Perfectly Human: One Wonderful Life by Lisa Woolsey

Lisa and her daughter Nora

My husband and I live in Michigan with our two children, Joshua (7) and Eleanor “Nora” (6).  When our son was born everything was perfect. I loved reading the “What to Expect in the First Year” book because Joshua met and exceeded every milestone. He talked early, walked early, and has continued on that trajectory ever since.  I was the “perfect” parent and that is why my child was “perfect.” I had all the answers and silently judged any parent whose child wasn’t potty trained, didn’t sleep through the night, or was delayed in any way.  Then our daughter was born 13 months later and I threw the book away.

My pregnancy with Nora was unremarkable. I did all the “right” things. She was born by at 38 weeks and all was well for the first three to four hours until she started having trouble breathing. She spent the first couple of weeks of her life in the NICU and, long story short, after having being referred to nearly every medical specialist at the Children’s Hospital we now, almost 6 1/2 years later, still have very little information on the cause of her delays. As best as we know, Nora has mild cerebral palsy. She wears bilateral hearing aids and glasses. No one knows when or what happened.  From time to time I blame myself and wonder if it was when we painted her nursery or if I got a cold while pregnant (I work in an emergency room and am exposed to all manner of germs).  No one knows, and knowing won’t change anything. Sometimes, I just wish I knew.

Our two children are as opposite as can be. Our son is advanced in every way possible, but he is also very high maintenance and demands full attention all the time.  He is a delightful boy, but he can be emotional roller coaster. Nora is delayed in every way possible (gross motor, speech, language…), but she is easy going and content.  She loves everyone and everything. She doles out hugs to friends and strangers alike. She rarely asks for anything, but will give her favorite toy away if another child asks for it. I have had people walk clear across the grocery store just to tell me how happy she makes them with her smile.  There are times when I am sure she is wise beyond her age in years. I once told her that I was so sorry for how hard everything is for her and her response was “It’s okay, God helps me.” I truly think she knows God in a way that I never have, but hope that I someday will.  My faith in and love for God are strong, but my head gets in the way.

My children attend a wonderful school (wonderful doesn’t even do justice to how great their school is). The school has an amazing special education program called the CLC. Special ed kids are mainstreamed and the school fosters a culture in which the “special” kids are the coolest kids in the school – literally.  Last year, my daughter was assigned an aide, Ms. Sarah, from the CLC who was with her in class to help her in whatever way she needed.  Tragically, last year Ms. Sarah’s husband passed away on Christmas day leaving behind his wife and two young children.  It took Ms. Sarah a couple of months to get her affairs in order and to come back to work, but from time to time when dropping her kids off at school, she would sneak in to see Nora because, as she told me, she needed Nora.

This year, on the first day of school, Ms. Sarah stopped Nora in the hallway before classes. I could tell that she had been crying.  Nora ran over to her and hugged her and told Ms. Sarah how much she missed her. Tears ran down Ms. Sarah’s cheeks as she told Nora why she was crying.  The first day of school happened to be her husband’s birthday – his first birthday since his passing.  Ms. Sarah had taken her 2 children to the cemetery, with balloons, on the way to their first day of school.  Nora and Ms. Sarah walked hand in hand to the gym for the first day of school assembly. I sat one row behind the two of them and tears rolled down my cheeks as  the students, teachers, and parents sang together “10,000 Reasons” (by Matt Redmond)  “And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come, Still my soul will sing Your praise unending. 10,000 years and forever more…Bless the Lord, oh my soul…and worship Your Holy name.”

My daughter was held in the arms of a woman who had seen that day and she knew how to comfort Ms. Sarah in a way that I never could.  It was then that I saw a glimpse of what God has in store for my sweet Nora’s wonderful life.

Lisa Woolsey and her husband live in west Michigan with their two beautiful children.  Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and various outdoor athletic activities.  She has a PhD in Health Behavior she practices medicine as a physician assistant in a local emergency department.

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About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. Tears in my eyes. So beautiful. Nora truly can touch a life like no one else. Those glimpses you see are so beautiful. God’s hand on Nora, you, and your family are so breathtaking to me.

  2. What a beautiful glimpse into the amazing wonderfulness that is God seen within sweet Nora. She truly is such a special little woman – and she ALWAYS makes me smile.

  3. Absolutely lovely, Lisa. When I read “her response was ‘It’s okay, God helps me’” my breath caught in my throat and I had to go back and read that sentence over again. It was like a warm hug on a cold day.

  4. Beautiful!

  5. This post helps me to remember that God is both present and good even when there is a temptation to believe He’s not. Thank you.

  6. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a hopeful and inspiring story.

  7. Thank you for posting this. I am a good friend of Ms. Sarah, she is such a beautiful woman both inside and out. She loves her kids and the kids she cares for deeply. She is able to put one foot in front of the other every day through God’s strength. If you read this will you please pray for not only the Becker’s daughter but also for Ms. Sarah and her two children as Christmas Day will be one year of Jimmy going “home” for Christmas. Thank you.

  8. Beautiful!! Sweet Nora has always had a light that shines brighter than all the rest. You can see it as she walks through the hallways of school. Seriously, the girl is the coolest girl in school… There is not doubt. I can barely say hi to her without 3 or 5 people saying hi at the same time! :) Her parents are the best around, without question. Nora will ALWAYS have a place in my heart! I truly feel blessed just by knowing her. <3

  9. Chris Cannon says:

    Well written. Lisa–love your family and LOVE Nora. Such a blessing to know all of you :)

  10. Anna Theurer says:

    Beautifully written story. It sounds like Ms. Sarah was/is a very special woman.
    Nora sounds delightful and that photograph at the top of this post is stunning. Thank you for sharing your story with us. My heart goes out to Ms. Sarah and her family.