She captured my heart from our first hello. Was it was her infectious smile? Joy-filled spirit? Child-like innocence? Spunky personality? It’s hard to put into words. There was just something about her.
Raquel Alyse Coan was born on January 3, 1988 — with Down Syndrome. But don’t bother telling her that! Despite living with what many would call a handicap, this resilient young woman is thriving and continues to beat the odds. As early as nine months old, glimpses of her fighting spirit became evident as she battled a life-threatening condition requiring open-heart surgery. From that point on the name “Rocky” just fit.
But her path to a normal adulthood wasn’t easy. From the moment Rocky was born her mother, Diana, tackled her diagnosis head on. She treated her daughter’s condition aggressively with up to nine therapy sessions per week during a two-year stretch. At home they worked together on eye contact, posture, and language skills. The results? Today, Rocky is a happy, healthy, hard-working adult. She currently holds two jobs — as a clerk at Goodwill Industries during the day and as a part-time server at Greek’s Pizzeria on nights and weekends. Recently Rocky celebrated her fifth anniversary at Goodwill, where her supervisors raved about her dedication, positive attitude, and work ethic. She is also a committed church member/volunteer, and she completed a 5K run this fall. Rocky has an active social life, and if her favorite band, The Bishops, is playing, you will find her at the front of the dance floor and sometimes on stage. Nothing stops Rocky!
Rocky’s perseverance and love of life inspire all who cross her path, but the quality I admire the most is her faith. When many might become bitter that life didn’t hand them a better deck, she approaches each day with a grateful spirit and an assurance that God is with her on this journey. Even in difficult times when many would give up, Rocky’s reliance on her Lord is evident and spills out in person as well as on her Facebook page. A recent post read, “Even in the dark. Even when it’s hard. Jesus is with me.”
A few weeks ago Rocky turned 30, and I was blessed to be a part of the celebration. Decked out in a bright red dress that matched her glowing smile, the only thing missing was a birthday crown. When I placed it on her head, I was reminded of Queen Esther — a young woman of courage, determination, humility, and trust in God.
Rocky, perhaps you have come “for such a time as this” — to be a beaming light of God’s goodness and to remind us all to be grateful, courageous, and to trust in the Lord no matter what.
Rock on, my friend! You are just getting started!