I ventured into the basement on the evening we were having people over to play cards for my birthday to look for a table cover. Having an October birthday is just another great excuse to get out the Halloween decorations. I jumped up into the crawl space and dropped out onto the floor a box labeled Halloween. I quickly opened it only to be frozen by finding the puppy costume Pheonix wore when he was 2 sitting on the top. I felt a rush come over me as I stood there holding the tiny costume. In my mind I was sure I was going to have to cancel the guests and curl up in a pile of costumes as I continued to pull tiny costumes from the box. There was his frog costume, a spider, a puppy, the scarecrow, and his cat costume which was always my favorite. Instead of crying, I was smiling. I laughed when I tried to put on his cat ears and remarked how tiny his head was as the headband/tie combo pulled my ears forward. It was a surprise find that could have pulled me apart, but it didn’t. It didn’t because my son was unique in so many ways and every memory I have of him brings a smile to my face.
The box was full of costumes, but obviously short a few. These were the costumes I chose for Pheonix. When he was 5 years old he started picking out his own costumes. The black cat costume was probably the last straw for him. Pheonix was starting to show his personality and make his own choices. He chose to be Spiderman, Mr. Incredible, Bumblebee from Transformers, Captain America, and then Woody from Toy Story. What did all of these choices have in common? They are all heroes. Heroes that he saw something of himself in. Spiderman was an awkward boy that even though most people didn’t notice him, he still felt compelled to help others. Mr. Incredible had to pretend to fit in because he was different. Bumblebee had to use an alternative way to communicate. Captain America was a smaller than average guy who just wanted to defend the world from bullies. And Woody was a dedicated best friend who would do anything to protect his family. With very little control of a great many things in his life, Pheonix’s spirit shone through all of the choices he made. From loud, brightly colored clothes and accessories and punk music, to all of the characters he loved in his favorite movies. Nemo with his lucky fin, WALL*E who saved everyone while speaking only a few words, and his all-time favorite R2D2; a rolling robot that made crazy sounds and could be counted on to save the day! He loved these characters because they shared characteristics with him. They were different, but they did great things.
One of Pheonix’s teachers told me he could see the kindness in his eyes. A little boy who had every reason to be mad at the world, only wanted good. He never wanted harm to come to anyone and would even yell at people if he thought they were playing too rough. He didn’t like to see people cry or get upset. Pheonix chose to dress up like his favorite heroes, but he didn’t need to dress up. The strength he gave to others through his determination, the hearts he filled with love with his kind and joyous smile, and the energy of hope his laugh projected were his superpowers! We are all here figuring out how we fit in. There are so many struggling every day not only to be here, but also to be accepted for who they are and what makes them special. Pheonix was true to his name and a very rare bird. He knew exactly how he fit in and who he wanted to be. He made this life better for every heart he touched by just being himself. Smiling, laughing, loving, and inspiring others to try despite challenges they will face. He will always be our hero as our beautiful memories make us better each and every day. We can only hope in our time here we can unselfishly give to others, accept and appreciate our differences, and aspire to be a hero by being true to ourselves.