Hannah Grace, my sweetheart,
My lovely daughter is a life-changer and a literal gift from God. I’d like you to be aware of some aspects of yourself that others may not be aware of. I’d like to tell you how you’ve influenced not only my life but the lives of so many others all around the world. I’d want to inform you about how your Creator put you together in a unique way.
I know you’re only three years old at the time I write this, but you’ll realize how awesome you are when you’re older. I may not be here to tell you how happy I am for you one day. So I’m going to write it down and put it in a book for you to read when you’re older, so you’ll never forget how unique you are. I’d want to tell you about… your story.
I’d want to begin by telling you about your birth date. We traveled all the way from Maui, Hawaii, to Tennessee to be with family. The big day arrived, and I couldn’t wait to see you! So, sure, ouch! I had you all-natural. Nothing could have prepared me for the moment you were placed on my chest. I already knew I loved you, but seeing you look at me with those almond-shaped eyes confirmed it.
‘Mommy, it’s me, your kid,’ you could say. I’m hoping you like me. I’m the heartbeat you were so excited about hearing. I’m the same baby who was comfortably snuggled up inside you. I’m the same person who fell asleep to your lullaby of heartbeats. In my snug darkened world, I heard you singing to me. You told me how much you adored me. If you accept my offer, I will change your life. I was created fearfully and wonderfully. I’m different, but that’s okay, Mommy; God made me that way. If given the chance, I will accomplish incredible feats.
Every day, I will bring a smile to your face. I was created specifically for you by God. He stated that you required my services, and that I am now entirely yours.’ Yes, I knew you were an angel, my lovely baby. You know, when Jesus created you, he gave you a very special gift. Though some may not recognize it, it is a gift to the world. And those that choose to recognize what a wonderful gift you are have been touched by something greater than themselves, and they will never be the same after seeing your soul.
Trisomy 21 is the name given to this gift. Your 21st chromosome has an extra copy thanks to God. I’m not sure how he managed to cram so much love into such a small microscopic chromosome, but he did. He intended you to stand out, to teach, to love unconditionally, and to show others how to do the same. You were created on purpose and for a reason.
Every story, however, seems to have some melancholy elements, and ours is no exception. All aspects of your tale must be told in order for you to completely understand how bright you shine. You can only see how brightly a candle can glow in the darkest of rooms. Within hours of your birth, you were diagnosed with three holes in your tiny heart and the possibility of leukemia. I was heartbroken and frightened of losing you. They said you wouldn’t live to be three if you didn’t get open heart surgery (which by the way you never had to have). During our time in the NICU, I felt like a zombie.
Your father didn’t recognize your unique gift or the impact it had on you. People are sometimes terrified of what they don’t understand, and he was sadly one of them. He didn’t know how to love with his heart, so all he did was stare with his eyes.
He departed when you were only five days old, without knowing your heart, smile, or the way you love with all of your being. He missed out on what could have been his life’s greatest blessing. While some people are born with distinct abilities, others choose to foster ‘disabilities’ they weren’t born with, and he opted to foster a blind heart.
Your Heavenly father never abandoned us, even if your earthly father was gone. He provided us with a plethora of other father figures that adore you as if you were their own child. But don’t be concerned, my dear daughter, because this is only the first chapter of your story. (Spoiler: it gets a lot better!)
Back and forth between oncology and cardiologist appointments was a scary period for us. Every time I went, I sobbed. Every single one was attended by your Aunt Anita, who kept me sane. You were plugged in like a machine. We didn’t have a place to call home, a car, or a work anymore. We slept in a hotel for a while before spending many months with family. I was enrolled in a government program that provided me with vouchers to purchase pre-selected items that we were ‘allowed’ to consume. So you wouldn’t see me cry, I covered my tears from you.
I wanted to be strong for you, to provide you with the life you deserved, and couch surfing wasn’t it. After much prayer, God provided me with a job so that we could begin to put the pieces of our lives back together. We stayed in a small ancient farmhouse that we rented. It didn’t appear to be much to most others, but it was home to us. It’s a new beginning for us, and it’s an opportunity for me to provide you a future. Our furniture was given to us by a church member, and we slept on the floor for months.
