Mrs. Chris Schaffert and her vent-dependent husband recently recalled an especially meaningful home visit with Anne O’Sullivan, RRT, RCP, our Home Nursing Transition Specialist.
Chris was going through a very difficult time when Anne asked if she could share a poem entitled, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Reading that poem made me realize that there are things to enjoy in all of our lives. It’s about letting go and moving on,” Chris recalls.
The Gift of Sharing
Anne stumbled upon “Welcome to Holland” nineteen years ago when her son, Harry, 23, was diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis of autism was still in its infancy at that time, and Anne and her family felt lost.
“We didn’t know where we were going or how we were getting there,” Anne remembers. “One of Harry’s specialists at the time shared the poem with us and I knew it was all going to be fine.”
Lighting up as she talks about Harry, Anne refers to her son as her “superstar.” Today, Harry is working in a vocational program at Elim Christian Services, and enjoys swimming, reading and traveling.
Anne makes a point to share the poem with others, like Chris, who are working to come to terms with their “new normal.”
Once Chris received the poem, she too started sharing it with others.
“[The poem] made so much sense to me. I’ve thought about it a million times since Anne first shared it with me,” Chris says.
For those who haven’t read the poem, we share it with you now:
Welcome to Holland, a poem by Emily Perl Kingsley [Originally posted here.]
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.