Usually, I don’t allow myself to focus on L’Arche and what it means to me as a mother. Thinking about it makes me too emotional and I usually end up with tears streaming down my face.
After a lifetime of seeking answers and “fixes” from experts, we found an oasis that is L’Arche. For 30 years Kelly, her dad, and I navigated a world that challenged us all. Over the years we developed many friends, yet it was ultimately the three of us that had to navigate systems that seemed more intent to focus on deficiencies and therapies than on strengths and gifts. Since we were such a small group with no extended family nearby we had to be self-sufficient. And always hanging over our heads was the looming future where Kelly, an only child, would go on without us. Every parent of a “child” that needs lifetime support knows this fear. The older we get the more intense the dread and fear grows. Years after submitting the interest form to L’Arche, Kelly was invited to become a member of Highland House. As parents who are used to being in control, we had trepidation. However, over the past two years, we have witnessed the interactions and activities of L’Arche. We now know it is the best lifelong home for Kelly. She has found her community. Lucky for us, her dad and I have been included.
She loves the home life because now she has a big multi-generational family. Her relaxed smile reflects her comfort and happiness. The transition was amazingly easy because the people drawn to the community are so welcoming and share our values. Unlike at school IEP’s, the annual planning session at L’Arche focuses on Kelly’s gifts and skills and things she likes to do. She has had opportunities to travel and take leadership roles like co-leading a prayer group at Georgetown University. Day to day life is filled with never-ending new adventures, opportunities, and steps toward independence. L’Arche has become a lifetime community not just for Kelly but for all of us. And as a parent, I realize that I can loosen my grip on control and sit back and enjoy seeing her focus on her strengths and develop new independent connections.
What a gift L’Arche has been to us all! My heart overflows with gratitude for everyone who is involved and supports this community. Your support changes lives for the better. YOU make such a difference to individuals and families when you contribute to the community. To me it is not abstract – it is very real and life-changing. I speak from personal experience. Thank you.
Paula DeRoy is the mother of core member Kelly DeRoy who lives at L’Arche GWDC in Highland House in Arlington, VA.