Sunday, September 21, 2008

A story of courage and love

Standing on my head carries the story of a man in the United States who died trying to rescue his son who had fallen into a septic tank. Joseph Vander Woude, 20, had Down's Syndrome and was the youngest of seven children. What has happened to this family is an appalling tragedy, but as The Washington Post described it, Thomas Vander Woude, a committed Catholic and loving father, "died where he spent so much time living: at his son's side."

What is most compelling about this story is the courage and devotion Thomas showed for his family and the love there clearly was between the generations, particularly for Joseph. Reading the story, I kept thinking of the numerous disability-related websites that trot out the mantra of 'parental choice' to end the life of a child with a disability and the 90% of Down's Syndrome children who are killed before birth. Thomas Vander Woude had freedom of choice and he made the choice to protect his disabled son's life even at the cost of his own.