She lived in our neighborhood in the St.Louis-ish area and was adopted into my brother's best friend's family. The parents volunteered to be foster parents to children coming out of abusive and neglectful families. She was one of two children whom they adopted. She had been physically abused to the point where she was in a wheel chair. However, once you got past her wheel chair, the next thing you noticed was her smile--big, bright and truly happy, as if she knew love all of her life. She was always cracking jokes and seeing the funny side of life. But she did not take guff from anybody and knew how to dish it back out--with a smile. And she loved to draw. Her wheelchair desk frequently had markers and papers. This was one of the drawings she gave me.
When college came, I left the state of Missouri (which I nickname the state of Misery because of the weather). I would see them when I came back on visits during and after college, but not very often. My brother and their son went to different high schools and didn't see as much of each other. Eventually, both her parents and mine moved out of the state. Years after I had graduated college, I found out that she had been experiencing seizures. In the process of trying different medicines, one of them almost killed her, burning, not only her skin, but also her internal organs. Yet God intervened miraculously and saved her, though her eyesight and sense of touch was destroyed, ending her artistic endeavors. She had spent most of her adult life in long-term care facilities and worked on a grass roots campaign so that more people with long term disabilities in Missouri could live in group homes, rather than nursing-home like facilities.
A few months ago, as one of the kids was dusting, the simple frame that held this picture flopped to the floor, destroying the glass but not the picture. I almost threw it out, but didn't, remembering her joy, her jokes and her beautiful light that shown. I couldn't destroy this little bit of her light that she had given to me.
Earlier this month, I learned that LaTosha had passed away. The medical problems had worn down her body and she finally succumbed to pnuemonia. When Whitney Houston passed away, I grieved because here was a woman given a beautiful gift and wasted it. Her light had died out long before she was actually dead, stamped out by drug addiction. But here is a woman whose light shined out throughout her life, unhampered by bad beginnings, unhampered by wheelchairs, unhampered by physical illness, unhampered by having to be totally dependent on others in order to live. And whereas I am also grieving for LaTosha and her family, it is because we have lost a beautiful light.