However, we’ve converted our disaster into a global message to teach the rest of the world so that they, too, can learn to see with their hearts. Allow me to explain how you did it:
With my iPhone, I snapped SO MANY shots of you. On social media, those photos became viral. I was completely enamored with your beauty and photographed each and every one of you. THE. PERIOD. The person who hired me happened to be a professional videographer. “You have a gift,” he stated after seeing those photos. “You need to go buy a professional camera.” Your mama is terrible with electronics, so I laughed like he was insane.
But, after months of giggling at the prospect, I finally purchased a camera. If it had been a plane, I would have crashed it because I was so confused by all the buttons and lights. But once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t stop myself. I had a strong desire to change how society views persons with diverse abilities. As a result, I photographed your teeny-tiny existence.
Your gorgeous heart and smile were grabbing the attention of people all around the world. So, what exactly did I do? I asked for a platform to bring awareness for the people around the world who needed to have their voices heard, many of whom were non-verbal. “How do I do that?” I thought to myself. Well, one night after drinking a lot of coffee and scribbling “Paperdolls Photography” on a torn piece of paper, it was as if the floodgates of my mind opened and the Lord showed me exactly what I needed to do.
In March of 2016, I launched my company. Nashville News Channel 5 was standing in our yard less than a week after I released my first Collection, “American Beauty,” and you had your first television appearance at the age of two. People wanted to know why I was getting calls and emails from Washington, D.C., Australia, Brazil, Canada, and all around the United States. “Why are you highlighting people with special needs in your photographs?” they inquire. As a result, I gladly obliged them.
Without speaking a word, I use photography to share our experience, raise awareness, and UN-teach society’s negative implications in order to avoid what happened to us from occurring to others. The photographs of you and your pals, my daughter, resonated loudly and clearly in every language spoken throughout the world, influencing hearts and minds. I’ll continue to battle for you and all your friends around the world with the talent God has given me. And I hope that when I’m no longer here, I’ll have left an impression on this earth.
You’ve transformed Paperdolls Photography into a global movement, and you’ve enlisted the help of your many friends. You are not alone in this. By spreading awareness everywhere your face is seen, you have become the lover of the global community of people with special needs. You had appeared on television at least three times by the age of three, not to mention your gorgeous face being featured in magazines, blogs, and other forms of media all over the world. All of this can be accomplished just by being yourself.
It astounds me how much of an impact you have on complete strangers. Humans have written to tell me how you have improved their lives and given them a new outlook on people in general. Hannah Grace, do you realize how proud I am of you? Do you see what I mean? Isn’t it obvious that you’re a gift? Do you realize how much you’re loved? People have approached us in supermarkets and started crying, with the only words exchanged being, “She is so beautiful.” “Thank you,” I respond. “Are you all right?” They just walk away with a nod. My child, you have some sort of superpower.
I’ll end by saying this (albeit your story is far from over): This is how incredible you are, and never forget your Mama’s comments. YOU ARE THE ONE. ROYALTY. You are stunning. You are a possibility. You are capable of accomplishing everything you desire. You are a gift to the world. You are a unique individual. You are a reason to rejoice. You were formed in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully! You are the seventh wonder of the world.
You are my eldest child. I wouldn’t want you any other way because you’re a part of me. One heart at a time, you will continue to alter the world. I’m right there with you, assisting you one beautiful portrait at a time. With photography, we may communicate without using words because images can be comprehended in every language, and the love that shines through them says it all.
You are far more than the daughter I wished for and prayed for. Thank you for continuing to love me despite my numerous failures. On most days, I don’t think I’m worthy of being your mother. You are a world-changer, a teacher, and an endless wellspring of pure love. You are good, pure, and innocent in every way. Thousands of people admire and admire you. My personal favorite among all the global stories, both ancient and new, is… The Story of YOU.