Lakewood Ranch author recounts a painful but loving journey with his disabled daughter | Eastern County
For Lucille Messina, Mother’s Day was different.
She would go to the park with her daughter, Jacklyn, and they would sit by themselves.
It wasn’t her desire to be alone, but it was her life with a daughter with a degenerative neurological disease. Jacklyn couldn’t walk, talk or see.
“We were isolated every time we went to a playground,” said Messina, who now lives at Lakewood Ranch with her husband, Karl. “No mother was coming and nobody was interacting. I was like, ‘What did I do wrong? How could I fix this problem that I created?'”
Jacklyn Messina lived just over 11 years, being born on September 25, 1984 and passing away on October 14, 1995. It was a depressing, frustrating and heartbreaking time for Messina, a Long Island Railroad employee who lived in Garden City. , New Jersey at the time.
But as difficult as she was, she cherished every day with her daughter.
As this Mother’s Day arrives on May 8, Messina hopes that mothers will embrace their children and understand the gift(s) they have been given, regardless of the circumstances.
After her daughter’s death, Messina wrote the book “Waiting to Hear ‘Momma’ – A Mother’s Memoir”. Her hope is that she can share the many lessons learned during Jacklyn’s life with mothers everywhere. The book was published in 2019 and is available on Amazon.com.
She tells her story about surviving the weak moments.
“I was at JCPenney where they were taking special pictures of kids for Christmas,” she said. “A lady saw my daughter and hid her daughter’s eyes.”
It was times like this that hurt her, and she didn’t want other mothers to go through the same thing. She watched pregnant women and prayed that they would have a healthy child so they wouldn’t have to walk in her place. She wrote her book to explain her feelings during those tough times and what someone in a similar position could do to stay positive.
“I wanted to help other mothers survive adversity and family crisis,” Messina said. “I felt like I was alone all the time, and I wanted moms to know they weren’t alone. I didn’t want to see moms give up or jump in front of a train.”
It took time for Messina to realize that she was not alone. She hit her lowest point when she did, indeed, consider walking in front of a train.
After her colleagues pushed her to get help, she went to see a counselor at work.
“It finally helped me go out to dinner with my husband,” she said. “It was a turning point. I felt like I didn’t deserve it.”
As she found support groups and workers, she realized that her biggest rock was right in front of her: Karl.
“I dedicated my book to my husband because without him I probably wouldn’t be alive,” she said. “He’s one in a million. Most men probably would have walked away from me. Whenever I couldn’t take it, he was there every time. Having a partner is priceless.”
After Jacklyn’s death, they had another daughter, Amy, who is now 25. Amy Messina is a graduate of the University of Colorado and hopes to pursue a career in museum studies and specialize in the conservation and preservation of artifacts and art.
Lucille Messina remains dedicated to mothers who have a disabled child. She shares stories and lessons from her book to help mothers in similar situations to persevere and for the benefit of mothers with healthy children who could positively impact those they meet with disabilities.
Messina offers 10 suggestions for mothers facing special circumstances with their child:
- Whatever adversity you face as a mother, claw and scratch to get to the top of the mountain and see the sun another day. You are your loved one’s advocate, so take it one day at a time.
- Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and then some are strong in the broken places.” Become a warrior and be strong in your broken place.
- Look for compassionate medical professionals who can refer you.
- Lean on your spouse or life partner for support and plan outings to keep in touch with that person.
- Find friends to cry with or have a glass of wine with. The most important thing is to find friends who can listen and not judge.
- Join support groups, whether that means meeting physically or virtually. Try to find groups that have members with similar issues. It lets you feel like you’re not alone.
- Plan to see a therapist and consider any options they might suggest. You need to stay mentally and physically healthy to manage.
- Take a walk, keep a journal, watch a fun movie. If you need an hour out of the house, even just to browse the clothing aisles of a department store, do it! Escape in a healthy way that will rejuvenate your spirit.
- Pray. Consider seeking spiritual guidance.
- Remember things could be worse.
Five things Messina hopes a mother with healthy children can learn from her book, “Waiting to Hear ‘Momma'”.
- Teach a child to include and play with all children, even those who are different. It can increase maturity, responsibility and empathy.
- Speak directly to the person with a disability rather than their carer/companion.
- If you’re at the playground, at the mall, or out to dinner with your child, don’t avoid teachable moments when someone is different. Let your child learn to respect and include children and adults with disabilities to see the talent, fun and bravery in them.
- With so many quick fixes in society, it’s important to stop and realize that not everything is fixable.
- You can make a difference in someone’s life with a simple act of kindness.
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