Michael was born in 1986, sixteen weeks premature, weighing just over a pound. He was so small his father’s wedding ring could slide up his arm. The first three months of his life we spent in neonatal intensive care. His chance for survival was only ten percent, yet he lived for ten years. It was a roller coaster ride and our family entered a new world, a world with its own language and culture.
When we learned Michael had extensive brain damage and would be blind we wondered how our family would survive. The early years became a series of hopes dashed by reality. He would not walk, he would never talk, he would not see, he would eat through a tube, and he would always have seizures. Our world was turned upside down. At one year Michael still weighed less than ten pounds. Life was fragile and lonely. Slowly, Michael’s personality began to grow. It was Michael’s laugh, his joy, and his determination that became the strength of our family. He was the joy of our lives.
He thrived in our local public school and had a wealth of friends. He knew how to love with all his heart. Things always became difficult when Michael would get sick again. Throughout his ten years Michael had seven stomach surgeries. Children’s hospital became a second home.
When Michael was five I met Mary, a special education teacher. We shared a vision for creating a place that would provide emotional and physical support for families with children with disabilities. Many people think the Center was created in Michael’s memory, but it was actually conceived when Michael was eight and had been healthy for over a year. Our dream became a reality when we were given a parcel of land in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Two years later, as the house was being framed, Michael went into the hospital for what we thought would be an easy surgery.
We were blessed to have two local businessmen continue building, knowing that someday our hearts would return to the mission. We received $158,000 in Michael’s memory and the house was completed. Slowly we came back and one year later the Respite Center opened, providing care for four families.
Thirteen years later, the Respite Center has helped hundreds of families, and continues to grow each year. Many see the house as Michael’s legacy, but we believe that the true legacy of Michael is the love and care you find in our home. As each year passes, the sweetness of Michael’s memories grow, and the lessons he taught become clearer.