Thanksgiving

GRATITUDE.

A feeling so many of us become overfilled with on this special Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude is not just the word we see thrown all over social media, it is the feeling we experience when we’re connected with love.

Today and everyday is Thanksgiving in Aaron’s heart. He does not necessarily express it with words and catchy phrases, he lives in it with every fiber of his beautiful being.

As long as I have known Aaron (my whole life) he has been an extremely picky eater. He sticks to what he likes and that is a cheeseburger (well done with ketchup only) and fries. So, needless to say, he does not indulge in mom’s extraordinary feast every year on the 4th Thursday of November.

However, to feel “a part of”, he will eat a minuscule piece of turkey doused in ketchup. The piece is more often than not the size of his pinky finger nail. He definitely does this with much hesitation while we all sit at the table chanting “Aaron versus food.” He smiles with excitement let’s out his famous “mang” and throws his arms up in celebration (often while pretending to gag).

While his commitment to feeling a part of is ever so inspiring, I am amazed by his ability to be thankful not only on this day but everyday.

He recognizes on a daily basis all that is to be thankful for in his world. His gratitude is not found through material objects he has acquired, rather it is found in the connection he finds in his relationships. For example, his family, during the holiday season he avoids judgment and criticism by embracing love and acceptance.

A family tradition in our household is to go around the table and share what brings us gratitude. Every single year Aaron says the same thing, “the whole entire 6 of us.” Not the food on the table, the new iPad case, nor the new shampoo he was told not to get. He focuses on his family and friends who are near and far. He expresses interest in what others are doing, simply because he cares. He is not asking to make conversation, however he is asking because he genuinely cares to know if everyone is feeling as much love as he is in that moment. The appreciation for those relationships is infectious and certainly has a ripple effect on the rest of us.

Happy Thanksgiving from me to you!

May your bellies be as full of gratitude as they are good food.

Seeing the similarities over the differences is the heart’s greatest ability.

If you or someone you know would like to share about your experience seeing the similarities over the differences please contact me at theheartability@gmail.com.

Facebook: The Heart Ability
Instagram: @theheartability

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The Lighthouse

The following post was contributed by Aaron’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary… Or as Aaron so lovingly refers to them as “Uncle Jimmaaaay and Aunt Maryaaaaaay”.  Jim and Mary were so kind to share a recent and favorite memory of Aaron. They so beautifully were able to put words to an experience anyone that knows Aaron has encountered. His ability to draw any and every one near. He is a magnet for love.It is with great pleasure I share with you “The Lighthouse”-We are affectionately known by Aaron and his family as Uncle Jimmeee and Aunt Maryeee.  It is endearing to us since no one else in the entire world has these names!  Aaron himself patented this ‘Special Greeting’  ….. now catching on by other family members who want to be ‘in’ !!

A recent memory of Aaron was at the end of May at our son’s wedding.  Kirk, Cath, & Aaron journeyed from Ann Arbor to Door County, WI.  We remembered their arrival at the Friday night “Meet and Greet”  — Big Smiles that illuminated the Boat House venue, fitting right into the crowd of guests that had gathered.

Aaron is everyone’s “LIGHTHOUSE!” So many friends were greeted by Aaron’s friendly smile and “Hi!”  He sat down next to one of our guests —  and they became BF immediately!!

Celebrating the wedding the next day, Aaron looked forward to the various events.  He chose a “Purple shirt and a New tie.”  Kirk, Cath, and Aaron were seated at our table during the Reception.  He loved his favorite meal – CHEESEBURGER & FRIES.

He was loving it — all smiles, happy, and content!When the music started we all watched Aaron out on the dance floor surrounded by many different guests — enjoying the moments, the times, having such fun listening and dancing to the rhythm of the music. So many of the guests were drawn to this Special Young Man — full attention to his surroundings and full of spirit!  Aaron fit into our group, graciously enjoying every moment of the wedding that weekend.

Aaron uses his senses of sight, hearing, smell, tasting, and touching!  He looks beyond the everyday “Big” things to find the simple joy and love which brings everyone closer to each other…..connecting is the key.  Aaron’s smile and spirit is his ability for us to learn and put into practice the simple things in our everyday lives. Because we cannot see ‘spirit’ it is easy to forget about it or assign no value to it.  Soul is the eternal part of a being.  Aaron is a pure Master of his Spirit.

We are Blessed to have Aaron in our extended family.  

THE END

May this piece serve as an inspiration for you to BE The Lighthouse.

A major thank you to Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary for sharing their experience with recognizing the ability over disability. WE are so blessed to have you all in our family.

If you would like to share about your experiences with seeing the similarities over the difference OR the abilities over the disabilities please contact me at theheartability@gmail.com – it would be a privilege to share!

 FACEBOOK: The Heart Ability

Instagram: @theheartability
 

From us, to you.

TODAY IS AARON’S BIRTHDAY!

