Heath is a nine year old boy with Down Syndrome. Unlike Brady who was listed on Reece's Rainbow before he was transferred and 're-discovered' after we arrived at Aaron's internat, Heath was unknown to the outside world. Sadly, we still know very little about him. All we know is that for some reason, his file was not dumped in the 'unadoptable' file and when Brady's file was re-discovered, Heath's file also surfaced. The director agreed to list him on Reece's Rainbow. She doubts anyone would want him. We pray with all our hearts that she is wrong.
He is a tiny little guy in stature. His feet barely make it to the edge of his shared wheelchair. He is in the lowest functioning group. The age range of boys is 6 to 18 with only 2 caretakers to minister to the needs of 20 very needy boys. Since Heath is so little and quiet, he is easily lost in the chaos that constantly surrounds him.
Rob wrote this tribute to Heath. It touched me deeply when I read it. It says everything that needs to be said for this little lost boy.
If you've ever read A Tale of Two Cities, written by that master craftsman of the English sentence, Charles Dickens, then you might remember that Book the First was entitled "Recalled to Life." As the story opens, an English banker named Jarvis Lorry is on his way to bring home an old client, Dr. Manette. Manette has just been released from the Bastille, a well-known prison in Paris. His supposed "crime" was knowing too much about the misdeeds of a French aristocrat. For this, he was confined to a prison cell and isolated from all human contact for eighteen years, losing his wife, his daughter, his friends, his medical practice, and everything else he had.
As Lorry rides the mail coach from London toward the ferryboat at Dover, he wonders what renewed freedom will be like for Manette after so many long, empty years in prison. Lorry imagines himself asking Manette, "You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?"
"Long ago," Manette replies.
"I hope you care to live?" Lorry wonders.
Manette responds, "I can't say."
When I think of Heath, the little Reece's Rainbow boy whom we saw at Aaron's internat, I'm reminded of "Recalled to Life." Unlike Aaron and Brady, Heath is not a recent transfer. He is nine years old. Like Dr. Manette, Heath has lived in captivity for a long time. Aaron and Brady both retain the vivacity of life at the baby houses. Heath has lost his. He has lived for at least three years in the stifling boredom of institution life. In all of that time, he has been given nothing of his own. He has not seen a book or a toy. He has never been gathered into anyone's loving arms. Given his utter lack of stimulation, it is not surprising that he lives an unstimulated life. He sits in a daze. He stares at the walls. His eyes still hold the light of life, but they appear to have lost all interest in what they see.
When Mr. Lorry finally reaches Dr. Manette, he finds his client in an even worse state than he expected. Manette doesn't remember anything about his past or where he has been, and has become obsessively involved in a craft he has learned as an escape from drudgery-- shoemaking. He is so obsessed with making shoes that he can't be bothered to meet his daughter, born just after he went into prison, now a beautiful young woman of eighteen. His voice is so weak from disuse that he is difficult to hear. Lorry and the daughter take him back to England and begin the long, difficult task of "recalling him to life." Soon, Manette begins to recover and accepts the affection of his daughter.
I see Heath in the same way. I think that Heath's rescuers will probably find his condition to be worse than they hoped. They, too, will have a long, difficult task. They will have to stimulate him over and over, and for a long time they may receive little or no response. Eventually, I hope, they will be able to recall Heath to life, and he will be able to give and receive the love that he's been denied.
For a time, things appear to be going fine for Dr. Manette and his daughter. Then, suddenly, he is confronted with something from his past, and he suffers a relapse. His daughter awakens one morning to find that he has returned to his shoemaking, and is once again obsessed with it to the exclusion of all else. The patient, devoted Mr. Lorry has to take away Manette's shoemaking tools and destroy them in order to break his self-destructive obsession.
Will Heath, too, be subject to relapses? I think it's possible. It's hard to erase so many days and months of damaging inactivity. Heath's rescuers will probably have to look on, heartbroken, as he takes two steps forward and then one step back on his path to recovery. They may have to take desperate measures to cut him off from reminders of his miserable past.
Whoever rescues Heath will need love that is like God's love. Fatherhood changed my understanding of God's love. When I became a father, I began to understand why God's word compares God's love to fatherly love over and over. It is because the love that parents feel for their children is the most unselfish form of love that unredeemed humanity can ever experience. Even the ungodly manage to want good things for their children. God's love is better. God loves us not because we earn His love with our good deeds, but because we are His children. Godly parents love their children not for what they do or accomplish, but simply because they are who they are-- our children. Heath's rescuers will be heroic examples of God's self-sacrificing love.
I will say one more thing about Heath's rescuers: I believe that when they go to get Heath, they will be doing more than recalling him to life. They will literally be saving his life. There is such a thing as the will to live, and it is as important a vital medical statistic as heart rate and blood oxygen level. Based on my very limited observations, I think it's possible that Heath is losing his will to live, and that if no one rescues him soon, he will one day leave that internat on a stretcher on his way to death in a hospital bed. He is a heartbreaking case, one of the world's very poorest and neediest children. I pray that the Lord will send the right people for him soon. Then, someday, they may ask poor Heath:
"I hope you care to live?"
And he may one day answer, "With all of my heart."