Receiving David: The Gift of a Son Who Taught Us How to Live and Love
by Faye Sybesma Knol ex '77, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2010, 163 pp., $11.99.

See an interview with Faye Knol on Inner Compass»

Receiving David was not originally intended to be a book; “however, there were so many remarkable aspects about David’s life and story, it was too much to keep inside,” said David’s mother and author Faye Knol.

The book starts the day David was born, Dec. 14, 1982—14 weeks premature. The Knols were told their second son was not expected to survive.

“His vital signs were weak; his eyes were still fused shut. He weighed only one pound, 14 ounces. … Unsettled and unsure of what was going on, we watched his shallow, weak breaths and held him close,” wrote Knol.

Such was the beginning of a 22-year journey—the length of David’s life on earth—for the Knol family through which they were invited by David to “view the world in a new and better way.”

The book includes the transition the Knol family made in living with and caring for David, who was labeled “severely multiply impaired.”

“I didn’t want anyone to walk away thinking, ‘Oh, they were always so happy,’” said Knol. “I wanted to tell the story the way it was. This is not a how-to-do-it; it’s just the way it was.”

And the way it was wasn’t always easy. Knol writes of the struggles throughout David’s life, but also the joy that he brought to so many people. He made astonishing gains throughout his lifetime and developed unique characteristics and obsessions that came to endear him to most anyone he met

The book provides an intimate glimpse into David’s life and finally his death, which was the impetus for Knol’s writings and eventually became this book.

“One of David’s doctors wanted to get a feel for a family that had made a decision for palliative and hospice care,” she said. “He knew that I had been taking notes throughout the end of David’s life, and he thought those might be helpful to him and perhaps others in the medical community.”

Knol found she couldn’t just include the end of David’s life, even in the manuscript to the doctor. “Part of the story was the challenge all the way through; there was much to share.”

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Because of their end-of-life choice, the family agonized about whether to make the writings public. “What I found out is that when God wants something to happen, there is no stopping Him,” said Knol. “Doors kept opening that we weren’t looking for. It became apparent, through much deliberation, that maybe God wanted David’s story to be shared.”

The original intent was to share the story with a few doctors, friends and family members, she said. She was encouraged by the publisher, once they had seen a manuscript, to expand its reach.

The medical community has been enthusiastic about the book, as have many school groups, civic organizations and families with children that are cognitively or physically impaired.

“I have received the most amazing words from parents or siblings sharing their stories with me,” said Knol. “David’s story, I am told, has put into words what many others have experienced or felt.”

Knol started writing for the doctor, but as the project grew she began to gradually realize it was also good for her, she stated. However, the publishing of the book has taken on a whole new direction: “This is not about me; it’s not about the rest of us; this is David’s story, a display of God’s grace, and the beauty of the relationships that formed around us, through this son. We saw God though David in so many holy ways. Related to his traumatic birth, it took many years to understand that David was exactly who God intended him to be, but then, without a doubt, we knew. His life was one of great value.”

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