“I Felt Humble beside Him,” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 66–67
On a mild winter day in February, when I was 10 years old, my mother was rushed to the hospital to deliver my brother several weeks before his due date.
That afternoon I wandered into my parents’ bedroom. Noticing the bare white cradle at the foot of the bed, I laced a yellow ribbon around its edges and tied a bow on top. Then I began to explore drawers full of tiny baby things: pure-white diapers, flannel receiving blankets, hand-me-down nightgowns, and a package of new undershirts.
At one point I discovered a small red football jersey. As I held it up, I daydreamed about how my little brother would grow up, play games with neighborhood boys, and later move on to things like football. Feeling a thrill of pride, I imagined myself teaching him everything a big sister could. I could hardly wait for him to grow up.
Rick was an uncommonly good baby. We all seemed to revolve around him. Whenever he would cry in his weak, high-pitched little voice—which wasn’t very often—we would all race to comfort him. For the first few weeks, we stood in line to feed him, but the novelty soon wore off because it took him so long to eat. He always seemed too sleepy to care about eating.
As summer approached, Mom seemed to spend more and more time with the baby. I didn’t mind the extra work around the house, but I dreaded feeding little Rick. Listless and unwilling to support his own body weight, he put a heavy strain on my arms. When I propped him up to burp him, I could feel the entire weight of his drooping head against my neck.
I could sense, even at my young age, that it was becoming a battle to keep Rick alive. He seemed too weak and fatigued to respond to our attentions. With each passing day, we became more aware of the shadow enveloping our household.
One Sunday afternoon my mother held the baby in the rocking chair and wept. Dad stood by and placed a tender hand on her heaving shoulder. We children were sent to church without them, but I could not concentrate on worshiping. That evening, after Mom had put the baby to bed, I impulsively took her hand and asked, “Mom, what’s wrong with Rick?”
Mom flashed a helpless look at Dad, and they gathered us around the sofa. Mom’s voice was tender as she began to explain Down’s syndrome. My parents seemed relieved to be talking openly about Rick’s condition. They told us that he was a very special spirit.
Later I went alone to the bedroom to look at the baby, wondering how he would seem to me after what I had learned. I pushed the bedroom door open and drew my breath in sharply—I was afraid. I approached the crib and looked down at the tiny figure nestled inside.
As I watched him, I could feel the confusion and fear begin to leave me. Rick was helpless and listless, yet I could sense that he was a choice child of God. I realized that a strong spirit of God was with him. Suddenly I felt small and humble beside him.
As Rick grew, he brought joy to our home. We pampered and adored him. We laughed over his little mishaps and rejoiced over his small performances and accomplishments. Sometimes we misunderstood him, but even those times brought our family closer together.
Rick is an adult now. His purity, innocence, and complete faith and trust continue to bring us joy. We don’t love Rick for his wits, talents, or abilities, nor do we glory in his accomplishments or worldly stature. Rick merits our love simply because he is himself; as a member of our family, he is unique and precious in our sight. This, I suppose, is much like the love our Father in Heaven has for us—and the love we should have for one another.