Blue Skies Comin' Up!

Tammy was Deb’s older sister by a year, but she was born with Down’s Syndrome and so, when Debby came along, Tammy developed by learning from her little sister. Debby and Tammy were always very close and when I entered the family, Tammy adopted me right in. So much so that, of all the people I’ve lost in my life, none has hurt as much as this one. My world will be off its axis until we're back with her in Heaven.

Tammy stayed with us sometimes for a month or so to let her mom & dad have some time to go away together or just rest. When we lived on the road in the RV, she loved to travel with us. One of her favorite things was to go to camps with us back in the day when we would speak at youth camps all summer. We would introduce her and, rather than stand where she was and wave to the students, she would come rushing up on stage and grab as much time as she could as she did her princess parade wave to the audience. She would grab every kid’s heart over each of those weeks. In fact, she would often get fan mail from kids for months after those camps.

Whenever she was with us, there was a sermon I would preach about her called, “We’re So Retarded!”  I would explain to the kids that, when Tammy was born, it was back in the day when the doctor would tell the parents that their child was mentally retarded and they should put her in an institution, as she’d never become anything. My mother and father-in-law set that doctor straight real quick and said they would be raising their daughter to become all the Lord had created her to be!

As they raised her, they used the word “retarded” as a descriptive term, rather than a negative one. That way, when it was time for Tammy to go to school, if the kids called her retarded, it wouldn’t have a negative impact on her. Genius, right? So she grew up using that word just like any other adjective. In fact, she would throw people off when she would walk right up to them and, with complete pride, say, “Hi! I’m Tammy, Debby’s retarded sister!”

So in the sermon, I talked to the students about how skewed our perspective is on the things of this life. When people look at kids like Tammy, they look at them with pity and a sense of sadness about their “handicap.” However, those who have a Tammy in our life, know better.

The Lord says the two most important things we are to do are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. I have NEVER met anyone who could do those two things like Tammy. That girl LOVED her Lord. She knew His word, she loved to worship Him, and she trusted Him implicitly.

I remember when Debby’s dad had his heart transplant. When they were about to take him into the operating room, we gathered around him as a family and prayed that God would give him the strength to make it through the surgery and the long recovery. He was so weak and, back then, heart transplants were still a high-risk procedure. When it got to Tammy’s turn to pray she said, “Lord, I’m gonna worry about Dad for two minutes and then I’m gonna let You worry about Him.”

We all went to the waiting room, not sure if we would see him alive again. We were all very emotional and sharing our worries as we noticed Tammy pacing around and looking at her watch. We told her the surgery was going to take many hours, so she doesn’t need to watch the time. She said, “I’m not through yet.” She paced a few more steps and then said, “There. Two minutes are up.” At which point, she literally went and took out her coloring book and crayons and began to color and sing hymns with not one ounce of worry. Talk about feeling convicted!

As far as loving others as you love yourself - Tammy could, literally, instantly love people. Before Alzheimer’s took over her brain these last three years, I had NEVER heard her say one negative, critical thing about a single person unless they were treating someone else poorly. She was able to love others because she loved herself. She was proud of who she was and how God had divinely created her. No shame, no comparing herself to others, no body dysmorphia. She saw herself and everyone else as the Father created them to be.

So the way I see it, from God’s perspective, we’re retarded, not her! How different this world would be if we could be more highly developed like she was.

Tammy health has been in a quick decline these last couple of years and Debby has gone to Texas often to help take care of her. She was able to be with Tammy this week and hold her hand as she fell asleep to wake up to eternity. We’re so grateful the Lord worked it out for her to be there. I’m literally doing everything I can right now to keep from bursting out in a sob on this plane as I write this and ache to see that girl again. That ache is even more so for Debby and her mom, Alice, and sister, Amy. Please keep them in your prayers.

We’ve set up a fund under Forever Families called the “Blue Skies” fund in Tammy’s memory. If you would like to give to that, you can go to the Causes page of our website at: http://foreverfamilies.com/Causes/blue-skies-fund/

Attached are the words to a song I wrote about Tammy. I’ll close with that…

 

Blue Skies
© 2015 Jeff McElroy

 

Verse 1:
It happened every morning
It was how she’d start her day
Little Downs face pressed against
The kitchen windowpane

And with eyes of anticipation
A smile across her face
Sun or rain, or sleet or snow
Her outlook never changed
As she’d say…

Chorus:
“Blue skies comin’ up today!”
Ain’t it sweet what His angels say
I see the storms that life can brew
She sees beyond them where the sky’s still blue
Where the Son still shines on you
Blue skies comin’ up today

Verse 2:
Some people, they’re just special
With a different point of view
They look at life and laugh and love
The way the good Lord wants us to

Tammy never worried
Not that she didn’t understand
She could just lay down her fears
As her faith would take its stand
In His hands…

Chorus:
“Blue skies comin’ up today!”
Ain’t it sweet what His angels say
I see the storms that life can brew
She sees beyond them where the sky’s still blue
Where the Son still shines on you
Blue skies comin’ up today

Bridge:
And I find it so ironic
How the Downs always look up
While the rest of us just wallow
In our lives of half-filled cups
How could this world be different
If we’d just lift our gaze
And our hope proclaimed
As we say…

Blue skies comin’ up today
Ain’t it sweet what His angels say
I see the storms that life can brew
But I see beyond them where the sky’s still blue
Where the Son still shines on you
Yeah...
Blue skies comin’ up today