In Loving Memory of Rickey Haire
This past week one of the oldest members of SMILE on Down Syndrome was laid to rest. I have been given permission to pass along the words shared with family and friends at his service. I would invite you to read and share, but fair warning to have your Kleenex on the ready!
Rickey’s story was also shared on NBC 14 – http://www.14news.com/Clip/12321143/evansville-man-puts-a-face-to-new-indiana-abortion-law#.Vvqa3NFZErY.email
The Glory of God in the Life of Rickey Haire
As told by Pastor Benjamin R. Lee (married to the daughter of Rickey’s brother and is pastor of the Bald Eagle Baptist Church in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania)
***As you know Rickey was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder accompanied by lifelong physical and mental disabilities, and for which there is no cure. Those of you who knew Rickey and interacted with him even minimally during his life were fully aware of the effects of this disorder.
For all of his life Rickey struggled with physical and mental limitations, and these limitations were only exaggerated as he aged. In his final years communication became extremely difficult, and his physical abilities were depleted to the point where he required a permanent feeding tube.
For these and other reasons many today would look on Rickey’s life and conclude that it must have been an accident. They’ll conclude that these “limitations” reflect a lessor “quality of life” (however they define it) and therefore, perhaps it would have been better if this life had never been in the first place. They’ll conclude that this is all one tragic mistake.
But friends, this is not so according to the Bible. In this book, in this perfectly inerrant, divinely revealed Book, we learn that in the womb of every pregnant mother there is at work not the process of random genetic alignment, but the hands of the Creator.
“You formed my inward parts,” the Psalmist said, “you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
The Author of Life doesn’t do random. The Potter doesn’t err with his clay. God doesn’t make mistakes. The hands that formed the seas form the smiles of every child born with Down syndrome. The Infinite Creativity that imagined the Milky Way is put on vibrant display at every pre-natal ultra sound. These precious ones are intricately woven together in their mother’s womb.
A mistake? No. Rickey’s life was an intricate tapestry showcasing the handiwork of God.
Nor can we say that Rickey’s life or the life of any person with disabilities, is without purpose. What we learn in this Psalm is that the reality that God creates all life is itself the very reason that all life has meaning. “I praise you,” the writer said. Why? “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” The most foundational purpose for life is to bring glory to the Creator. What does it mean to glorify God? It means that we feel, think, and act in ways that reflect the greatness of God. It means that we reflect the attributes and the beauty of God. (excerpted from Piper, Sermon; Glorifying God…Period.)
And oh, how Rickey’s life did bring glory to the Creator. In Rickey we saw the joy of God in his smile and laughter. In Rickey we saw the compassion of God as he so deeply cared for those around him. In Rickey we saw the resolve of God as he persevered through his disabilities. Rickey’s life was a magnificent spectacle of the glory of God.
My first memory of Rickey is from the first time I came to Evansville with Maggie. I came to meet her parents and I got to meet Rickey. That weekend we all went to a restaurant together. At that time Rickey was beginning to lose some of his motor skills, so it was quite a chore to go out together. With all the family helping in the restaurant we attracted a lot attention. I remember that one person whose attention we attracted was a very young girl, probably 2 or 3 years old, sitting at the table next to us. And she was quite frightened of Rickey. She presumably had never met a person with Down syndrome, and she didn’t quite know what to do. She buried her face in her mother’s arms, and tried to crawl farther away from Rickey. But this didn’t bother Rickey. He looked her with compassion, and care, and simply said, “It’s ok. It’s ok.”
He didn’t react as you and I might if someone so blatantly attempted to withdrawal from our presence. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t upset or hurt. He didn’t reject this little girl. He simply tried to calm her fears.
Now, how does that happen? How does one with these kinds of physical difficulties learn to accept one who doesn’t know how to accept him? Rickey could love this little girl because deep within his soul, firmly planted in his heart, was a child-like understanding he was fearfully and wonderfully made. His life wasn’t an accident. He was God’s handiwork, filled with glorious purpose.
But of course, as I say all these things deep within our souls there is something that tells that there is something wrong. Something isn’t as it should be. And indeed that is true. Even as we praise the creativity of God, we acknowledge that this creation took place in the context of a sin-stained world – a world marred by the effects of sin. Physical/mental/emotional disabilities were not part of God’s original design.
And that, my friends, is why we take hope in the fact that though Rickey is gone the fullest expression of the glory of God has yet to be revealed in him. God’s glory is most beautifully seen in Rickey through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is through the gospel that God has set about to reverse the effects of sin. It is through the gospel that God has planned to make all things new – even bodies riddled with the effects of Trisomy 21.
And this plan God has accomplished in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ – God in the flesh – came to live the life we should have lived, and to die the death we should have died, and to be raised from the dead, so that God could reconcile all people to himself through faith in Jesus.
And the promise of God to all those who believe is that when Jesus returns in power and glory He will raise us to new life. And our old, dilapidated, broken bodies will be transformed into new, perfect, immortal bodies.
Oh friends, death is not the end of Rickey’s story because even with the most child-like faith he believed this to be true. And on the last day Rickey’s perishable body will put on immortality, and it will be said, “Death and Down syndrome are swallowed up in victory. Where, o death is your victory? Where, o death is your sting.”
Rickey’s life was, and through the gospel of Jesus Christ forever more will be, a declaration of the glory of God. And friend, your life can be as well if you will put your faith in Jesus.
Today, we thank God for the life of Rickey Haire. We praise Him that He doesn’t do accidents. Every life He creates is filled with glorious purpose – a purpose most clearly seen and experienced in Jesus Christ who died for us.***