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  My daughter Misty Angelita was a total surprise to me when she was carried off the plane to my waiting arms. At two-and-a-half, she was absolutely limp, could not sit up, roll over, hold anything in her hand, respond to anything, or eat from a spoon. I did not know she was blind for a long time, but she was. I think now, twenty-three years later, that she was also severely autistic, and perhaps even deaf. But when I adopted her, I was only told she was retarded, and had cerebral palsy. Nothing else. She was a beautiful little girl, but absolutely helpless. Yet she touched many people's hearts and lives. I used to speak at adoption conferences, so thousands of people heard her story, back when it was just beginning. I always brought pictures of my children. Misty's very helplessness drew people's interest. And her delicate, lovely little face. Most had never heard of a child like this one. None would have wanted to adopt her themselves. Yet Misty proved to be a little missionary, as the years went by, teaching me many things that God obviously wanted me to learn, and leading me closer to His heart.

  The first two-and-a-half years I was Mistyís mother, she expressed only horror at my every touch. She was terrified of everyoneís touch. Even if I talked softly to her before I touched her, every time she was touched, her arms would fly out like a startled newborn, she would shudder, her mouth would drop open, her eyes widen in terror, and her whole body would quiver with what appeared to be panic, while she shrieked, in a very high, tremulous voice. It was as though she did not ever remember being touched before, and it was a petrifying experience. She did not know what it meant. I believe that is how it was. She was not able to remember this happening ever before. She came three thousand miles to me with one paper bag of faded, ragged baby clothes of different sizes, and every last item was spattered with dried baby food and spit-up. I threw them away. To me, this indicated that she had not been loved. It is possible that she did not have any love or cuddles in the two-and-a-half years of life before me. Perhaps she came to me from a crib in some back room, and the experience of touch was brand new. Or perhaps her brain damage was just so great, that it took her five years to learn to remember what the experience of touch meant.

  I tried so hard to relate to what she must be feeling. Just think for a moment. Imagine sitting peacefully by yourself, and suddenly a fierce bear you didnít know was there, takes your head into its mouth, snarling. I would feel utter terror. I think that is how Misty perceived all touch, until she was five years old. Every diaper change, every bath, every time I carried her from one place to another, she shrieked, terrified, in her high, piercing voice, and quivered violently. It was very discouraging and sad to me. Yes, it was heartbreaking. After the first seven months, during which I rocked her gently and quietly for hours every evening, and she shrieked, and quivered, I began to wonder if she could ever grow to accept my touch, or be able to know me in any way, all her life. I stopped holding her all evening then, but continued my gentle touching - the same way every time, so that maybe repetition could reach her. I patted her tummy, and rolled her body back and forth in her crib, the same way every day.

  But Misty was my daughter. My little girl. My beautiful little princess. She was a tiny, slender, twenty pound two year old when I adopted her. She acted like a newborn baby, except she could accept no comfort. And God had sent her. I knew that beyond a shadow of any doubt. I was determined to grow to love her, even if she never could know me. I asked God to help me learn to love her for Him.

  It wasnít long before I began to love her very deeply. I learned to love, expecting nothing in return. This was unlike the way humans who can relate to each other, normally develop love. This was pure, unconditional love. The way God loves us.

  Simply by being alive, and needing my help in every single thing, Misty taught me to slow down, pay attention to her body language, notice her emotions, and use these things to try to pinpoint anything that might be wrong. She taught me by her helplessness, and lack of ability to return love, to love without expectations. I found a poster that said it all. It was above her crib, and said ďAll my tomorrows depend upon your love.Ē I wish I could find that poster again. Every time I read it, I would look down, tucking my quivering, horrified baby girl into bed, and know that it was true. I knew that if I didnít feed her, she would die. If I didnít change her diaper, she would get sores. If I didnít take care of her needs, she would become ill, and waste away. Her doctors in the clinic advised me to send her back. But I was certain that if I didnít keep her, she would never have a chance to be loved. I knew that no one else could ever care as much as I, about learning to know her, and helping her to know love. Giving her back was never, for one moment, an option. She was a human child, with a soul, a spirit. She was precious in Godís eyes. She was mine just as though I had given birth to her. She was staying.

  God gave me a very strong mother instinct for this helpless baby. Caring for her became a tender experience, even though she was so full of fear. I kept her wheelchair near me, and watched her with great interest, trying to figure her out. Strangely, she showed much joy when alone, whether in her chair, on the waterbed, cuddled in the overstuffed rocking chair, on the floor, or in her own bed. She would burst into the most enchanting peals of bell-like giggles, for nothing that I could see at all. She would laugh and laugh, and I began to think that God was tickling her. God was touching her spirit, and giving her great gifts of joy. I was so grateful, since humans were unable to reach her. Some doctor told me it was probably seizures. Well, it certainly was NOT. If I gently touched her while she was giggling, she stopped abruptly. Always. You cannot stop a seizure. No, it was Mistyís Heavenly Father. God wasnít going to let her experience life with no joy. So He gave her joy Himself.

  When Misty was five, she began to be able to respond to my physical contact, with smiles and giggles! I was enormously thrilled! From then on, I felt as though she loved me. Misty had learned to trust me. Misty knew me at last, therefore she did not fear me any more. Misty grew to enjoy my rolling her long, limp body back and forth. She loved me patting her tummy, saying ďtickle-tickle-tickle!Ē Giggling for me, was, for Misty, the only expression of love she was able to give. She could not see me. She could not know when I smiled at her. Her world was very small, and her understanding of her world was absolutely miniscule. But she had learned to feel my love, in my warm, tender hands. She had learned to recognize my love, and perhaps my smiles, in my gentle, loving voice. And she loved me. She loved me with all the ability that God gave her.

  Then she began to giggle for her sisters and brothers who took time to do the same things I did. This was amazing, and thrilling for them! And my heart was tender toward my warm hearted children, in this outpouring of unconditional love. God had used their sister Misty, to teach them empathy, and pure compassion.

  We often talked about what it would be like, getting to know Misty so much better in Heaven, when Christ comes, where she would be able to see, run, talk to us, play and sing, and do all the things she could not do here on earth. And, of course, doubtless, much more, like all of us will. We were all aware that she was Godís child, and He loved her as much as He loved us. So we treasured her too.

  All the rest of her life, she continued bursting into laughter any time, for no apparent reason. And her sisters and brothers would look, and say ďGod is tickling Misty again!Ē

  And I believe He was!

My shooting star
you flashed into my living
lighting my way
into a richer place
you gave your need
for me to learn to nurture
I grew to love you
just the way you were.

My shooting star
you changed the path I wandered
I loved your smiles
and all your tender grace
you gave your warmth
to bless my broken spirit
I came to love you
just the way you were.

My shooting star
my daughter - oh my child
you gentled me
with sweetness in your face
you gave your time
to teach me to move slowly
I'll always love you
just the way you were.

2004 Rosemary Gwaltney

  Much more of Misty's story can be found by clicking her picture on the home page.