Chandler was born in May of 1993.  He was the completion of our family and the apple of many eyes.  His dad, Grier and I loved him unconditionally and were introduced to a brand-new world.  Or so we thought.  Chandler was born with Down syndrome and that, to us, was an unknown and scary new world.  We loved him so, so much, but we also grieved for life as it used to be.  Our hearts hurt for him that he would have to work so hard and would always be considered “different” to all that met him.  Or so we thought.

Life moves along.  We get hooked up with Early Intervention, figure out how my husband and I will both work and still give Chandler the care that he needs.  It was lots of changes.  What did his 8-year-old brother Aaron see?  The sibling he had longed for and nothing else.  It was instant love and remains so to this day.

But stop!  This isn’t the story I want to tell.  What I do want to share with you is a story about friendship.  A friendship that was born at a camp for people with disabilities; Camp Spearhead.  If I remember correctly, it was the summer of 2006. Upon arriving at camp, Chandler met….and instantly fell in love with Bridgette. 

Chandler was quite full of mischief and shenanigans at that age and was constantly trying to ruin her life!  Phone out the bus window!  Broken.  Sunglasses out the bus window!  Broken. Pushing her in the pool!  Fun!  Dancing and singing with her!  Fun!  They had a fun-filled summer at camp, but it didn’t stop there.  She would come and take Chan on “dates” or they would “double-date”.  She would invite Chan to USC to spend the weekend with her and take him on all kinds of magical adventures!  She allowed Grier and I to have some couples time on so many occasions.

Moving forward, Bridgette meets a boy!  Asher!  They fall in love and get engaged.  And Bridgette calls to ask if Chandler will be in their wedding!  A groomsman!  Of course, Chandler will be in their wedding!  And he was!  And it was magical!

Moving forward, Bridgette is going to have a baby and Chandler gets invited to the baby shower!  I’m just the ride!  Along comes her baby boy, and she becomes the most magical mama.  But remains Chandler’s friend. 

This is a friendship that began almost 17 years ago and continues to this day.  Chandler doesn’t get to see Bridgette as much because her life is busy.  And his is too!  But whenever they do see each other, the bond that these two share remains like it was just yesterday!

It is hard to share 17 years of adventures, but Bridgette was Chandler’s first love.  Of that I have no doubt!  Bridgette was also the bridge that brought two worlds together into one for me.

It’s not always easy.  Sometimes it’s downright heartbreaking to see your child struggle with things that are so easy for most.  We still get stares.  It still happens.  Not as much, or maybe it’s just not something I choose to see. It’s hard when health issues arise and get in the way of Chandler living his best life.  But his dad and I learn and grow each time we mess up!  And Chandler is the most patient of all.  He sees no flaws in any of us.  He only sees people that he loves, that help to take care of him, and that would lay their lives down for him in a skinny minute. 

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same”. – Unknown   

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words”. – Donna Roberts

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world”. – Heather Cortez