‘Professor of love’: Daughter with Down syndrome inspires pro-life author to pen trilogy
GILBERT, Arizona, March 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A family from Venezuela once gifted Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity with a house and some land. The family also cared for an acutely disabled child. Mother Teresa, immediately drawn to the child, asked his name. “Our ‘professor of love’, that’s what we call him,” answered the child’s mother. “Beautiful!” replied the holy woman, “let him continue his teaching on love.”
How can a disabled, diseased, or sickly child teach anyone how to love? The common understanding is that the child’s overwhelming needs may simply swamp the emotional and physical capacity of the parents or caregivers. In fact, nearly ninety percent of mothers with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome fall for this argument, and opt for abortion.
But when author Sherry Boas adopted a baby girl with Down syndrome she could hardly have imagined how her little girl was about to wiggle into her heart, ultimately inspiring a trilogy of novels that are taking the culture of life by storm.
Boas told LifeSiteNews her stories “attempt to subtly proclaim the value of every human soul, even if it can do nothing more than love or be loved.”
Boas revealed that not only did her adopted daughter Teresa have an extra 21st chromosome, but she was also conceived in rape. “Her chances of making it into the world were very slim,” she said. “Her birth mother acted out of love, not fear, and so because of her valiant choice, the rest of us get to benefit from Teresa’s very rare brand of love.”
The first novel of Boas’s trilogy, “Until Lily,” tells the story of Bev Greeley, a crotchety old woman faced with the task of trying to find meaning and purpose in her life as she approaches the end of her road in the desolation of a sterile nursing home. Bev’s only link to sanity is her adopted daughter Lily, an embodiment of joy who has Down syndrome.
Lily had made a forceful and unwanted entrance into Bev’s shallow life many years ago. Now Bev finds herself turning to Lily, the burden she had sorely borne for so long, as her treasured source of joy, consolation, love, and even redemption. A brilliant twist at the end of the story opens the reader to the great vista of all the enriching potential that a child with Down syndrome could bring into one’s life.
The second novel, “Wherever Lily Goes,” is about Bev’s daughter Terry, a married woman with children who finds herself midway through life’s journey with a depressed husband who has had a vasectomy, and a high school daughter who has already wetted her feet in the culture of death. An opportunity for Terry and her family to care for Lily sets the family on a journey of self-discovery, forgiveness, and healing. Lily and her joyful exuberance become the therapeutic salve for the various wounds suffered by the members of the family.
In the final novel, “Life Entwined with Lily’s,” Terry’s daughter Beth has succumbed to the culture of death. The ghost of a particular choice she once made relentlessly haunts her and threatens to overshadow her entire future. Lily unwittingly gives the struggling Beth the courage and hope that she needs to confront her past demons and come to peace.
Boas told LifeSiteNews that she was inspired to write the series after tucking her daughter with Down syndrome into bed one evening. “What are we missing because these people — and all the other people who have been aborted — are not among us?,” she asked herself as she kissed her daughter good night. Boas pointed out that the Lily trilogy answers this question in a “very subtle, entertaining, humorous and sometimes heart-wrenching way.”
“I wrote a trilogy of novels that set out to subtly address a good number of issues contributing to the culture of death: abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, unresponsive medical care, divorce, infidelity and promiscuity,” she said. “The books are based around Lily, a character with Down Syndrome. But they are not about her. They are about you and me.”
Boas hopes that her readers will be left with the message that “hope reigns and mercy is unbounded.”
“It’s an emotional series. Some people have told me that they have had to stop part-way through and rest for awhile to deal with all the difficult issues the characters are facing. But when they get to the last page, there is a great and gentle uplifting. Other readers devour the books in a weekend. I think it means something different to everyone because there are so many different emotional threads that run through it.”
Boas’ trilogy is striking a cord with people from all walks of life.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona called Sherry’s novels “made for our times,” adding that they are “another sign that the Lord is building a culture of life today, even as the culture of death rages around us.”
“[The Lily Trilogy] shows the rich humanity of those least appreciated in our day: the elderly in nursing homes, unborn children in the womb, and persons with disabilities. It does so with warmth and humor, but without sugar-coating or omitting the sacrifice that love always costs,” he said.
Jeffrey Mirus, President of CatholicCulture.org raved that the trilogy “provide[s] a thoroughly natural, and so thoroughly believable, look at life, aspirations and family. ... The author’s perceptiveness and wit are present on every page.”
Catholic retailers are delighted to have fiction to offer their customers from a genuinely Catholic worldview.
“It is not very often that one gets to read something that pairs relevant, current, hot-button life issues with masterful storytelling,” said Aquinas and More product manager Jeremy Oliver.
“The Lily Trilogy does just that. With expert character development that makes you feel like you could be reading about one of your neighbors, you will be taken on an emotional roller coaster that will have you laughing, crying, and thoroughly enjoying being caught up in Lily’s world.”
The stories are already changing people’s hearts and minds.
“I was very surprised at the ending but most happy at the turn of events,” wrote one reader. “Thank you for helping me to complete my healing concerning my own two abortions in my younger years. I have felt forgiven for a number of years but had never allowed myself to mourn the loss of my children until today. Thank you for leading me where I needed to be.”
Boas hopes that readers of her trilogy will experience the deep realities of hope, mercy, and of a love that casts out fear.
“The problems our world faces today are caused by fear. Love and fear cannot co-exist. Where there is love, fear flees. Why does a woman have an abortion? She is afraid of something. Why does a woman carry a child, bearing all the discomfort and pain that goes with it? She does it out of love.”
She believes that God has a purpose for every person he brings into being. “To be missing any one of them is to be missing the blessings God had planned for us.”
Note: This is the second part of the Sherry Boas story. See first part here: Stories our world needs to hear: An interview with Author Sherry Boas.