Updated: May 19, 2021
I should have known.
I should have known by watching my children, over the years, interact with and love their special needs brother, Robert, that each of them would grow up to be a compassionate, generous, and loving adult. In my heart, I guess I always knew this, but it has been incredible to watch it play out.
Throughout this blog, I will be sharing all my children’s stories, but today I’m focusing on my second daughter, Eliotte. Why? Because I believe her love and care for Robert helped shape her into the magnificent woman of God she is today. From the epic wheelchair dance parties to the SpongeBob television show marathons—to the G-tube feedings leading to the adult diaper changes, down the dark road of seizure intervention—and to the all-embracing hugs, Eliotte not only showed up, but planted herself firmly in Robert’s life demonstrating a depth of character and selflessness often seen in special needs siblings.
Even when Eliotte was young, it was clear to me that she was special and headed for the success she has achieved as an artist, friend, sibling, loving wife, and new mother to a beautiful baby boy. Perhaps the greatest indicator of her future impact was the care and devotion she showed Robert. The passion and determination she used to light up Robert’s days with her entertaining personality and enthusiasm, she still instinctively uses to shine as a professional in the music industry. I wrote the following about Eliotte years ago:
I have yet to see Eliotte demonstrate her full potential in many areas of her life. She just keeps setting the bar higher. But, she comes awfully close to her highest mark when I see her with our son, Robert. The youngest of our five, a twin, and severely disabled with a very rare form of epilepsy, Robert is so blessed to have Eliotte as his sister. She believes against all odds, and I mean all, that Robert’s life is not over with his medical diagnosis, but rather an incredible opportunity to show the world a miracle. She holds my arms high when they fall from caring for his daily needs and refuses to allow a day to go by without making him smile. Robert adores Eliotte because he knows that when she comes into the house, no matter how late from some activity, she will squeal his name with joy!
Like Eliotte, all my children have been profoundly shaped by their loving relationships with their little brother. As they have shared their testimonies with me, I have been overwhelmed by God’s grace and the way He moved in my family through Robert. I can’t wait to share my children’s stories with you in their own words; I hope you will find them as encouraging as I do. I believe the care siblings give to one another—especially to their siblings with special needs—has a profound influence on the character of the able-bodied siblings and how they will positively impact the world.
I want to hear your stories and others do too.
Have you seen siblings in your family or in your community who are doing their part to make Life Unexpected better? I hope you will write to me with your thoughts and stories. I would love to share them in this safe space to encourage other siblings.
As you continue to witness the impressions your children’s interactions with their struggling siblings have on their own lives, I’m sure you will come to know what I “knew” all along.
Happy National Siblings Day!
Listening Library: I Am (Jill Phillips)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest, And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest The tide can change so fast, but I will stay The same through past, the same in future, the same today
I am constant, I am near I am peace that shatters all your secret fears I am holy, I am wise I'm the only one who knows your hearts desires Your hearts desires Oh weary, tired, and worn Let out your sighs And drop that heavy load you hold, 'cause mine is light I know you through and through There's no need to hide I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide
Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
Songwriters: Jill Phillips
I Am lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.