Everything Changes

Every parent remembers that moment when a tiny pink or blue bundle in which your newborn baby has been carefully swaddled is laid tenderly into your waiting, anxious arms. In that moment, as you gaze into the eyes of your future, you somehow know that your life has been forever changed. Mine did at 11:50 a.m. June 26, 1983, when I stared and marveled a 7 lbs. 6 oz. beautiful baby boy, we named Hunter Ross. I knew that he truly was the prettiest baby boy ever because lots of other people told me so! And they weren’t all relatives.

From that day, those big brown eyes and charming smile stole my heart and produced a love bigger than I had ever known before. Like every parent, I looked forward to a lifetime of future bedtimes, bath times, sports, music lessons, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. But sometimes, The Universe has other plans for us.

After several very difficult teenage years, Hunter was diagnosed with a moderate stage of mental illness. By the time he was 20 years old, it had progressed to a severe state requiring us to find special housing for him. To say we were devastated would be an understatement. All of our hopes and promising dreams for that beautiful baby boy seemed gone… up in smoke.

All parents of a child with any kind of disability, whether physical or psychological, will tell you that you never totally give up hope or stop loving your compromised or fragile children but you do have many moments of utter despair. Under that kind of stress and disappointment, it’s easy to lose sight of what you do have and any chance of a hopeful or improved outcome. But while Hunter did not give me graduations, weddings, or grandchildren, he did give me some things I could have never expected, experienced, nor understood in any other way.

Over time and with help, Hunter’s condition improved, and he turned out to be quite capable and found ways to integrate well into society. He has worked full-time at an upscale deli for the past eight years, owns his own car, keeps an incredibly tidy home, and has more money in the bank than most people his age.  He loves his family and spending time wakeboarding on the lake every summer.

Hunter turns 40 this month (how is that possible?) and through our journey together, there are two distinct gifts that he has given to me. The first is an unshakeable faith that miracles can indeed happen… even when everything and everyone says they cannot. Hunter taught me to hold on, to look again, and never, ever give up. And secondly, that everyone has value. Everyone. No one is expendable, worthless, or beyond hope.

Hunter and our family will continue to wrestle with the changes and challenges that come with mental illness, but I never imagined we would see him so productive, independent, and happy. It was a joyous moment when he walked me down the aisle at my wedding a few years ago.

In honor of Hunter and all he has accomplished, I am sharing another Sara Barielles song from her stage play, Waitress, called Everything Changes. Her lyric says it all for me:

Today’s a day like any other, but I am changed,
I am a mother, in an instant.
And who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here, so innocent.
I was lost for you to find
And now I’m yours and you are mine

Two tiny hands, a pair of eyes
An unsung melody is mine for safekeeping
And I will guard it with my life
I’d hang the moon for it to shine on her sleeping
Starting here and starting now
I can feel the heart of how

Everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Oh, and it’s true
What did I do to deserve you?

I didn’t know, but now I see
Sometimes what is, is meant to be.
You saved me.
My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus and in time, maybe,
I can heal and I can breathe
‘Cause I can feel myself believe

That everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around.
Everything changes.
What I thought was so permanent fades.

And I thank God tonight there’s a new life in front of my face.

And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place.

And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Cause everything’s changed.

Thank God for you.

I hope Sara’s song and Hunter’s story will inspire you this week to be mindful of the inherent value in everyone you meet and to never, ever lose hope for a miraculous future.

“And I know in due time every right thing will find its right place.”
~ Sara Barielles


    1. Thank you, Yvonne. It was taken at my rehearsal dinner BBQ. I love that picture of us.

  1. I know without a doubt miracles happen every day. My husband is such a miracle. He had a very serious bicycle accident in September 2020. He died on our street, one house away from our home. A nurse who was riding with his group, performed CPR. He was transferred to the trauma hospital with many injuries, worst of all 3 brain hematomas. The doctors weren’t hopeful and rushed him to surgery.

    Today, he is President of the Florida Dental Association. He can no longer practice oral surgery, but he is whole and in good health. God saved him. He had great surgeons, great care and prayers from so many across the country. Life happens, things change, but it is still good.

    1. My goodness, Jerilyn… your story makes mine pale in comparison. Indeed, that was a miracle and I’m happy to hear that he is doing so well. Here’s to many more healthy, happy years for you both!

  2. Thank you. Many of us needed to hear these stories as we chug along taking life for granted. Tomorrow’s not promised so I’ll cling to today and be grateful I open up your email this morning in bed as I start my Monday. Indeed Life is Good.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn. I’m so glad that this week’s Stretch kickstarted your week off right! Thank you for taking the time to write to me. It means a lot.

  3. I too have a challenged child. My oldest son is on the Autism spectrum. Your post brought back many memories of being in the hospital when he was born 24 years ago this month. We spent two weeks in NICU, and I promised God, and my son, that I would never stop being his advocate and champion. Some days are harder then others but miracles happen (like high school gradation!) and the best is yet to come.

    1. Indeed, the best is yet to come. I applaud your steadfastness and strength. Thank you for sharing your story and for being an example of what love looks like in action.

  4. Beautiful post! I understand your challenges as we have 2 adopted children that suffer with mental illness. It is a struggle and a challenge but they need us more than ever to help them remain stable. Love you and your heart!

    1. Love you back, sweet friend! May God bless you and your adopted children. Keep doing the great work you’re doing out there in the world, spreading goodness wherever you go!

  5. I love this post!! Happy Birthday, Hunter! My mother always said when things got tough, “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger!” This is a definite story that proves it.

    1. Amen to that! Hunter and I are both stronger for the experience. Thanks for being such a strong and valued supporter, Sandra!

  6. What a beautiful story of your handsome Hunter. Mental illness is so real and sadly for those who refuse care as adults, it tears at the family’s hearts. Choosing to self-medicate with alcohol is NOT the answer. Playing the victim when everyone has tried to help save them is a daily struggle. Your beautiful story gives so many others HOPE. Love you and your weekly messages. One of your biggest fans, Linda

    1. Ahhh, Linda, that’s music to my ears! Yes, mental illness plagues families and communities and so many need help and hope. Glad if this helps just a little. Love you back in a big, big way!

  7. 40 years? Oh my. And for any of your readers that may be doubters, as one who held that little baby, and watched the blonde mop atop his head spring forth, he is absolutely still one of the prettiest babies I’ve ever seen. Love him, you and your steadfast love for that dear boy (I mean man!).

  8. It was actually you telling me what a beautiful baby he was that I was thinking of when I wrote that. I remember you saying to me, “I never thought I’d ever think a baby was as beautiful as my own but Hunter just might be!” I remember thinking that I knew I thought he was but it felt so good to have that validated. Thank you for your comment. It means the world to me, sweet friend. I love you too!

Leave a Comment