On Wednesday July 1, a special spirit departed earth. Jill Marie Nielson, age 55, returned home to the arms of her Heavenly Father ... and welcomed very warmly by her mother and sister who had passed on several years ago.
Jill was born with Down Syndrome in a day and age when disabilities and handicaps were hidden away but mom and dad refused to put Jill in an institution as was recommended by their doctors. Instead they brought this teensy girl home to two sisters and a brother - and they loved her.
Jill was ever so easy to love - those children blessed with Down Syndrome are so full of love and so thrilled with life. Jll developed slowly with her handicaps. She crawled and then walked finally after the age of two. Jill grew she developed her own language and only those in her immediate family could understand her. My sister Merrilee were both called "bah jah"...popcorn was Oh Oh and Ice Cream was I I (eye eye). Peanut butter which she dearly loved was be bah kuh. Our brother Kelly was born when she was four and as Kelly learned to talk, Jill learned with him and ever after that she spoke normal English. Sometimes she was difficult to understand but with patience and love she let her needs be known.
At age nine Jill was finally able to attend school - up to that point they didn't have anything available for the mentally handicapped. Monte Vista in Farmington was built to accomodate the needs of all these special kids in the whole county. Nowadays they mainstream special needs children but it was unheard of back in the 50's and 60's. Jill learned to read and I remember seeing her sit down night after night reading the Encyclopedias!!
Jill was a joy to our family - she was a peacemaker, she was full of life and she had a fun sense of humor. As she got older she moved from school to a sheltered workshop and would be so thrilled when she got her biweekly paychecks of anywhere from $1.86 to $37.81!!
She would get herself up and dressed and fed and up to the bus stop every week day morning. After she got home she would work on her word search, put together puzzles, play with her Barbies (she used to love to line up all of her Barbie and Ken dolls and have a parade!! Do you , have any idea how many Barbies a 50 year old child could accumulate??) She loved Donnie and Marie and the Disney movies, Little House on the Prairie and anything on Nickolodean or the Hallmark channel.
Everyone who knew Jill realized that she was a special needs person with a fun sparkle and wit. She could tease with the best of them. She hated frogs (except Kermit of course), wolves and would even quietly move the plate with the wolf on it to someone other than herself when setting the table.
I am looking forward to hearing the different memories of family members as I prepare the talk I get to give at her funeral - a funeral that is going to be a celebration of life - we will miss Jill and we will shed our share of tears - but we KNOW that Jill is in a better place and no longer shackled by a body and brain that didn't work quite right. Her soul is soaring - she is free and I would imagine she is tall and willowy and beautiful - inside and out. As my dad said the day she died, we are just a little bit jealous of the fact that mom and Merrilee get to meet the real Jill first on the other side of the veil.
This is a picture of mom and Jill and dad at her 50th birthday party in 2004. The turnout to the party was totally overwhelming - Jill was loved by neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family. Jill was always so warm and loving to everyone around her and it totally surprised us all at he numbers of people that showed up to wish one little handicapped girl a happy birthday.
Lots of love shared by all that evening!
This is just about the last time we got to see the sparkle of excitement in Jill Pill's eyes. This was her 55th birthday party this year - we held it at the nursing home and the whole family turned out to say happy birthday. She only recognized half of us and was confined to a wheelchair, as she hadn't walked, even small steps, since last Fall. It has been hard to watch her downhill slide - in two years she went from walking, dressing herelf, taking care of all personal hygiene, being a part of all the different activities at the nursing home, watching her movies or favorite shows on tv, and calling her favorite friend Andrea on the phone every evening at 8pm - to the point that the only thing she could do for herself was suck on a straw - we even had to remind her to swallow as she was fed her meals.
This was Jill on Halloween, 2008. She very firmly stated that she wanted to be a princess - so I found an old dancing costume of my daughter and put her pretty crown on her head. She really didn't understand what the evening was all about though. This from a girl that always loved Halloween!