Strong and Brave

We spent anxious hours awaiting your arrival. When you arrived, we rejoiced and cried. The doctors showed me your little hand. Your mom took you in her arms, “Hello David, I’m so happy to meet you,” as she smiled at you. You squeaked out your nearly imperceptible cry. Our hearts hurt. We were so happy to be a family of three with you in our lives.

When you came home, I held you and crept into your room to check on you often. Each time I entered your room, I prepared myself to find you were no longer with us. I prepared myself to be strong and brave for your mom. Each time I found you to be the strong and brave one. Lying in your crib peacefully sleeping, crying for food, or ready for snuggles. Four pounds, two ounces, you had no idea how you demonstrated the strength and resilience of a Navy Seal, surviving and thriving every day.

You didn’t walk until you were five. Then one day at church, you got up and quickly crossed from one side of the gym to the other. We could hardly keep track of you! You have never uttered a word, but you have learned to tell us what you need. You find those who are hurting in a crowd and show them comfort and love. You have looked in my eyes and asked why. You have told me you love me. You have penetrated my soul.

You had six surgeries by the time you were six years old. You have spent hours in waiting rooms, doctor offices, and hospitals. Each time, I swallow my fear to be brave for you, your mom, your brother. Each time, I fear losing you. Each time, you again prove you are the resilient one. You are a fighter, a survivor, someone who thrives.

We nearly lost you between Christmas and New Years of 2015. Suddenly hit with pneumonia, O2 levels well below critical. Your mom’s instincts saved your life. 24 hours after arriving at the ER in Cambridge, you were up, feisty and ready to get moving again. Not until then could we allow ourselves to grasp how close we came to losing you that night. Your mom and I wept out of joy and unreleased fear. We welcomed 2016 with greater joy in the mundane reality the four of us would board the plane together back to the U.S..

Your recent pneumonia again had us worried. For a week I entered your room multiple times a night, reliving those early and anxious days when you came home from the hospital. I don’t know how many times in 15 years I have entered your room, my heart beating fast, braced to find you gone—ready to be brave for your mom and brother. I’m the dad, it’s my job to be strong for our family. Again and again, you show you are the brave and strong one. You refuse to give in. You have too much love and joy to offer the world. You are made in the image of God and you reflect Him to the world everyday as you create music with your keyboard and as you relate to others with your hugs and smile and laugh.

We have celebrated every milestone of your life. Every birthday we take note. Every school transition marking another achievement in your small and remarkable life. I couldn’t imagine this day when you were born. Today you turn 15. David, you are one of my heroes. You show the strength of a grown man. You show the courage of a warrior. You are strong and brave. Today I celebrate you my dear son.

Who is strong and brave in your life?


  1. So beautiful! What a beloved and lovable young man he has become! Thank you for showing, no “teaching” us love through the trials of triumphs of precious David!

  2. So beautifully written, this letter to your son. I love following you & Lisa… such love & positiveness???????? God Bless your family! Happy Birthday sweet David ?

  3. My son Clint. He’s one of twins,and has Cerebral palsy. Hes my hero.Hes now 28 years old and I adore everything about him and the adventures we’ve gone through together.

  4. I am the Gramma of a beautiful Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome baby. When he was first’ born we were filled with fear because our first Grandbaby arrived with a cleft lip and palette. My son and his wife were crushed. I walked over to hold Dalton Jed’s tiny hand. Bent to kiss his hand and the Dr. and I looked at his hand at the first time and when I saw the look he gave me I felt fear. I have 5 babies, I know the joy, jubilation, and sheer bliss of having a “normal” and now I know the courage God gives to those who are going to have a “new normal.” I wish I were a great writer like you but l’m not. I just had to thank you for your words about your son, your family. Thank you and God Bless. Our Dalton is 21, walked all of a sudden when he was 6, and has never uttered a word but when I look in his eyes I see love reflected there.

