Following a long and very difficult battle with cancer, in the early morning hours of Palm Sunday, the 53 year long earthly relationship between Chris and Priscilla was ended by Priscilla’s passing.
In 2008, on the occasion of his elevation to the position of Dean of the highly prestigious International Academy of Trial Lawyers, Chris Searcy addressed the Academy in a speech that paid tribute to his beloved wife, Priscilla. We memorialize our very dear friend by repeating excerpts from Chris’ speech:
Go with me, if you would, in your mind’s eye to a young couple and their plans and hopes and dreams for their first born son. He is a beautiful little boy. They dream of him being happy and fulfilled. They imagine him excelling on the athletic field, going to a fine University, making important contributions to the well-being of mankind. They dream that he will have a happy and fulfilling marriage and children just as beautiful as he is. The young couple invests in this dream with all their heart and soul. Six months pass, and the young couple is sitting across from the pediatric neurologist who has examined and tested their beloved beautiful little son. Their senses are physically numbed as they hear the words, “Your son has autistic features and will probably be retarded.” They are words the young couple will never forget as long as they live. They are told they should place him in an institution, go on with their lives, and have other children.
But God who manifests himself most clearly in parents’ love for their children causes them to stand up and say, “Not while we are still breathing. No one will ever separate us from our child.”
They die unto themselves so they can live for their child. They alter their lives completely and forever to give their child the best opportunity he can have to reach his maximum potential. Their efforts to find a cure to this “autism”, which they had never heard of, are energetic and exhausting—their quest for the Holy Grail.
Then, one by one every hope for a cure is gradually tried and eliminated. Little by little each hope and each dream and each plan the young couple had for their son withers and dies.
“But wait a minute”, the young couple reasoned to themselves, “all of those plans and hopes and dreams for his success were just a means to an end. The end point was our son’s happiness. If he can be happy, who cares how he gets there. If he can have a happy life, our dreams will be fulfilled- just in another way.”
They decide to have more children. As it turns out, their son learns as much from his younger siblings as he ever learns from his parents, and from him they all learn courage, tolerance, humility, faith and the miracle of unconditional love. As the decades go by, the not so young couple realizes more and more how their dreams have been fulfilled in alltheir children- what a tremendous blessing has been bestowed on their lives and their family’s lives by their very special first born son.
In the 1980’s a story was written about this young mother and all the young mothers who have raised a handicapped child. It is called The Patron Saint.
“Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?
Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes on a giant ledger. “Armstrong, Ben, son, Patron Saint, Matthew, Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, Patron Saint, Cecilia, Rutledge, Carri, twins, Patron Saint—give her Gerard, he is used to profanity.”
Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.” The angel is curious, “Why this one God? She’s so happy.” “Exactly”, smiles God, “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.” “But has she patience?” asked the angel. “I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she will handle it. I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I am going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles, “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.” The angels gasps, “Selfishness,” is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a “spoken word…” She will never consider a “step” ordinary. When her child says “Momma” for the first time she will be present at a miracle and know it!
“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see—ignorance, cruelty, prejudice—and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone, I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”
“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in mid air. God smiles, “A mirror will suffice.”
All of us who had the privilege of looking over Priscilla Searcy’s shoulder into her mirror saw the reflection of that saint- a woman whose remarkable exterior beauty was matched by a remarkably beautiful, generous, kind and loving spirit. She did God’s work with amazing grace and has earned her place beside Him.
Priscilla’s extended Searcy Denney family will miss her greatly, and our hearts go out to Chris and the entire Searcy family with whom we share a part of the tremendous loss they have suffered.