“When pigs fly!” is a phrase frequently used to describe something that is likely never to happen. The gravity defying thought of a pig gracefully flapping its wings in the air, snout pointing to the sun and round belly gliding through the clouds produces quite an unusual and awkward vision. Ironically, the reality of this seemingly impossible feat has taken on a different meaning for our family, and those who know our story. Please allow me to explain:
The meaning is much deeper than the joyful portrayal of a mythical pig. It lies within the idea that nothing is actually impossible. Consider this for a moment.
Generally, we all have expectations of how we think our lives are going to play out. This dream is frequently embedded with hopes of a good job, family, the freedom to make choices, vacations to exotic places, time to enjoy hobbies, a family pet… the list goes on. At times, dreams do seem to take on the usual meaning of the phrase, “When pigs fly”. Impossible.
These dreams that we, quite often, have worked very hard for do not always line up with reality. Challenges of all kinds get in the way, in the form of lost jobs, lost love and missed opportunities. These are the moments where life challenges our dream and reality attempts to define us, sending us tumbling from the clouds to the ground where our feet may be firmly planted.
In May of 2009, our dream was challenged, greater than we could have ever imagined. Our three month old son, Ryan, was diagnosed with a fatal muscle disease, SMA Type1. The news of his disease paralyzed the pulse of our family in the same way it was paralyzing his weak body. We were forced to do everything we could to freeze moments in time if only to savor them just a second longer; knowing that his life on earth would not be in the abundance that we had mistakenly taken for granted. Ryan would not take trips to the zoo, would not know the joy of running barefoot in the cool grass with his sister, feel the spray of the ocean breeze, or even blow out his first birthday candle.
How this moment in our reality did not send us into a tailspin straight to the earth to lay in a pile of destruction is something I still have trouble explaining to others. Were we devastated? Absolutely. Did we have moments of complete heartache and doubt? Undeniably. Were we scared? Yes.
But somehow, amid the pain and sadness that this experience brought with it, also came the strength and perseverance that one can only conjure when put in such a situation. We had the support of our family, friends, and the strength of our faith leading us day after day. This strength has carried us on past the intangible moment where we lay our son to rest, and each day following that we spend with his memory in our hearts. Slowly, we have healed. Ever so patiently, we have kept flapping our wings, looking to the sun for the light of His goodness, waiting for the day when we can look into our son’s beautiful blue eyes once again.
As our healing has continued over the years, we have been given the opportunity to share our experience with others needing encouragement and support. It wasn’t until we moved into our second home that we realized just how “close to home” our next encounter with another family would come. In 2012, we met our neighbor’s, the Holler’s, for the first time. Later that year, we learned that they had some concerns about their daughter. We were stunned by the similarities of our situations. She had been struggling with muscle weakness for years with no confirmed diagnosis, and hearing about Ryan, led them to seek medical advice once again. This time, unfortunately, their concerns were confirmed, and she was diagnosed with a rare muscle disease that was progressively causing her difficulty with walking, daily activities and respiratory function.
Today, we have combined our efforts to support one another and have chosen to believe in the impossible. Instead, we see the symbol of the flying pig as a symbol of hope and faith. We continue to use the symbol of the flying pig in our efforts to raise awareness about muscle diseases through fundraising with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), believing that if we work together, nothing is impossible.
Many families are affected by muscle diseases, crippling daily norms and forcing those coping with and caring for these individuals to accept the harsh realities that having muscle weakness causes. I invite you to share in this symbol of hope with us, for those affected, or those who have lost a loved one too soon. Proceeds from the sale of our “Flying Pig” shirts will be donated to the MDA for continued research and support. Please help us lift these families up and be the source of light that they may point their snout towards in the sky, flapping wings freely, but with purpose and hope.