The Miracle of Sacrificial Love

The word sacrifice is made up of “sacri” and “ficio”, which means “to make holy”. The greatest example in my life of sacrificial love is how my parents Joe and Kathy Traeger have cared for my handicapped sister Kimberlee. Their sacrifices have made her handicap “holy” and form the miraculous spiritual foundations of our extended families.

Kimberlee Jo TraegerIn 1972 Kimberlee Jo Traeger was born eight of nine children into our family of four boys and five girls. At less than one year, Kim was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is a neuro-developmental disorder of the grey matter of the brain that affects girls almost exclusively. The clinical features include small hands and feet and a deceleration of the rate of head growth (including microcephaly in some). Repetitive hand movements, such as wringing and/or repeatedly putting hands into the mouth, are also noted. Girls with Rett syndrome are prone to gastrointestinal disorders and up to 80% have seizures. They typically have no verbal skills, and about 50% of females are not ambulatory. Scoliosis and growth failure are very common and can be problematic. Kim was in and out of hospitals most of her childhood. At the age of 15 Kim nearly lost her life to pneumonia. Kim could have easily been institutionalized, but from that time on, and for the past 24 years, Mom and Dad have cared for her at home, tending to her every need, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mom and Dad have always viewed Kim’s handicap as having been chosen by God to receive a special blessing. They understand the extraordinary purpose for being blessed with Kim. They know exactly what He meant when asked by His disciples about whose sin caused a man’s blindness, Jesus told his disciples that the blind mans condition was for God’s glory (see John 9). Kim’s handicap is for God’s glory.

Kim has touched so many lives that Mom and Dad have lost count. She has softened hardened hearts, caused smiles where there were frowns, and brought joy to those who have been joyless. The loving tenderness that my sisters use when helping Mom and Dad care for Kim inspires me. Personally I have been most humbled when Kim, having faced and endured excruciating physical pain from her handicap, literally puts her four big tough football playing brothers to shame. In our family the answer to the question “Who is the toughest Traeger?”… is an easy one….”It’s Kim”.

Kim has become the cornerstone of our family. The unconditional love that Mom and Dad render to Kim sets the standard for how we siblings love our own children. Mom and Dad’s 8 other children, 37 grandchildren, and 18 great grandchildren have become the beneficiaries of this shining example of unconditional love. Sacrifice has taken on a new meaning for us. As parents we all know that we will have to sacrifice some things for our kids. Financial sacrifices, sacrifices of our time, sacrificing the ability to sleep late on Saturday mornings! But what about the fact that one special child (like Kim) can literally take over our entire life? Our entire emotional well-being? All of our time and all of our future plans?

Would you be willing to sacrifice your entire life for a child?