Pray For ALL the Angels of SMA!

The cliché: “Behind every good man is a good woman,” is known to most of us.  Recently, I witnessed an equally powerful version. Behind every good woman…is another good woman. It was evident when I met Anne Meguiar; the daughter of Althea Sheffield, Dana Swanson; Anne’s daughter, and Skylar Swanson; Dana’s daughter. And even though I couldn’t meet Althea in person, she departed for heaven in the summer of 2007, her presence was very real. Anne and Dana spoke of the older woman so proudly—that it was as if she were there too. Four generations of quiet strength, dignity, and admiration of each other. I could see it in their respective faces and heard it in their words.

It was wonderful to meet the youngest in this line of women, Skylar Swanson, in person. She is twelve and will be a teenager by spring. The week before we met I knew that she and I would one day get to know each other. I didn’t know when or how at the time, but in my head and heart it was a certainty. Divine Intervention might be the explanation. Only a few days before the visit, I was in an area of Richmond Hill that I don’t go to all that often. For some reason, a wrong turn had been taken and at the end of the dead-end road, I needed to make a U-turn. Out the window, I saw a lovely, young girl being gently carried to her front door from the van parked beside the house. There was a reason our paths crossed. A few days later, when Anne Meguiar gave me directions to her granddaughter’s home, and it turned out to be Skylar’s house—I was not the least bit surprised! Now, it’s pretty clear to me that it had been a sign from Cassie. Cassie was Skylar’s twin sister.

Perhaps, you remember a beautiful article from last year in Richmond Hill Reflectionscalled, “Angels Among Us,” about these girls and their wonderful family and loyal supporters. Each day, at least two children are born or diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). It is a disease that destroys the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movement. This in turn affects crawling, walking, head and neck control—even swallowing and coughing.  Although huge strides have been made over the past decade a cure has not yet been found, but it’s getting closer each day. Skylar’s grandmother and mother, and other family members and friends, are heavily involved with SMA Angels Charity, Inc. all joining together to hasten a cure for SMA. This year’s Angels Charity Ball was held on November 14th at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.

Skylar was watching the Disney Channel in a bright, sunny room when I arrived.  She was sporting a Hannah Montannah tee-shirt and basking in the love of her family; grandmother Anne, mom Dana, and little brother Jonah, who was rearranging and exploring like two year olds are given to do. I learned how much Skylar loved books and that Nancy Drew books were among her favorite. Mine too. Later, in the feminine bedroom where Skylar was now busy on her computer, I saw the picture of Cassie high on the wall, her identical twin—watching over her as she rested and played. Dana had already mentioned that it was important to Skylar that I know about Cassie too. Cassie is Skylar’s angel—that was clear. In life, she had also been her younger sister’s, by a minute, “protector.”

The legacy of inner-strength was started many years ago by Anne’s mother, who was raised in a Savannah Home for Girls until she was eighteen. Not one to feel sorry for herself because she had lacked the conventional family as a child, she passed that quiet determination to make the most of challenges to her daughter, Anne Meguiar. Anne’s efforts have greatly benefited not only her granddaughters, but other families too whose children have SMA. Logically, the first person Dana told about the twins’ SMA diagnosis, when they were infants, was her grandmother. “You must be strong, Dana,” the wise, older woman told her grand-daughter. Today, Dana passes her quiet strength on to her daughter Skylar. It was evident in her daughter’s aura that she found joy from the smallest things. When I suggested I stop by again to read out loud to her, I could see Skylar’s eyes shine with pleasure. This entire family gets that there is so much more to the quality of life than mere physicality.

Skylar and Cassie have shown their family that as Humans we are part of a much bigger picture. Their SMA made their family part of that bigger picture…connecting them with other parts of the country and with so many other giving and caring people. Dana Swanson is so accurate when she says that they all have “such an appreciation of life.”  For many that’s an appreciation of life as given.  It appears that each of us is put here on Earth to affect others and hopefully make this a better place for those who follow. The lessons on life taught by Skylar, and Cassie are ones from which we can all benefit. Take nothing in life for granted. Appreciate even the small things and be thankful for what you have.

The gals have been blessed with strong men in their lives as well. David Swanson is the father of the twins and Dana’s husband.  Grandpa Ricky and Uncles Heath and Richie Meguiar add additional support.  Clearly they are the strongest of families. One can only be envious of this family’s closeness. The fact that they believe in doing for others is an example of selflessness that can be adopted by all.  If you would like to become involved: visit

Our paths cross with each other for a reason. As far as my path crossing with Skylar’s—it’s very clear that it really was all Cassie’s doing.  I’m a really good out loud reader and I too love Nancy Drew. I believe she knew that and sent me to meet her sister. There are signs everywhere for those who believe. Faith, Hope—and Love!

 Sue Brown
 published 2010 Richmond Hill Reflections Magazine

It’s Not About Money; It’s About Involvement… WE CAN END CHILD ABUSE!

The last few weeks America has focused on issues of… well,  money.  Can we, in our great country, end the over-whelming debt crisis that has pervaded our society for several years now?  Members of both political parties argued back and forth the merits of their party’s plan.  (Or, as many of us saw it… a lack there of.)  In the end, they came to a mutual agreement of once again raising the financial ceiling, so America does not have to default on “loans.”  It was thinly disguised.  Don’t get me wrong, I for one am glad that for the time being anyway, Social Security seems to be saved.   I worked too many years and contributed too much to it, for it not to matter. However, as once again I watched the energy and zeal put forth by elected politicans on fiscal issues  (the pocket is deep)… I couldn’t help but wonder when societal issues would capture as much of their personal commitment and desire for change.  We have a number of causes and issues that go begging for crusaders and attention.

 However, with this said, I am always proud to be an American…even with its current political circus. It has been very clear to me for a long, long time that had I not been an Abused Child, here in America, I might not have survived.  How is that possible, you might wonder.  To me, it’s very clear.  In our great country, when something bad, unwarranted, or untimely happens to us as individuals, we have the opportunity to seek healing when it ends. It always ends, one way or the other.

For me, the initial healing was to get out of my abusive home and get an education.  Our country allowed me, even as a minor, many opportunities to borrow monies to do so through low-interest government loans. Not every country has set monies aside for that purpose.  I took advantage of that and received an excellent education that has allowed me to earn a good living.  That is not the case in all countries.  In the years within my classroom teaching, I never once censored what I said.  If I was asked a question, I answered professionally, but always with honesty.  In our country, we have the Freedom of Speech and I cherish that. We saw that come greatly into play in the almost childish name-calling between the politicians.  It has also allowed me to write SPIRIT UNBROKEN to help other abuse victims.

In America, we have also the freedom of “choice.”  If we don’t like something than we can strive to change it.   That goes with our own lives too. This land is really a land of opportunity in all venues.  I embrace my life knowing that I am free to become whatever I choose for myself.  I have always known there was and is a way to put bad things aside , but we have to actively do it!  As Americans we can either passively sit and wait for everything to be perfect in our individual lives and things to come to us without exerting any effort… or we can make every effort to improve not only our own lives, but those around us.

I “get” Dr. Matin Luther King’s “I HAVE A DREAM” speech…I always have. My own dream is that one day all children will grow up in safety here in our country (as well as all others) and Child Abuse will be a thing of the past.  In America we can do whatever we choose, but it requires  hard work and dedication.  Ending Child Abuse does not require dollars.  It requires recognition, envolvement by all of us, and ELECTED OFFICIALS who get that their responsibilities are so much more than dollar signs.