Candy Cane Inn

My grandparents lived in a small town in southwest Missouri. There wasn’t a whole lot there by the time I was a girl in the 70’s and 80’s. The town’s best years were long gone. But there was one place still in business: an old, white, one-story building. It was called the Candy Cane Inn.

The place closed almost 30 years ago, but I once saw something there that I have never forgotten. My grandparents both worked at the Candy Cane Inn where something like 18 disabled children and young adults were cared for.  These children were sent there by the state because they had nowhere else to go. Grandpa and Grandma often worked the overnight shift and stayed in a room there.

My mother took my sister and me there during a visit to our grandparents one summer. Grandma happened to be working that day, so we walked on over. I was 12 at the time, and what I saw shocked me. Never had I been exposed so directly to so many with severe disabilities. One older boy, who was more of a man really, sat in the middle of the floor, rocking back an forth, while he made loud growling noises. One little girl came up to me and started pummeling me with her little fists. The sound in the room was deafening. Many of the disabled were no longer children in body, even though they were toddlers in their minds.

It was dinner hour, and they were feeding the children in shifts at a table. The sight horrified me. Grandma told us that the children came from various backgrounds–some with wealthy parents who just didn’t want them, others had parents who simply couldn’t care for them.

We came back later in the week to visit Grandma who was about to get off work. This time we went back into the older part of the building. It was a dark and dismal place. The tragedy of the whole thing sank deep into my mind and heart. How could Grandma stand working in a place like this, I wondered.

We found Grandma in a rocking chair in a small, cramped room. There in her arms was a boy with brown hair. Grandma said he was 14, and his name was Jamie. His limbs were twisted and his joints appeared locked, and he was so thin he looked skeletal. He was the size of a six-year-old, and Grandma was rocking him. She told us that she had noticed whenever she would come into the room and speak to him that he would turn his head and look at her. Wherever she was, his eyes would follow her. Sometimes, Grandma said, he laughed with excitement when he saw that she was going to pick him up. Whenever she would hold his poor broken body, he would smile up at her. So she rocked him during a part of each shift.

My grandmother did not have degrees in child development. She didn’t possess an academic pedigree of any kind. She attended a one-room schoolhouse in the Ozarks. But Grandma and Grandpa raised 8 children to successful adulthood. She also had something that many don’t have today: She had a compassionate, loving soul. She recognized the humanity in Jamie, and she did what she could to give the boy just a few moments each shift of feeling what love is.

I thought of Grandma and Jamie today when I read that 90% of all Down’s Syndrome babies are aborted. They’re killed because they aren’t “perfect.” It’s time to look at the deformed soul of America that accepts and even advocates the killing of the vulnerable and the imperfect on the altar of ego and convenience.

I will always remember Grandma Mary  rocking Jamie. That scene was a profound picture of what it is to be fully human, made in God’s image. Jamie was a human being who deserved love and dignity.  In Grandma’s arms, however briefly, he found that. Grandma is now in heaven, but I will always bless her for giving me that important lesson.

12 thoughts on “Candy Cane Inn

  1. Lorraine says:

    Ingrid, that was very beautiful, thank you. I am blessed to work with severely disabled adults and you are so right, each one is a precious human being and each one needs and deserves to feel loved.

  2. Becky says:

    Dear Ingrid –

    I just want to thank you for your Hope Blog and the work you do on Cross Talk.

    I must admit I am a news junkie…it can become burdensome, discouraging and gets my blood to boiling. When I reach the blood boiling stage I know that I can always go to your Hope Blog and find encouragement, comfort, and laughter in your writings.

    You know, you remind me of your Grandma Thomas that you shared in the above post…who picked up Jamie and held him in her arms and showed him love…your writings do that for me.

    Thanks again.

  3. Jessica Fales says:

    Dear Ingrid,
    We grew up with, Beth. When she was born, doctors told her mom to send her to a home. She would never walk, never talk, and basically be a vegetable. She had downs syndrome. Beth did walk, talk, and was not a vegetable (in fact, she was quite a ham). She graduated from high school and went to a local college. She got a job and lived fairly independently in her own apartment. How sad that someone today would abort her! She thrived when medical doctors didn’t think there was hope for children with her disability (Over 40 years ago). Her mom knew God would decide what Beth would do and not do (not a doctor). Think what those sweet babies today could do now if given the chance.


  4. Terri Cook says:

    Dear Ingrid,
    Your granny surely did show true Godly love for the dear young people at Candy Cane Inn. Loving those who would seem unlovely and unlovable to many. Beautiful!
    Like Becky who commented above, I too am a news junkie. Reading the news today is like watching a horrible train wreck in slow motion. It’s so awful, yet your somehow compelled to keep staring at it. To be informed I guess! Not many things lovely or of good report, that’s for sure.
    After I upset myself with news stories to the point that I literally feel dizzy, ( I am trying to cut back on my news reading problem though! ) it’s so wonderful to come to your blog. It’s like a mini-vacation or tea and cookies with a dear Chrisian sister in the Lord. What a blessing this blog is!

  5. Christina says:

    What a great post! I had a cousin with Down syndrome who passed away in a car accident about 6 yrs ago. She was so funny and so happy all of the time.

