“My name is Anna Snyder, and I am the mother of four wonderful children named Robert (13), Brenden (12), Connor (11), and Clara-Marie (13).” (8). I want to transport you to the year 2007. When I found out I was pregnant, I was a senior in high school. I was terrified and unsure of what to do. I had been dating my high school sweetheart for four years. Justin Rye was his name. Despite being pregnant, I graduated with my class from high school.
On October 15, 2007, we received the most incredible blessing. Wilson Connor Rye was his full name, but we opted to call him Connor for short.
Justin and I got engaged and bought a house together shortly after he was born. Life was beautiful at first, but it quickly deteriorated. Connor’s and my lives were permanently changed on August 10, 2008. At a party, Justin was shot and died. ‘Justin was at the wrong place at the wrong time,’ as everyone at the party agreed.
Justin was shot in the act of standing up for a friend who was being bullied at the party. Justin’s assailant was sentenced to 21 years in jail. Without my best friend, I have left a single mother.
‘Why me?’ I questioned God, yelling angrily. I was furious with the boy who had murdered him, and I cried myself to sleep at night. My wonderful family and friends, on the other hand, scooped up my broken heart and helped me put it back together.
Jimmy, my father, stepped in and assisted with ‘fatherly chores.’ Because Connor was so little at the time, he had no idea what had transpired. However, I had a lot of questions in my head. ‘How will I ever explain to my son’s father what happened to him?’ ‘Will I ever be able to accomplish this on my own?’ It’s not right for Connor to grow up without knowing his father.
To January 3, 2011, fast forward a few years. Connor and I would have to face yet another challenge together. My grandfather (Connor’s grandfather) had a tree stand mishap. After falling out of a 20-foot tree stand and hitting his neck on something, he died. Connor and I were left feeling lost once more, but we didn’t have a father this time. Because Connor knew and looked up to my father, Connor made this death worse. They were the best of friends. They spent all of their time hunting and fishing together.
We returned to the accident scene a few days after my father died. Connor remarked, ‘Let’s sing ‘Jesus loves me.’ My Pawpaw would love that.’ We were all standing in a circle when Connor suggested, ‘Let’s sing ‘Jesus loves me.’ Little things like this help to make such a tragedy bearable.
I met the man who would forever impact my and Connor’s lives in February 2012. When Jonathan and I first started dating, I was utterly enamored with him. Connor felt the same way. They instantly became the best of friends! I’d dated men in the past who didn’t understand our situation and, more often than not, didn’t want Justin to be a part of Connor’s life. Jonathan, on the other hand, promised my family and me from the beginning that he would never try to replace Justin but that he would be a father to him and treat him as if he were his child. Jonathan would one day be my husband, I knew then.
That wish came true on August 12, 2012. Jonathan and I tied the knot in a small church ceremony. So, August was a horrible month that can now be celebrated as a terrific month. Jonathan has always been Connor’s father in our eyes. When his father was gone from this world, this man stepped up and cared for this lovely little boy. This man has assisted him in kissing every wound, drying every tear, and continuously encouraging him. I will be eternally grateful to this selfless and incredible man for treating Connor as his child. He has never attempted to take Justin’s place or to replace him. He is not afraid to tell Connor about Justin or teach him about his father.
In January of this year, Connor approached me and requested if he could ask Jonathan to adopt him and be his “forever father.” That was the loveliest thing I had ever heard; I told Connor. ‘What makes you want to do that?’ I inquired. He said, ‘To make it official.’
‘Would you like me to inform Jonathan or do you want me to ask him?’ I inquired.
‘No, I’d like to surprise him,’ my dear boy explained.
That’s when we started making plans.
To keep it a secret, Connor and I collaborated. Lauren Prevette of Milly photography, Sarah Marie Kelley of Sarah Marie Kelley for the sign, my make-up, and my hair were all hired by me. Carol Carter was called for the legal documents. I then phoned my mother Marie, sister Michelle, Justin’s father Danny, and Justin’s sister Kayla, all of my immediate family members.
Justin’s sister made an excellent comment that I thought was worth mentioning. ‘Everyone has heard the storey of a youngster asking their stepparent to adopt them, but how many of you have heard it from the perspective of the deceased parent’s family? So there you have it. I’m ecstatic that Connor asked Jonathon to adopt him, and even more ecstatic that I was asked to be a part of such a memorable occasion.’
Justin’s father concurred. ‘I am ecstatic to be a part of such a memorable occasion! I couldn’t have wished for a better man or a better father to nurture my grandchild.’
The big day was March 6, 2019. We were getting family pictures shot at our barn, Connor and I told Jonathan. After we snapped a few photos, I sent Connor to the car to ‘grab the things I forgot.’ On the other hand, the family and Connor were getting ready for the surprise.
‘Hey, Connor is taking too long,’ I said. ‘Let’s head back.’ I instructed Jonathan to close his eyes because we were in for a surprise. Jonathan continued asking, ‘What is this?’ as we approached.
‘Ok, open your eyes,’ I whispered as he approached Connor. He started balling his eyes out as soon as he read the sign.
‘What is this, what is this?’ he kept asking. He then snatched Connor, hugged him, and lifted him into his arms.
‘Did you want to do this, son?’ he inquired.
Connor said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Will you always be my father?’
Jonathan replied, ‘Of course.’ ‘I already am, son!’
Robert, a 13-year-old boy, is also adopted. His mother (Jonathan’s sister) died when Robert was six weeks old. Jonathan’s previous marriage produced a 12-year-old son named Brenden. Clara-Maire, Jonathan’s 8-year-old daughter, was born before I met Jonathan. “We adore our lovely blended family.”
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