It was eighteen years ago today that I was unexpectedly and rudely catapaulted into the uncertain world of special needs parenting. That’s when my second child, my first and only son, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth.
For the next twelve years, I experienced the greatest challenges and finest rewards of my life, until Eric’s sudden and devastating death in 2003 at age twelve.
Throughout his too-short life, this wise child with the imperfect body movements challenged me as I’d never been challenged before, helping me achieve heights I’d never before imagined.
Eric demanded that I take the sacred role of parenting seriously, challenging me to become less selfish and less self absorbed in the process.
My son taught me to care deeply about human injustice and the tough life struggles of others, especially children. He taught me to stand up in a room filled with silent voices to ensure the right result was realized for all the right reasons. He taught me the meaning of unconditional love, the grace of servitude, how to check my ego for the common good, and that one person could indeed make a difference in this mixed-up, beautiful world. His lessons were profound and continue today. His life and legacy fuel my continued work on special needs.
The child with significant physical challenges that gave far too many people permission to deem him as unworthy and lacking in value taught me that in that in his imperfection, he was perfect just the way he was. My son was the ultimate teacher. I became the student. Eric Richard Winter remains my most inspiring muse, and I’m so proud to be his mom.
I love and miss you deeply, RicStar, and I joyfully celebrate you. Happy 18th birthday, son!
Your music lives on, always.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations
Hi Judy. My name is Bonnie and I am your friend Jeanie’s cousin. I have heard about you for many years, and she told me to check out your site today. I’m glad I did. What you wrote was truly beautiful. I am also the mom of a special needs son (who, coincidentally, is 18). I am so sorry that you lost such a beautiful child. But I know you brought him a lot of love, which he returned. I recently started my own blog, and I started to write about my son, who told me it’s not my place to do that, so I’ve just turned my blog into a whatever-comes-to-me, I’ll write about it.
I was thinking of this when I got up this morning. I know it’s a day of mixed thoughts for you — the joy of having had this wonderful, beautiful boy in your life and the sadness of having him leave so soon. I remember the day Eric came into our worlds all too clearly and have been privileged to walk with you on your journey through the past 18 years. You’re in my heart today, my friend.
Your beautiful tribute to your son made me weep. What a terrible loss you have endured. By sharing your story – and most of all, Eric’s – I’m sure you’re helping many other parents facing difficult circumstances.