother’s arms and labeled her “special,” they had no idea just how right they really were.
Andrew Taylor is a pastor in Elkins, West Virginia.