Friday, July 6, 2012

Overcoming Disabilities

A series of articles in Living with the Scriptures discuss what can be learned from the failures we experience in life. The first article is about Peter and Stephani, two young adults nearing the age of 40, with congenital cerebral palsy. Stephani, more seriously impaired, is not able to use her hands and feet.

Both gave up hope for marriage early on in life, but in May they were married in a Catholic Church in Seoul, with the  presence of many well wishers, and then went to the Philippines for their honeymoon.

Years ago Peter had asked a Religious Sister in his parish to introduce him to  a good woman. She introduced him to two women, one of whom was Stephani, who he fell in love with at first sight. This was not the case with Stephani. She had no desire for marriage; the possibility of friendship yes, but not marriage. On the day they met Peter only stayed briefly, said he was busy and left.

Shortly after, Peter called to explain himself and all went well. Thereafter he would meet Stephani in Seoul, where he worked fixing computers, whenever he had a chance, they would go out to eat and enjoy each others company. Although Peter in the past had no desire for marriage--feeling that life was just too difficult for him--he was impressed with Stephani's intelligence and sensitivity. He asked her to marry him.  

Stephani's  parents were adamantly opposed. Their daughter was not able to use her hands and was in no position to be a wife to anyone. She wasn't able to prepare meals and had even difficulty in eating. No husband would be able to live with this for long, even though Peter assured them that he would take care of the cooking.

It wasn't long before Stephani changed her mind about marriage and decided that she wanted to marry Peter; she asked her parish priest for help. He became the matchmaker with the two parents. He first went down country to the home of Stephani and convinced her parents, and then to Seoul to the home of Peter. Surprisingly, both families agreed and the marriage was on.

A  handicapped child are the parents  biggest suffering. Everybody in the family feels the pain. The handicapped  have the great difficulty of accepting their plight, and often reproach themselves, their parents and even God. Peter had tried to kill himself, and, though Stephani's spiritual life was strong, she also reproached God, which is not surprising.

As children they saw that their future was going to be difficult. Being the butt of jokes when growing up was the hardest to accept. Jesus' cross only lasted a short period of time but their agony continues for life. Peter also said that when Jesus was tortured by the Romans he even took pleasure in the thought, but he quickly realized that Jesus did  not reproach his torturers. 'Falling and getting up again," Peter said, has been their life from the beginning.

The article concludes with the words of another disabled couple, whose life was made into a documentary, Planet of Snail. The husband, who was both deaf and blind, said "I am closing my eyes to see the most valuable things. I am closing my ears to hear the most beautiful sounds. I am waiting in silence to speak the most truthful words."

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