“Mom, who is that in the picture?”
“That Gia…is a very special little boy.”
“Special? Oh really? What’s his name?”
“His name is Brennan The Brave!”
“Brennan The Brave? Is he a superhero?!”
“Actually…he is a superhero, Gia.”
“Oh wow! Can I meet him? Can he be my friend?”
“Ya know, Gia…I have a feeling that we’ll all meet Brennan someday.”
I’d like to introduce you to that very special little boy…
His name is Brennan Stringer.
Better known as ‘Brennan The Brave’.
I went to high school with Brennan’s parents, Royce and Holly. At our 10 year class reunion, we spoke about their plans for a second pregnancy. They had a single child at the time, Karson, and like many new parents, were unsure of the right time to take that next step. So my husband and I wished them luck on the eventual expansion of their family, and said our goodbyes. We haven’t seen them since.
Baby Brennan was born about a year later.
Now imagine for a moment…
Imagine being told that your once, seemingly healthy baby would soon deteriorate before your eyes. The few skills they had would regress. Their development would come to an abrupt end. They would lose all function of their brain and body. The light at the end of the tunnel did not exist.
This was the news that Royce and Holly would learn of their second born son. On September 24th, 2013, it became official – Brennan had Infantile Tay-Sachs Disease – a rare and incurable genetic disease.
I remember the day I read the news about Brennan. I cried tears of disbelief. I ran to my husband, Jeff, pleading with him, “How could this happen?”, “These are good people!”, “It’s just not fair!”.
Jeff held back tears of his own. He remembered that nice couple he met at my class reunion, and he remembered them fondly. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the news himself.
As a parent, you can’t help but trade places with them – just for a moment – just for a glimpse in to the unimaginable. I immediately wanted to trade back.
We gave our kids an extra kiss that night and thanked God for their health.
It was about a year later that we learned of Gia’s apraxia. I cried a similar plea, “Why did this happen to me?”, “I’m a good person!”, “This just isn’t fair!”.
It wasn’t long before the weight of Gia’s diagnosis would lift from my chest. I came to a place of acceptance. It was a comfortable place to be. But as time went on, I realized – I was given this life for a reason, and it was becoming impossible to ignore. So I went from accepting it to embracing it.
I just knew…Gia was a gift. God had a plan for us. He trusted us with his plan. He chose us to be Gia’s parents.
I can not relate to Royce and Holly. There are very few who can. But having a child with special needs gave me a new perspective on life in the Stringer home. I finally understood why this happened to these good people. It made it easier to trade places with them.
There are only 50 cases of Tay Sachs in the United States, Brennan being the only child in Arizona with the disease. With such inconceivable odds, how could this be a mistake? It wasn’t. Royce and Holly were given the incredible responsibility of caring for this beautiful boy…and they were embracing it.
I just knew…Brennan was a gift. God had a plan for them. He trusted them with his plan. He chose them to be Brennan’s parents.
I can’t think of anything more special.
On March 4th, 2016, God decided he was ready for his very special boy. At just 3 1/2 years old, ‘Brennan The Brave’ took his last breath.
He took a lot of hearts with him.
I never met Brennan, but somehow…I knew him.
That brave little boy helped me through some very difficult times. He gave me strength when I needed it most. When I was feeling tired of the uphill climb of apraxia – he showed me that you never give up. When Gia’s progress just wasn’t fast enough – he showed me how to live for today. When life felt like it was just too hard – he showed me how to count my blessings.
Because of Brennan, I hug my kids harder, hold them closer and love them louder.
He was a gift to more than just his parents. He was a gift to all who knew him and to all who followed his story. He left a mark on this world that can never be erased.
I am forever grateful to Royce and Holly, for letting me and so many others into their lives. They took us on a journey filled with hope, dedication, perseverance and faith. Through their devotion to Brennan, they demonstrated the very meaning of unconditional love. Their resilience through it all inspires me everyday.
Even so…no parent should ever have to lose a child. I only hope they find peace in all of the lives that they’ve touched with their story.
Tay-Sachs denied Brennan and his family of so much – including the joys of speech. Just before Brennan’s disease took over, he spoke one of the only words his parents would ever hear him say, “Ma Ma”. But there was so much more in there. I just know there was.
As an apraxia mom with an apraxia blog, I can’t help but ask myself…
What would Brennan Say?
Please take this opportunity to educate yourself and others.
Click on the links below to learn more about Tay-Sach Disease and the Stringer family.
– Learn more about Tay-Sachs Disease –
– Stringer family Tay-Sachs awareness video –
– Donate to the Stringer family –
– The Daily Courier article –