My mind immediately goes to Jack. Really, all my children, but with him it is different. It most likely always will be. I think back to 2009 and how I knew nothing about his diagnosis, much less the long road of acronyms that lie ahead…IEP and IEP meetings, ABA therapy, DTT, IDEA, FERPA, BIP, SLP, OT, BCBA…just to name a few. If you told me that for four solid years I would be fighting a school district for his rights to an appropriate education, I would have never believed you. If you had said to me that one day I would watch from the front row in the 11th Circuit Court as an attorney, turned lifelong friend, fought for Jack as I fought back scared, but brave tears, again I would have never dreamed it possible. This was my David and Goliath moment.
When you are all-consumed by something so much greater than you for almost half a decade, it will become a large part of who you are.
It was all so seemingly simple in the beginning. What should have been a simple tuition reimbursement case, turned into a stretch of Due Process and court hearings, mediations, meetings, and character assassinations. It was always just the three of us; my husband, Chris; Jack’s attorney, James Gallini; and myself. Each of us were in new territory. None of us had been here before. We were, by all means, the definition of “underdog.” No one thought we could do it. No one had ever done it before. No one had ever, in the history of the state of Alabama, won tuition reimbursement for their disabled preschooler. Never. You know what though? We didn’t care. If James knew this going in, he never let me know until midway through. Honestly, it would not have even mattered. I discovered that (though it’s only now that I can recognize it for what it was) my child will awaken my inner warrior. My children will bring that beast to life.
The three of us spent night after night, and days upon days; researching, studying case law, and preparing materials. There were several times where one of us might attempt to go on vacation, but it never failed, one of us would end up working on the case or researching something while we were away.
We lived and breathed Jack’s case like it was a drug. Like an athlete training for the Olympics. The workout becomes so addicting because you believe in your mind if you sacrifice even just one day to live you may never reach your goal. Not one of us were going to let that happen.
Not only did I discover that my children will always provoke my warrior soul, but I found someone that tapped into that part of me. James would become part of my soul tribe. When it came to being an advocate for Jack, and fighting giants that were bigger than he and I combined, James would be there to say, “You got this. You are not giving up. You are a fighter. You are helping so many more kids than your own. Never give up on him.”
Passion speaks to my warrior soul.
James is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. They say storytelling often follows a pattern called the hero’s journey. At the end of the journey, the individual comes home changed or transformed. I look back at that time in my life, and it honestly is a journey I hope to never experience again. However, I am forever changed because of it. What is more incredible is that James’s life has never been the same either. His willingness to keep soldiering on and pushing me along the way, not only helped Jack and his programming, but so many other disabled children as well.
I never knew I was strong enough to fight so hard. I never dreamed I would ever have to. I have this warrior lying dormant that I know now can be provoked when my children, their well-being, or their rights are being threatened. She is in there. I also know there are certain individuals that are good for my warrior soul. I keep them close to my heart because I know when the time comes to go to battle they will be there.
You have a warrior soul. Surround yourself with people who fan the flames of that fire inside of you. Your soul tribe is a group of people who are good for your soul. They feed your soul. They aren’t the ones that are going to tell you to be quiet, or sit down. They will tell you to get up. Speak up. Stand up for what you believe in.
I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to find your tribe. Keep them close, and love them hard. Your soul depends on it.