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A Down's child can bring a family great joy and love

Re: Her story tells of her secret grief, stolen away, by Mary Jo Melone, Aug. 5.

After reading about Beth Lindenberg and spending a sleepless night, I felt compelled to respond. Her final quote in this piece had to do with enlightening others. I would like to do some enlightening, too.

I was 29 years old when I became pregnant with my third child. There was no need for an amniocentesis, so imagine, if you can, my utter shock and despondency when the doctors told me that my daughter had Down's syndrome. I was worried about her health, her quality of life, the impact she would have on my marriage and my two sons, who were only 3 and 5 at the time. These are very real concerns, but I realize now that they were only based in fear, a very real fear of the unknown.

Eight years later, I am thankful that I never had to make the choice that Mrs. Lindenberg was faced with. Not only is my daughter capable of giving and feeling the deepest love, of appreciating beauty and making others more aware of it and of understanding reason more than most, she has us all wrapped around her perfect little finger!

As far as the impact of her on our family, I have only this to say: She is the glue that holds us all together. I showed your article to my sons, now 11 and 14. They just shook their heads and commented on the "stupidity" of some people.

So, that is why I felt the need to respond. Although I am absolutely pro-choice and believe that women should be able to make choices regarding their lives and their bodies, that choice should be an informed one. After all, when we sign up for parenthood, there are no guarantees. And I am sorry that Beth Lindenberg will never know the joy that my family has had ever since the birth of that precious little girl.

Joan M. Morici, Palm Harbor

Learn about Down's syndrome people

Re: Her story tells of her secret grief, stolen away.

I have occasionally differed with Mary Jo Melone, and that's okay. However, I cannot ignore the blatant misinformation she is spreading in her column about Down's syndrome. She writes about a woman who has decided to abort a baby with Down's syndrome because she was afraid of giving birth to "a child who will never be able to love deeply, to appreciate beauty, to understand reason."

Where was this woman's doctor, who should have referred her to a support group, PARC (Pinellas Association for Retarded Children) or any number of parents or agencies?

Down's syndrome children are the most loving individuals in the entire world. I am the mother of a beautiful Down's son. When our neighbor was terminally ill, Jim, on his own, went to the neighbor's wife, pressed his favorite rosary in her hand and said he'd pray for him. This lady is now a volunteer at Nina Harris Exceptional Center. She loves it, and it has opened up a whole new world for her.

Jim, unfortunately, died three years ago at the age of 49. He left a legacy of "love, appreciation and understanding" for anyone who took the time to know him.

We received over 100 sympathy cards extolling his virtues. Down's children and adults are like anyone else. Sure, they are a little slower, but they're also honest, forthright and loving. Jimmie didn't have a mean bone in his body. We miss him immensely.

I invite Mary Jo to tour Nina Harris. Many of the students have Down's syndrome, and they are the darlings of the school. Their potential varies just like that of any of the other students I volunteer with at Nina Harris. I love the children, and they love me unconditionally.

Words really fail me as to how they indeed "love deeply, appreciate beauty and understand reason."

Mary Smith, St. Petersburg

An opportunity was lost

Re: Her story tells of her secret grief, stolen away.

I have a hard time feeling sorry for Beth Lindenberg. Our hearts break when we hear of a mother losing a child to death, but it's hard to feel sorry for someone who made a conscious decision to end the life of her baby before that child even had a chance to be born. The grief she feels is self-induced.

Mrs. Lindenberg is quoted as saying that she was sure that keeping the pregnancy going meant giving birth to a child "who will never be able to love deeply, to appreciate beauty, to understand reason _ that's what makes life worth living."

First, how does she know? Who gave her the godly knowledge to decide what her baby will be able to feel, think or do? And second, what about Mrs. Lindenberg's ability to "love deeply?" Has she ever met a child with Down's syndrome? Obviously not, or she would know how loving and gentle these children are and how much their families adore them.

Is she able to "appreciate beauty"? Apparently not, if she cannot see beauty in the face of a child who may not be perfect by this world's standards but who is perfection personified in the eyes of God and his/her mother. And can she "understand reason"? Only if her perception of reason is putting a child to its death because he/she isn't what she wishes to deal with at this time of her life.

I don't understand. I don't understand being able to pick and choose whether another human being lives or dies. We crucify people who press a lighted match to a toddler's arm or shake a baby to its death in anger, but we say it's perfectly all right to murder a child in its mother's stomach if that child is unwanted, inconvenient or less than perfect. What gives us the right to play God?