    My brother was in an accident about 5 yrs ago. He was left brain injured and blind. He was in a coma for quite a number of months and the doctors wanted to take away his feeding tube because they said he would never be normal again and be in the state of a coma for the rest of his life.
    Now, he is walking around with a cane and loves to tell jokes. He is 24 but acts like a 7 year old.
    The state wanted him to be put away in a home with strangers but my parents couldnt stand it. They brought him home and take care of him there. It is hard and it takes great patience but it is very rewarding.

  6. Helen says:

    Years ago, the American Standard ran an article about the targets destruction of children with Down syndrome. I saved that article not knowing I would some day be a mother of a child with the condition.
    It’s interesting to me that even though the statistic is that “if told they are carrying a child with DS, 90+ percent of mothers will abort those babies,” the statistic that “one in every 800 births will be DS” remains the same. This makes no sense. If we are killing them in such great numbers, why hasn’t the rate gone to something like 1 in 1200? Either the people who are counting live DS births are NOT counting them (and are relying on ancient data) or God is sending children with DS to Christian families whose testimony matches their rhetoric.
    I think it could be the latter. I was at a homeschooling conference years ago and there were MANY children with DS present. I am often hearing of believers who have been blessed with a child with Trisomy 21. It’s as if God is saying, “These children are sent for My glory. I will not have them destroyed.”

    here’s something about the way kids with DS are wired that removes the guile. While they definitely are not without sin, but they love without judging.
    There have been two times in my daughter’s life that I was sure she was conversing with the angels. The first was when she was a newborn, in the special care nursery. She was lying there so peacefully with a smile on her face, as if she were getting directions from someone beyond. Then one afternoon when she was three, I heard her giggling while she was sleeping! Very strange. I went into her room, and again, she had the same look on her face.
    I could just picture her, seated in the heavenlies, reviewing the game plan: “Well, Mom’s getting it… slowly. We’ll get through to her yet.”
    It prompted me to write a column about this in which I concluded those with DS were “one chromosome closer to God.”

    To be sure, life with DS is not easy. It’s a constant struggle, and there’s always so much guilt for me. And it’s not easy because I am sitting on Guam, where resources are very limited. I am connected to a group in the states that guides my work with my daughter, and if it weren’t for them, I’d have gone crazy already. (Christina, have you parents check out They do great work with brain-injured individuals, as well as with DS, autism, ADHD, etc.)

    At 10, my daughter can walk, talk and read. She’s lives around the level of a 5- to 6-year-old, but I have seen some important progress recently that gives me hope that she’s going to take off soon and the gap is going to close some.

    But I fear for my daughter. A nationalized health care system could literally mean her death in the future.
    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

  7. Gretchen says:

    Dear Ingrid,

    Your grandmother lived Christ’s love, and what a blessing it was that your mother took you and your sister to the Candy Cane Inn to see Christ’s love in action.

    Have you read the book The Power of the Powerless by Christopher De Vinck? Please get a copy of it and read it if you haven’t — you will never forget this story!

    Christopher’s brother, Oliver, was cared for and loved at home by his family his entire 32 years of life despite the fact Oliver lacked “the intelligence to learn anything.” Oliver was “powerless” in the physical sense, yet had a powerful influence on every person who met him in person or read about him through his brother’s writings. Oliver even influenced Christopher’s choice of who he decided to marry.

    Thank you for taking the time to write your blog.
    God bless you, kindred spirit.

  8. Cliff says:

    Thank you Ingrid for blessing all of us with this testimony. Sherri (my wife) and I are blessed to have two boys aged 14yrs and 21yrs. Our oldest, Levi, is developmentally disabled and is on his second kidney transplant of his life as we were also blessed that he was born with physical ailments as well. I know it may sound peculiar to hear the word “blessed” when describing Levi’s predicament but let me explain. February 16th, 2006 Levi lost his first transplanted kidney. It had lasted nearly 13yrs and we were devastated. Up to that point my wife and I didn’t know Jesus. Oh we’d heard the good news but had gone our own way, rejecting Him. The crisis of our son brought us to the Cross and lifted us to an understanding. An understanding that what we see on the outside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Levi was sent to us by The Lord so that we would see our sinful weakness and come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Such an amazing gift that God gave his only Son for the sins of the world. Daily, we as a family take up our crosses knowing that His plan is perfect and while we certainly don’t fully understand all of it, He gives us the faith to persevere through (Hebrews 11:1). After 2-1/2 years of kidney dialysis Levi received a second kidney transplant and is doing very well, praise The Lord. His younger brother has a heart for those who are “different” as well as a heart for The Gospel. His parents are blessed beyond measure. God be praised!

  9. paulabukacek says:

    Hi Ingrid, the more I find out about your family and upbringing the more I understand how you have become to be the incredible, and compassionate, intelligent person you are. What an absolutely, amazing and generous family you are a part of.

    My sisters husband had a brother with severe cp. She and her husband ran a respite care weekend a couple times a year. I volunteered one year and because I was young, and not at all experienced with kids with severe disabilities I felt nervous and frightened . I was shocked at what their parents had to deal with every day. I felt they could all apply for sainthood. I was ashamed at how uneasy and inept I felt in my attempt to help. When I got home after that weekend, I locked myself in my bedroom as sobbed. I felt so sorry for all the suffering I saw, I was overwhelmed. To make matters worse, my picture was in the paper the next day as a volunteer. I felt so embarrassed as I knew I certainly did not deserve any credit for anything I did that weekend. Now I am the mother of a special needs child and I have a better insight to that world, but I still can get easily choked up just talking about it. Thanks for the beautiful story and your honesty.

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