Excerpt: A Kinder Way of Dying: Sarah’s Story by Denise Richardson

About the Book:


Despite having Down Syndrome and Autism, Sarah Richardson was a skillful communicator using only gestures and signs. When diagnosed with a rare and fast growing cancer, Sarah’s inability to speak on her own behalf became my job. Using her quirky sense of humor, stubbornness and determination, Sarah become an inspiration to those who met her. This is the story of my daughter’s courageous battle.

Read an Excerpt:

Featured in April/May 2017 Issue: The Eighties



Sarah’s primary teacher Sally Wellman noticed Sarah seemed to be slowing down in school. She wasn’t interested in participating in class, and showed no interest in things she usually loved to do; using the computer or cooking class. We all noticed that she was losing weight, and had begun to occasionally wet herself. She acted listless, her face showing  little expression. I figured she wasn’t feeling well. The change in her behavior changes in school continued. While at Sarah’s school to talk with Sally, during an early school day pick up, Sally started crying and said “there’s something seriously wrong with her!” “She won’t even play on the computer, and she usually loves doing that.” At home she was quiet and cooperative. I took her to see her pediatrician, who checked her out and said everything was fine, just keep an eye on her. I figured it was just part of having mental retardation. In time her behavior at home changed as well. She began to wet her bed and have frequent accidents in her pants. She walked with a slower shuffling gait. She began hitting herself when she got angry. I would take Sarah into my nursing agency office with me to visit. Even the office staff noticed a difference in her behavior. She wasn’t making eye contact with anyone, and hung back in the hallway instead of responding when they talked to her. Sarah would sit in an extra office and color, and play with toys to keep busy. She refused to do that now. It was frustrating, but her behavior got worse.

One evening we were finishing supper, Sarah had refused to eat and was watching TV. Jessie, David and I were sitting at the dining room table when David; who was sitting across from me said, “uh, hey Denise, there’s a turd!” I turned around, and there was Sarah standing behind me, holding out a piece of poop!  There was no expression on her face, no embarassment,  she just handed it to me. I was ready to put her in diapers again by this time.  

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