Many years ago, a girl named Kim moved in around the corner. I knew she was special from the first time I saw her. She caught me singing at the top of my lungs on my front porch and she didn’t make fun of me. It turned out she was transferring to my school and was even in the same class. We wound up carpooling for several years and were pretty close friends in grade school. There are a few things that will forever remind me of Kim—punch buggies (our arms were always black and blue from hitting each other on the way to school), the musical, South Pacific (she had the lead and I was in the orchestra), and the fact that she was one of my only grade school friends who never acted uncomfortable around my aunt who had Down Syndrome.
Fast forward more than twenty years, and Kim and I are still living in the same little county in New Jersey. When the authors from HerStory decided they wanted to honor everyday heroines, Kim and her beautiful daughter, Tori, were the very first people who came to mind. In HerStory, I talked about my grandmother and how her love for her daughter helped her overcome all the odds. Kim and Tori have a comparable story with a similar happy ending.
Eighteen years ago, when she was scarcely twenty years old, Kim became pregnant with her oldest daughter. During her pregnancy, she was misdiagnosed with Lyme disease and treated with a drug she later learned wasn’t safe for pregnant woman. Several months into her pregnancy, her baby started to develop problems. Two months before her due date, she was told the baby had died in utero. Where other people would have fallen into despair, Kim never gave up hope. She prayed every day for a miracle, and her prayers were answered. When Tori came into this world breathing, Kim was so grateful, it didn’t matter that Tori was handicapped. She was a gift from God, an angel.
Tori was eventually diagnosed with microcephaly, a disease where a person’s head is significantly smaller than average. She is missing two thirds of her brain and parts of her brain are deteriorating. Tori is unable to speak, to stand, or even to sit up without assistance. Kim was told her daughter would never live to see her first birthday, but like my grandmother Tessie, she has proven that a mother’s love outweighs any prognosis. Although doctors claim Tori was the mental capacity of a three month old, Kim knows there is more hiding behind those beautiful brown eyes. Although she isn’t able to speak, Tori expresses herself through laughter and gestures her family understands. One of the things everyone knows about Tori is that she’s a redneck girl at heart and loves her country music. She also enjoyed getting trussed up for her prom just as much as any teenage girl.
Not long after Tori was born, her biological father cut ties. Kim raised her alone for a few years until she met her current husband, Chris. Between the two of them, they have become a modern day Brady Bunch with five children ranging in age from two to eighteen. Chris legally adopted Tori and has helped make it possible for Kim to stay home with the children. This is important for Tori because her immune system is easily compromised. What would be the sniffles for the average child could become a two week hospital stay for Tori.
I chose Kim as my everyday heroine because, like my grandmother, Kim doesn’t see having a handicapped child as a trial. She doesn’t want people to pity her. Kim’s own words say it best, “Walking and talking are overrated. Having a perfect baby is overrated. Having a handicapped child isn’t a bad thing. We’re blessed. Tori is a gift and I wish more people would understand that. She smiles at me every time I walk into the room. She always appreciates me, and she makes even the most miserable person smile when they see her.”
Kim’s words are like hearing my grandmother whispering in my ear. Both of these amazing women understand that a special person came into her life for a reason. Tori has touched the lives of many people around her, but most especially her family. Kim told me that one of the lessons she learned from her daughter is the power of unconditional faith. Tori never worries about whether her family will be there for her. She simply trusts they will be. If we all held onto that simple faith, if we learned not to doubt ourselves and others, how much simpler and more beautiful life would be. I am so grateful for people like Tori, who touch my soul with their innocence, and for women like Kim who prove every day of their lives that you don’t have to risk your life to be a real hero. You simply need to open your heart and love unconditionally.
To read about other strong women throughout history, real and fictional, grab your copy of HerStory today! Available in print and eBook formats. Copies are available on Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.