“Are there heroes in real life daddy?”
My son asked this question, peering up at me with big blue eyes as we sat nestled next to one another on our sofa watching The Dark Knight Rises a few days ago.
“You mean like Batman?” I asked.
“Uh huh!” he replied.
We were at the part of the movie when Bruce Wayne finally escapes a deep, seemingly unescapable, prison. The symphonic music reaches a crescendo and all you want to do is jump out of your seat and cheer!
“Well, there’s not a Batman. He’s pretend,” I said. “But there are real life people who do heroic things!”
My son, being the inquisitive 8-year-old that he is, demanded an answer. “Like who?”
With that I began to tell him about a woman I recently read about named Christie Jameson. Jameson, 73, lives in South Jordan, Utah, and is an adoptive mother to 35 children, 11 of which still live at home with her. More than 30 years ago, after having two children biologically, she and her husband Alva decided they had more than enough room for more children. Thus, the adoption journey began for them.
Jameson recently told PEOPLE, “We didn’t go looking for our family — most of them came to us, once the word got out that we would take the kids nobody else wanted.”
At 73 years old, and now a single mom (Alva passed away from cancer in 2009), Jameson is caring for children with major medical and emotional special needs. Six of her children have serious heart defects. Some have come from severe abusive backgrounds, both sexually and physically. Over the past few decades she has cared for children with Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and children who are deaf or blind.
According to her, “All kids deserve a real home of their own and I just couldn’t bear the thought of my kids going into institutions.” While most people in their 70s are enjoying retirement, long walks on the beach during the winter months, or extensive travel to see the world, Jameson is focused on being a mom to children who many in this world would discard or disregard altogether. Over the years she has even walked the devastating road of having to lay some of them to rest, as a result of their medical needs.
She and her husband always lived a simple life, doing what they could to get by and provide a life for the children they cared for. Alva worked as an accountant and she cleaned toilets at their church. While it was a simple life, she describes it as “a good life,” to PEOPLE.
While I often tell people that you don’t do foster care or adoption because you’re a superhero with super powers, I can safely say that Christie Jameson is a real-life hero. She’s doing work that many wouldn’t even consider. It’s work that can literally take the life out of any parent, regardless of their experience or personal strength. Special needs parenting requires ’round the clock care, and you never reach a finish line like you do when you’re parenting children who are healthy. Jameson will be a hands-on parent until the day she passes on.
That’s the work of a hero. That’s the work of a person who understands what it really means to love.
After telling my son the story of Christie Jameson (a story he can relate to because he’s adopted and has special needs), I looked at him and said, “Yes, son, heroes do exist in real life!”