Modified passage originally written by Linda M. Boelter
I love my sister. Of the 5 children my parents had, I like to tell people she was the best of us and it’s true. Raquel was an example of how intellectual capacity can’t measure of the goodness in someone.
Raquel was born in a time when the term used was mentally retarded. I think we have become more kind and understanding since then. When Raquel was born, the doctors advised my parents that she should live in an institution as was typical at the time. Mom and Dad would not hear of it. In their minds and hearts, it was ridiculous to think this was even considered. She was the 4th, and I was the 5th child. Even though I was the younger sister, my Mom taught me that it was my responsibility to look after Raquel from a very early age. Mom actually did this until she was no longer able due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Raquel was never shy and always outgoing and accepting of others in spite of being teased by others for her developmental disability. She passed through her school years with very caring and understanding teachers in grade school.
Sometimes Raquel struggled to understand everything that was going on around her, but she communicated well in her own way even if her vocabulary was not up to the level of others. She expressed concern for others and cared for others’ feelings. She was generous.
Raquel loved going to DP day program (which eventually became Continuum), and couldn’t bear to miss a day. She would be really upset about having to stay home when it was necessary. Until her illness prevented her, she also LOVED Special Olympics Colorado and in particular, the bowling and track and field.
At day program, she found a niche in making cards, as you can see in the video below. It gave her purpose and the praise and acknowledgement she received from the caring people there only encouraged her more. She took pride in providing cards for all occasions to all the people at DP/Continuum.
Each card was special to her. And I tell you what, when they put that desk in that room for her card making project, she was thrilled! Eventually, when she passed away, the staff and fellow day program participants used some of her pre-made cards to express their feelings about her to me. Afterwards, the staff gave me some cards that Raquel had created that were still blank on the inside. I have sent them out on occasion, but only to the most special people in my life that understand the meaning of those cards.
Raquel also loved going to all the DP parties and I LOVED taking her!!! How lucky I was to dance with my sister at winter holidays parties, Halloween, Mardi Gras, all of them! I have a picture of her in a hippy costume for the DP Halloween party, probably circa 2012 or 2013. At my desk along with several art projects she made.
I think losing Raquel was a more profound loss to me than when we lost our Mother. Along with our Mother, Raquel remains the most special woman to me and always will. She is with me every day.
DP and Continuum are so important to me which is why I donate to them regularly through my employer’s matching program. I saw so many times the way that Raquel was treated with respect and dignity. In case you are not told often enough, DP’s work and calling is invaluable. It’s priceless to those people who are receiving your care. You must know how appreciated it is by someone such as myself.
And yes, there are tears in the corners of my eyes and a lump in my throat as I have been typing this. In memory of my big sister and in gratitude that there are organizations and people like DP who staff them for the benefit of people like my big sister who need that dignity and respect from others.
Watch a past video of Raquel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hckd0_dwEjI