Watching Adam soar: A father's story of love and acceptance for his transgender son
"I'm just proud of Adam...I simply wanted to tell my son's story"
A Londoner is helping the memory of his son to live on to help people struggling with their identities.
Rick Prashaw is the author of 'Soar, Adam Soar," a memoir about his late son Adam's life as a transgender man. It's a story about love, acceptance, loss and new beginnings.
The story begins over 26 years ago in Sudbury, Ont. where Prashaw was working as a Catholic priest. One of the things he struggled with the most in the seminary was giving up the opportunity to have a family and becoming a father.
"I lived 12 very wonderful, happy, active and satisfied years as a priest," he said, "I honestly never, ever imagined where it would lead."
I always thought it was such an interesting story. A Catholic priest marries, instantly [becomes] a step-dad to three children...and then within the year has this interesting kid who from the get-go is in the fast lane- Rick Prashaw, author of Soar, Adam, Soar
As fate would have it, he ended up meeting and falling in love with Suzanne Corbeil, a mother of three children who was a frequent attendee at his parish.
After participating in a 40 day retreat to mediate he came to a realization. "This finally led to a recognition of love and a deep sense of peace...that I was going to leave [the priesthood] and that I was going to marry her," he said.
From priesthood to fatherhood
Soon they were married, and within a year they were expecting their first child together. While pregnant, Corbeil told her husband at the time she had a feeling that the child was a boy. Prashaw just went with it.
"I was new at this. I was a Catholic priest, and [now] I was thrown in the deep end of parenting. When the mom said 'oh it's definitely a boy', we started calling this kid Adam," he said.
"I was over the moon excited to go from 'Father Rick' to the father of this kid."
However in the delivery room, they were in for a surprise.
"We hear the intern announce 'you are parents to a beautiful baby girl'. Mom just bolted up [on] the delivery table like 'where has Adam gone?!'"
Despite the surprise, the parents decided to hold on to the name 'Adam'. Their baby girl was christened as Rebecca Adam Prashaw.
From a young age, Rebecca wasn't a girly girl. She was a tomboy who loved Batman and playing hockey. She became a reputable goalie on her girls' hockey team, and was a child with a sunny disposition who enjoyed making people smile.
At five years-old, she was diagnosed with epilepsy that would continue to affect her health throughout her life. She would later undergo two major surgeries later in her life hoping to improve her condition.
When Rebecca was in high school she came out to her family as a lesbian. Yet her parents always felt that there was something more. Those feelings were confirmed a few years later after another sit down conversation.
Becoming 'the boy in the mirror'
What happens next is what Rick describes as his son's journey to becoming 'the boy in the mirror' that he always wanted to be. At 18, their daughter came out to her parents as Adam.
"He said 'I am who I am, and I love who I love. If you want to come with me, come. If you don't? Okay bye,'" said Rick.
"That was Adam, and I had no doubt what I was going to do with that statement. I was going to join him."
But as a father, Rick did have his fears.
"I knew the hate, the hurt, the discrimination. I knew...of the abuse. I worried for him," he said, "But I never, ever had a second hesitation of accepting him," he said.
Rick's fears were calmed after going with Adam to his appointments with professionals such as doctors and social workers to learn more about the transitioning process. It was reassuring for him to hear that Adam could truly live his life the way he wanted to.
However, Adam's ongoing battle with epilepsy kept interfering with his health. After undergoing his second major surgery, the family had high hopes that it would help Adam continue his transitioning process.
Yet in January 2016, tragedy struck.
Listening, learning and loving really worked for us and I really highly recommend it- Rick Prashaw, Author of Soar, Adam, Soar
While in California visiting his sister, Rick got a phone call: Adam had been relaxing in his building's hot tub when he had a seizure.
When he was found, he had been underwater for some time. Adam was rushed to the hospital, and quickly put on life support. But over the next few days it became clear that he would never wake up, leaving his parents to make a difficult decision.
A gift that continues to 'live on'
Adam had told his mother years earlier that he wished to donate his organs if anything had ever happened to him. His parents told the doctors his wishes and he was taken off life support. He was only 22 years-old.
"I thought that would be it," said Rick, "The Trillium Gift of Life Network said that he had saved four people. Three women got his kidneys and a man got his heart."
Hearing how Adam's heart went to a man still gets Rick choked up.
"It's perfect. Given his gendered journey and his wishes, it was perfect," he said.
But that still wasn't the end of the story. The recipient of Adam's heart, John Dickhout, reached out hoping to connect with the family whose son saved his life.
Dickhout messaged Rick anonymously before the two began corresponding. They've had the opportunity to meet each other in person, and keep in touch. For Rick, it's incredible.
"His [Adam's] gift lives on, and his generosity lives on," he said.
Soar, Adam, Soar
Rick always knew he wanted to share Adam's story. He had a feeling he would write a book one day, but he never realized how the story would unfold.
"I always thought it was such an interesting story. A Catholic priest marries, instantly [becomes] a step-dad to three children...and then within the year has this interesting kid who from the get-go is in the fast lane," he said.
From his book he hopes to put a human face to something that thousands of people go through whether its organ donation or embracing one's identity. Already he's been to towns where youth like Adam have died by suicide or are struggling with mental health issues. He thinks his book can change that.
"It's to put a human face and a name on all these debates [and] labels we give people. I feel that the book helps break us out of that," he said.
For Rick, it's about helping others to understand how they can appreciate the difference and beauty in everybody through his own son's life.
"Listening, learning and loving really worked for us and I really highly recommend it," he said, "I'm just proud of Adam...I simply wanted to tell my son's story."