When Palin received the news about Trig, she was devastated and scared. She kept it to herself, until her husband got back from a business trip and she confided in him. They didn't tell anyone else, including their other children. "Not knowing in my own heart if I was going to be ready to embrace a child with special needs," she told People magazine, "I couldn't talk about it." It wasn't until he was born that she says her fears washed away.
No one should trivialize the challenges Trig and the Palins will face. About 40 percent of children with Down syndrome are born with a heart defect. There will be the cruelty -- intentional or not -- of other children and the frustrations of struggling with tasks that come so much easier to others. And yet there will be the joy, as unalloyed and precious as any of us experience.
Palin said in an interview shortly after Trig was born: "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection. I keep thinking in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?" That is the subversive promise of children like Trig, undermining all our superficial assumptions about what's truly important.
The Palins will have a humbling, heartbreaking and inspiring lesson in life's priorities from Trig. Here's hoping it's one that, one way or the other, the rest of us share.