Who knows what this child could have taught her older brother about love, compassion, gentleness and respect? Who knows what she could have taught her parents about unconditional love and thankfulness for the gifts God gives us, gifts that are sometimes hidden in the eyes of an "imperfect" child?

I said that I find it difficult feeling sorry for Beth Lindenberg. But that's not true. I do feel sorry for her, sorry because she missed the opportunity to be a mother all over again to a child who would have been so different from her toddler son but so awesome in her own way. She missed the chance to love that child with a powerful God-given love that doesn't come along every day.

Murlene K. Dowling, Crystal River

Try some constructive action

Re: Her story tells of her secret grief, stolen away.

I believe anyone on either side of the abortion debate who read Mary Jo Melone's column must have been moved by the heartbreak this mother-to-be has endured. However, having said that, does this mean we are moved to action and ready to take up collective arms to protect our privacy and also the health and well-being of our children?

It is an old cliche that those folks on the "right to life" side of the abortion debate seem to have the passion, time and intense moral righteousness necessary to protest with the common goal of preventing women from having this legal medical procedure performed. However, the outrage and action when a child is hurt, neglected or murdered by a parent who chose to keep the child but was certainly not equipped to handle the job of parenting are all but non-existent.

On the other hand, those of us on the "pro-choice" side of the abortion issue are also not breaking any records supporting the advocacy of children either. We, as a society, recoil in horror when we hear or read about a child who suffers at the hands of his or her parents or the "system," but we wonder helplessly what we can do. Social outrage without constructive action is futile. Perhaps this explains in part why we rage on both sides of this emotional issue instead of looking at what we can do and acting accordingly, thereby facing our social responsibility and ourselves.

Cindi Lambert, Largo

A conspiracy in the family

I must admit I was confused for a while about the cause of the president's infidelities and generally childish behavior. I remember Hillary Clinton assuring us all that it was nothing more than a right-wing conspiracy. Most people were willing to let it go at that because they had been enlightened by the press about the low-life, right-wing conspiracy.

Now, Hillary tells us the poor man's behavior was caused by a conflict between his mother and grandmother. I couldn't reconcile the two stories from such a trusted source until I realized that his mother and grandmother must have been right-wing extremists. I don't understand why the poor saint didn't just tell us that. Many would have believed.

Andrew Micklos, Clearwater

Misguided grieving

It is hard for me to understand the attitudes of the American public and their fetish with mourning. All I have read in the letters to the editor are expressions of grief for an "American tragedy" and how they need to find closure to the "national mourning" for Caroline and John F. Kennedy Jr. and Lauren Bessette.

I was 6 years old when I saw John Jr. salute his father's casket, and that image has always stuck with me. But I refuse to get on the bandwagon of despair over his disastrous mistake to navigate a plane in weather that made even the most experienced pilots nervous.

Only a few years ago, I was expected to join in the oversaturated media soap opera of Princess Diana's death. While her death was also tragic, it overshadowed the passing of a woman who devoted her life to helping the poor, without the luxury accommodations and perpetual photo ops attached to it.

I still believe that if Mother Teresa had died in that car, and Diana had died under different circumstances, the media coverage would have been the same. The pretty people, regardless of their accomplishments (or lack of them), always get the most coverage.

While my heart goes out to the families, my sentiments go to the hundreds of women and children who die each year as a result of domestic violence. I am saddened and amazed that one man's fatal mistake can overshadow the real "American tragedy."

I wonder why this much media attention and public display of grief are not directed to real solutions so that the families of these women and children can find their closure.

Michael Jones, Clearwater

Another search effort

Re: Unwarranted efforts and honors and How hard would they search? letters, July 24.

Perhaps the authors of these letters concerning the massive search for John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law, and their subsequent burial at sea did not follow the events surrounding Taylor Touchstone, an autistic 10-year-old lost in Turtle Creek Swamp. The Eglin Air Force Base Rangers spent four days in searching, as did a party of over 300. Cost comparisons would certainly be significantly different _ attention and concern, identical.

Perhaps the authors should reconsider their lack of compassion in the matter.

R.A. McDaniel, Beverly Hills

Team sponsorship was admirable

Re: Sponsorship questioned, letter, July 27.

What better endeavor for the U.S. Postal Service than that of sponsoring the courageous Lance Armstrong along with the other heroes who made up our U.S. bicycle team in the Tour de France. I, for one, am proud of them and our U.S. Postal Service.

Joyce Hauer, South Pasadena

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