Janina and Rick Arritola learned mid-pregnancy that their 4th son, Anthony Emmanuel, had trisomy 13 (Patau’s syndrome), the third most common chromosomal abnormality and the one that poses the most life-threatening medical complications. In a sense, as they planned for Anthony’s birth, they also had to prepare for the certain knowledge of his death—determined, however, as the days passed that he would be cherished for as long as he was with them.
Anthony lived for almost a year after his birth. During his life he was hospitalized numerous times and, each time, Janina had to fight with doctors and nurses to obtain the same level of care for Anthony that they’d unquestioningly give to a child who did not have special needs. His brief time on earth had a profoundly positive impact on the family, their friends, fellow parishioners and Atlanta community.
Even during Anthony’s life, Janina began to blog about the joys and struggles of loving and caring for a child with trisomy 13. And since his death, Janina and Rick have been active in counseling others faced with an adverse prenatal diagnosis (APD). She has continued to write about Anthony’s life and contributions to those who knew him and to speak nationally about the great gift that children with special needs are to the world. Janina and Rick founded Emmanuel’s Foundation and have made themselves available 24/7 to speak to parents in need of counsel and support after an APD.
I want to quote at length from Rick’s eulogy at Anthony’s funeral Mass because it captures so much of what Janina has written in her blog posts and articles over the years:
“James Christian, your compassion and love that you have shared towards your little brother are an example for all to marvel.
“Tray, you are Anthony’s oldest brother, and have demonstrated incredible courage, leadership, and unshakable faith. Your humble protection was meek yet noticeable.
“We love you guys with all our hearts.
“Helen Keller once said, ‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.’
“We have so many treasured memories of you Anthony:
“* Your rodeo style pulling out of your NG tube to sway around like a lasso.
* The many smiles you graced us with…The silly one & only rolling giggle you shared with us when mom tickled you during a doctor’s visit. I pray we never forget that beautiful sound and the memory of your puffy smiling cheeks.
* Your beautiful long eyelashes that were the envy of every woman.
* The warm relaxing showers we took together and your calming sigh.
* Playing toesies with your stinky feet.
* Singing songs out of tune while you slept.
* And lastly, whispering ‘I Love You’ in your ear every night as you lay in your crib asleep. Today we whisper to you again, We Love You, Anthony.
“Anthony Emmanuel your courage and strength inspired many, and made me a better man. I will never forget how you called me Da. We will forever love you, and I can’t wait until we meet again.
“And finally, to you my beautiful bride whose arms ache for our beautiful little angel, you have sustained us through all of this unselfishly and with dignity and humility in imitation of our Blessed Mother. I know well that your heart is aching and I love you.”
Rest in peace Peter, Gabriel and Anthony! May you be graced with long and joyful lives, Bella and Annebelle!
Our Lady of Sorrows, bless their parents and give them continued strength to love until the last breath and forever after!
Susan E. Willsis Spirituality Editor of Aleteia’s English edition.