On January 31, 2012, I welcomed twins into my life. Atticus was first: small and sickly, brave and determined. One minute later came Damien: sweet and strong, smart and compassionate. Two years later came Everett: Bold and adventurous, loving and curious.
Our little family faced extraordinary circumstances: Atticus was missing a few small pieces of DNA, which greatly impacted his life. He had global developmental delays: everything that came easily for his brothers was a struggle for him...except loving and laughing.
He crawled at two, and at four-and-a-half, took his first independent steps. He never spoke. He loved water, and spinning, and his family. He was my brightest light, my bravest knight.
He died, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, just shy of his 5th birthday: January 5, 2017. He caught a virus, and for whatever reason, it sent his body into adrenal crisis, his heart stopped (and was restarted, five times but not a sixth) and we said goodbye.
Atticus changed my life, changed the way I see the world. He made me a mother, and he made me a better person. His impact reached much further than his 32-pounds would lead you to believe. Of course he shaped his brothers' lives, teaching them to be accepting of differences from their very births.
He did the same for everyone he encountered. His laugh was truly the most wonderful sound anyone has ever heard. Individuals who were predisposed to think children with cognitive delays mattered less than those who are typical (or "gifted") changed their minds after spending as little as 20 minutes with him. Children watched him struggle with his walker on the playground, and asked their parents (or me) questions, and then played with him in their own--and his own--way. His teachers and therapists were inspired. The world as a whole was more joyful.
I spent the five years of his life advocating for him and for children like him. Fighting with insurance, fighting with the school district, fighting with politicians, asking for more: more inclusion, more adaptive equipment, more programs, more choices, more room to fulfill his potential. As I held him the final time, I promised him I would not stop fighting. Atticus left the world a better place than it was when he entered it, and I intend to honor him by doing the same.
I truly believe that the best way to do this is by teaching our children empathy. I believe that, once we understand each other, we will no longer want to discriminate, exclude, or hate. I believe early and frequent exposure to as many types of lives and people--whether through daily activities, travel, or stories--is the best way to do this. That is why I am so committed to Barefoot Books. Their mission aligns perfectly with mine, and their message--that every child has a story--is the truest I've ever heard.
I look forward to walking barefoot with you all.