Rather than attempt to narrow down a single ability he has taught the world over his lifetime, I have asked the people who know him best to contribute to a special birthday post.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how do you measure the emotions behind this picture?

The picture above has always been one of our family’s favorites. Is it humanly possible to look at this picture and not smile? Almost impossible not to catch the infectious joy this picture radiates… I mean seriously look at that precious little smile alongside those eyes full of hope.

Today, Aaron turns 33. This picture always seems to surface every year on October 17. It was taken on his first birthday, October 17, 1985. This year I asked my parents to reflect on what they learned during Aaron’s first year of life and my siblings what they learned over their lifetime. I gave them all about a week to ponder this broad and tough question before I bombarded them over fajitas with, “so…. what’d ya learn?” The response was unanimous.

My mom and dad stated so matter of fact, “celebrate things as they happen and don’t create expectations that are unrealistic.”

How is this related to the above picture? Spoiler, my mom and dad had to place a brick behind Aaron in order for him to sit upright in the picture. Unlike his peers, he was not able to do so on his own. However, they were not going to miss the opportunity to provide the little guy with the opportunity to celebrate all that makes him Aaron. They learned in that first year that life would not always provide Aaron with a brick to prop him up and that is A-OKAY! It was time to begin celebrating all that makes him unique, all that makes him sparkle, and all that makes him able to change the lives of every soul he encounters.

My dad stressed the importance of celebrating all of the victories, big and small “…every milestone was special regardless of what and when it was.” Removing the unrealistic expectations allowed them not to miss the opportunity to witness the beauty that is his life.

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Now let’s bring on the siblings…

First up, the first of us to meet Aaron… Matt!

“… I always remember coming home from college and Aaron being at the airport always so excited to see me and have ‘the whole 6 of us’ together and that it has really made me appreciate how much we love our family and close friends…how we all accept each other and are happy to be in each other’s company…specifically, the first Labor Day I ever came home from college. He was so excited and I was so excited to see him. But then it became every time I came home”

…Amen Mattie, Amen.

Next up, the baby of the family, Mary Kate. The 14 lessons she has learned from Aaron are worth taking note of, that is a promise.

  • always laughs no matter what the situation is
  • ask mindless questions when you feel like in you’re in an uncomfortable situation
  • always do what you want to do
  • the little things in life are what matter… such as going for a car ride around the block listening to Home Alone and getting a coke
  • screaming at the top of our lungs to Free Fallin by Tom Petty can instantly put you in a good mood
  • making funny and weird gestures to each other in public
  • not caring what anyone thinks of you
  • living every moment to the fullest
  • having the worst day ever and a target trip turns the day around
  • shaking your butt in public is always acceptable
  • always answer a FaceTime call from him because you’re guaranteed to smile
  • never make a promise you can’t keep/be held accountable
  • never turn down a late night cruise
  • always say yes to a sleepover even if that means sharing a bed with Aaron and 2 dogs

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Next, my mom’s take on Aaron’s emotional response to “Happy Birthday.”

Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Dearest Aaron!
Happy Birthday to You!

Aaron is so moved by the song “happy birthday.” His eyes well up with tears and he grabs his heart ever so intently. Mom believes this is due the humility Aaron practices in his day to day life. She said, “…the man does not lack self-esteem, that is for sure, but he does not necessarily see how extremely special or his direct impact on the world around him.” She believes that on October 17, specifically in that moment when we all sing to him, he feels it and he feels it deeply.

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Lastly, let’s wrap this up with an open letter from me to dude.

Dear Aaron,

Although I have only known you for 26 years of your life, it feels like I have known you an eternity. God had BIG plans when he placed you on this earth 33 years ago. You light up every room you walk in, not in the cliche way. In the way that truly no words can describe. Being your little sister is my greatest privilege. I cannot begin to comprehend a life that did not include you. Your kindness is something few words can describe, it is limitless and it is available to all. You have taught me that it is our differences that make us unique. It is by truly embracing everyone and everything that we live and grow. Your kindness is something few words can describe, it is limitless and it is available to all. It blows my mind that you believe whole heartedly your entire family has Down Syndrome. You choose not to see the label of Down Syndrome that was placed upon you 33 years ago as a disability. You embrace all of the infinite abilities jam-packed into that extra chromosome. It is ever so clear that you see it as a uniting factor that has the ability to change this world… and I am with you buddy! Our family would never have been the same without you. This world would never have been the same without you. You are a gift beyond measure. Through you I see Love has no expiration tag, no judgement, you have taught me that love is the purest form of joy. I thank you, from the most sincere part of my heart for continually challenging my limiting beliefs, because of you my world is much greater. Because of you my heart knows love unlike any other.

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Love, Andie

If you made it to this point… thank you! Thank you for joining us on this journey of reflection on why our lives are infinitely better because of October 17, 1984.

Aaron, We Love You.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AARON!!!

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