Heroes are somewhat in short supply these days, say many disappointed and disillusioned folks. Perhaps, although various tragedies have included heroes who helped soften the intensities of loss and devastation. Heroic deeds are often accomplished by unlikely individuals, leaving onlookers marveling at such bravery. My life has included many people I admire, and I’m grateful for their examples of living gracefully even with circumstances that would challenge the best of us.

Sometimes it’s a heroine who makes such a difference to others. One who loves dressing in party clothes, reading happily ever after tales, and isn’t afraid to share her preferences.  My young heroine continually opens my mind and heart in ways I never considered before she arrived.

She was born four years ago, on Sept. 13, my sixth grandchild. Entering this world as a seemingly “normal” newborn with family and friends celebrating, she provided precious experiences when all seemed well. But there were some anomalies like her 12 fingers and 12 toes. And during the weighing and measuring, a quick examination indicated concern about muscle tone.

Named Brinley Mae, she was snuggly and sweet, almost as if she didn’t want to cause a fuss for anyone. We were unaware of her many challenges. A close friend and I left the hospital realizing surgery would be needed eventually to remove the extra digits, but that seemed uncomplicated.

The next morning my daughter tearfully told me on the phone, “there are so many things wrong with her.” I can still hear her voice with its profound sadness. Not knowing an exact diagnosis complicated treatment protocols. Numerous caring specialists examined Brinley, but tentative suggestions and regretful responses of “We aren’t sure” provided little comfort.

Spending time in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) is life changing for the infant and family. My heart would pound and my stomach wrench as we walked through the doors. The vast unknowns were beyond comprehension, but the staff was very kind. Two weeks and two days later, Brinley joined her parents, sister, and brother at home. Some six weeks later she began therapy at Easter Seals of DuPage County and Fox Valley Region that literally changed her life and continues today.

I’ve been with Brinley and her parents for various surgeries, worrisome check ups, numerous tests, and some doctor appointments where Brinley responds as though it’s a social visit. She’s charming, engaging, and pays little attention to deficits in her life. Her proverbial cup is filled to the brim and overflowing. At preschool she wears a helmet as protection against numerous falls. No helmet, braces or the walkers she formerly used deter her. She lives joyfully the “It is what it is” reality. There’s no time in Brinley’s day for self-pity.

Her diagnosis remains incomplete. Whatever the challenges, and there are various ones both current and future, Brinley will either triumph or find ways of coping. She has taught me volumes about acceptance, joy, tenacity, and hundreds of reasons why gratitude should fill my soul.

She’s a loving, happy child who derives pleasure in nearly every social event. Her contagious smiles and accepting attitude inspire others and me.

Heroines sometimes scale walls or fight injustices. And sometimes they teach about living life to the fullest, in spite of challenging circumstances.

Sandra Dempsey Post



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