by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar from the Poughkeepsie Journal:
Dear Annie: When I was in high school, I collected articles that I found inspirational and motivational. One of my most prized pieces appeared in Ann Landers’ column in 1978. It was “Heaven’s Very Special Child” by Edna Massimilla, who had a daughter with severe disabilities. For some reason, I cut out this letter and glued it to a piece of blue construction paper.
I carried it with me through college when I studied to be an occupational therapist. After I graduated, I packed up all of my college “memories” and stored them at my parents’ house. I married and worked for 15 years in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and home health care.
When my third son was born with Down syndrome, he shook, rattled and rolled our world. I had never worked with children with special needs, nor did I have any idea what it was like in “their” world. I was extremely hurt, angry and all the other emotions attached to grief. After three days, I remembered that column and, amazingly, found it at my parents’ house in the first box I opened.
My son is now 20 years old and has just graduated from high school. Yes, we have had trials, challenges and sadness, but we also have had miracles and pure joy. Would you be able to reprint this piece? My copy has yellowed, and this time, I would like to frame it.
Dear Missouri: How prescient of you to have cut this heartwarming piece out of the newspaper when you were only in high school. We are, of course, delighted to reprint it. The first time it appeared, hundreds of readers asked for copies. We know it has touched thousands over the years.
Mrs. Massimilla is a remarkable woman — 97 years old, still writing, playing the organ and helping others.
If you would like more information regarding her work, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and send it to: This Is Our Life Publications, PO Box 21, Hatboro, PA 19040.
“Heaven’s Very Special Child” by Edna Massimilla; copyright 1956
A meeting was held, quite far from Earth
“It’s time again for another birth,”
Said the angels to the Lord above,
“This special child will need much love.”
Her progress may seem very slow,
Accomplishments she may not show
And she’ll require extra care
From all the folks she meets down there.
She may not run or laugh or play
Her thoughts may seem quite far away
In many ways she won’t adapt,
And she’ll be known as handicapped.
So let’s be careful where she’s sent
We want her life to be content
Please, Lord, find the right parents who
Will do this special job for you.
They will not realize right away
The leading role they’re asked to play
But with this child sent from above
Comes stronger faith and richer love.
And soon they’ll know the privilege given
In caring for this gift from heaven.
Their precious charge, so meek and mild
Is heaven’s very special child.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, veteran editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, care of Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.