  5. Precious boy with an amazing family. God Bless you all. Prayers to David for continued strength and perseverance.

  6. Happy Birthday David and to you too Stephen?as you celebrate David’s Birtday. What a joy our children are and a gift to us- only through them do we do the characterological growth we are meant to do. Thank-you for sharing your journey as David’s loving Dad. Warmly Debi

  7. It is so amazing how children surprise us with their perseverance. My youngest son, Daniel is now growing stronger every day. He is now 11 months. We almost lost him 6 months ago to a rare liver disease, biliary atresia. This strikes 1 in 20,000. The liver cannot pass bile. He was so sick, he did not have your average wait time of about 3+ months for a liver transplant. Instead, God gave us a miracle and he was only listed for 40 minutes! Extremely rare for this to happen. Since then, we have met with his donor’s family and friends (she is deceased) I remember being in the hospital wishing for no tubes, to give him a bottle. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when your faced with challenges. As hard as late night feedings are and his not so good days, I wouldn’t give them up for anything in the world.

  8. Steve, I remember that day 15 years ago when that sweet boy entered your lives as a newborn. We prayed for the three of you, as you entered that very new season of your lives. You and Lisa have two amazing boys. You are a precious family that God loves dearly. Happy Birthday David!! ???????

  9. David is such an inspiration. I’ve followed his story on Lisa’s page. You two are truly blessed! The theme of our July 4th parade this year is “Who is your HERO?” My five year old grandson, who suffered a stroke at birth and suffers from a severe brain injury, is going to ride in the parade, in his remote controlled Lamborghini, controlled by his dad, with signs on the sign that say “LUCA is OUR HERO”! Your post today was very appropriate because like you, Luca is our hero every day!

  10. Thank you for sharing such a touching tribute. My husband and I are expecting our first in October, a precious girl. However, her early chromosomal diagnosis of Patau Syndrome makes her future with us unknown and often very scary. I feel like I have to be strong for both her and my husband for what is most certainly a challenging future and I know my husband feels the same. We are working to enjoy each day and plan to make whatever time we have with her, short or long, filled with love. Thank you for putting into words the joy and fear I feel in my heart. Many blessings to you and your family.
    -Chelsea Murkley
    (A Facebook follower of Lisa Leonard Designs)

  11. Happy birthday David!?we live thru our children and they are in our hearts even before they are born!

  12. A touching post Steve, thank you! My wife Emily is strong and brave, although pregnancy has proven to put her life at risk she is still willing to give it a go in hopes to have another child. Thankful for her.

  13. Happy Birthday, David!!! Your dad sure wrote nice words about you and the strength God has given you. God knows what He is doing! He certainly blessed you and your mom and dad when he brought ya’ll together as family!! I hope your day is as wonderful and special as you are.

  14. This is so beautiful, not sure what words to use to describe the deep abiding love I read here of your family. God has blessed all of you! Thank you for sharing this, it touches the heart in huge ways!

  15. Happy 15th Birthday, Dear David! I enjoy your and Lisa’s stories of your beautiful family. Blessings!

  16. You all are an amazing family the love you have for each other and how you handle it all is simply great thank you for always sharing pics love them

  17. Who is strong and brave in my life? All the precious children with developmental challenges and their families that I have been privileged to work with as a PT and early intervention specialist. “You have looked in my eyes and asked why. You have told me you love me. You have penetrated my soul.” that says it all.

  18. Heart wrenching to read, but so brave that little David, and his remarkable parents….reminds me of 23 years ago when we were faced with raising a premature child with a huge brain bleed. Every day that they would spinal tap “Thomas”, I would go into the hospital ladies room, get one the floor and pray, sob, and pray some more as they relieved pressure from his brain. Then one day “Tom-Tom” proved the world wrong, all of the unbelievers who said he would never walk or talk….you proved them all wrong. Today a college graduate, body builder, and an amazing testament of hope for those who have little or no hope. Thanks for sharing your story, it makes me realize again and again just how fortunate we are.

  19. The strength of this father brings me to tears…. what an amazing man, father, husband and provider. God continue to bless this family.

  20. What a wonderful, loving father who appreciates and loves every member of his family. This man should be cloned. A man who gets it. Truly gets it!!!!!

  21. Beyond beautiful words! Thank you for sharing and showing the depth of LOVE! I am new to this beautiful family, and I am in love with you all!! I can truly see God’s grace shining in your beautiful family. ❤️ Patty Sherouse

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