Legacy: Are We Leaving a Good One for PWDs? What Kind Will They Themselves Have?

Hey there, readers,

It’s been an interesting few days. I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that last Friday, I began my eleventh Beth Moore Bible study. She’s not the only Bible teacher I’ve ever studied under, but she’s my favorite. The study is called Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life. I’ve wanted to take this study because I so often find that the promises made in the Bible, and by Bible teachers, to Christians are tough to “pin down” during the daily grind. So, I’m pretty excited. Finished the first week of homework/discussion today and will have a session every Friday for the next ten weeks.

The bad news is that Mamaw, my maternal grandmother, has died. She passed around 2:00 AM on Tuesday after a mercifully quick bout with a blood clot/stomach issues. Our relationship changed as I grew up, as happens with most grandchildren and grandparents. But very, very few people get to say they had 28 great years with a grandparent, or that they have a living grandparent left (that’s Nana, my grandma on the other side). I already miss my Mamaw but cherish a bunch of good memories.

Both the Bible study and my grandmother’s passing have me considering legacies. How do they tie in? Well, first, a very quick and dirty history lesson. My study began with an overview of the reigns of four Judean kings as told in 2 Chronicles: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Each of these kings reigned during the ministry of the prophet Isaiah, and each had a different relationship with God and His commands. If you read 2 Chronicles 26-28, you’ll find that Uzziah and Jotham walked with God and did quite well as kings, but they allowed laziness, pride, and complacency to influence their reigns. Ahaz and Hezekiah were sort of the extremes of the spectrum. Ahaz was a wicked Judean king who practiced sorcery, worshipped idols, and sacrificed his own son to pagan gods, among other things. Hezekiah was one of Judah’s godliest kings but again, allowed pride to influence his reign. He did repent, but his pride and the ramifications of it, such as cozying up to Babylon, was instrumental in the Babylonian captivity the nation of Israel would experience later. (At this time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Judah to the south and Israel to the north).

Beth Moore’s very first lesson/homework session, Week 1 Day 1, details the reign of Uzziah. He became king at age sixteen, and to a little boy like Isaiah, he would’ve been a hero. This guy was not only a godly king, but a successful farmer, a successful warrior, and a clever inventor. Scripture tells us he built “war machines” that for the time were like the stuff you see in spy flicks. But Uzziah eventually stopped giving God the credit for his successes. He also decided he was going to go into the temple and burn an unauthorized incense offering, even with 81 priests decrying the decision. Big, fat no-no!

God responded to Uzziah’s pride, allowing him to contract leprosy, which he had the rest of his life. Now, does God respond to us, believers and nonbelievers alike this way now? Thanks to the new covenant, no. Just wanted to clear that up. But Uzziah did contract leprosy, and the case was apparently so severe that when he died, his legacy was summed up in three words: “He had leprosy.” That’s the first thing and maybe the last thing folks had to say about this great king.

So, what in heaven’s name does this have to do with people who have disabilities? I bet you can guess. Really, it’s a two-fold issue:

1. Are we teaching our loved ones with disabilities that the first and last thing about them is, “He/she has a disability?” Is the disability the first and only concern? Is it addressed at the expense of strengths, at the expense of that person’s dreams, desires, and abilities? And:

2. What legacy are we leaving PWDs? Are we, consciously or not, teaching them to be ashamed, apologetic, or angry about who they are? Are we behaving as though our living loved ones are already in coffins because “their disability is just too severe”? “He/she will never do/be much”? When they die, what will we remember?

Will it be the disability? Or will it be the person?

I won’t remember my grandmother’s final illness. I will remember her hugs, her gifts, her sweet treats, her love. But suppose the person I lost had been a young cousin with a severe disability? I don’t have one; that’s just an example to prove a point. People without disabilities are generally remembered positively, unless they were just plain horrible and sociopathic. Don’t PWDs deserve the same legacy–living or dead?

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3 thoughts on “Legacy: Are We Leaving a Good One for PWDs? What Kind Will They Themselves Have?

  1. I’m sorry for your loss. I do think that it’s a shame that people with disabilities are so often labeled exclusively by their disability by others… particularly if it is something very visible. As such, perhaps that is how some are remembered in death. I think that’s a shame. A person’s disability does shape who they are, but so does their personality, their life experiences, their goals, their families, friends, acquaintances, etc just like everyone else. The disability should not be more important to us than all of the rest of that.

    • I would say the latter seems worse to me, but both problems are rooted in the same biases. I want to just thank you again for keeping these things in my consciousness… the PWD community is probably one of the most invisible groups of people for this exact reason, and I don’t want to be part of the problem.

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