A Generational Love Story

from Richmond Hill Reflections magazine

By Sue Brown       

     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 Reflections called, “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 www.smaangels.org.

     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!

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