A father melted into a seat in front of his computer, his posture sagging, his fingers moved to the keys to type an announcement: his son had died.
He gathered his thoughts in a social media post, and directed his words to his boy: Soar, Adam, Soar. A tribute to his son’s favourite movie, The Lion King, in which the dead king rises to the sky.
Those words later became the title of a book that is both a biography and an autobiography of a father and his son, who was once his daughter.
Adam Prashaw died at 22 years old after having an epileptic seizure while in a hot tub. His father, Rick Prashaw, decided his son’s life story – with all its twists and turns and sudden end – needed to be told.
“It’s incredibly heart-inspiring,” said Prashaw, turning around what could be described as heartbreaking. “I document his whole story on his gender quest for what we call, in the book, the boy in the mirror that he could never find.”
The “we” he refers to is he and his son; both names are listed as the author of Soar, Adam, Soar.
“He very much is the co-author, and I think that’s a special part of the book,” said Prashaw.
He uses social media posts written by Adam throughout his life as interjections in the story or as notes in the margin of the book. There are 125 of them in total, including one Adam posted at 18, declaring to the world he’s Adam, and always has been.
“He, of course better than I, could tell his whole transitional story,” said Prashaw.
Through her pregnancy, Rick’s wife – Adam’s mom – knew “as mothers know” she was having a boy. She and Rick called him Adam for the months he was in her womb. So when he was born, after 17 minutes of labour, and the intern delivering Adam shouted out, “it’s a healthy girl,” Rick’s wife shot up on the table with a look he describes as “gobsmacked.”
Adam’s parents named their baby girl Rebecca Adam Prashaw.
“He always loved that middle name,” said Prashaw.
At 18, it became his first name and he came out as transgender.
“I write about his family’s choice to accept him totally for who he is,” said Prashaw of the book. “And yet I also share, as all parents really identify with, all my fears around it. It wasn’t so much approving as it was a fear for him. Knowing the hate and discrimination he would face.”
It would be a short book if all went smoothly. Prashaw admits mistakes and miscues along the way.
“It was a 22-year roller-coaster ride,” he said. “I talk about pronouns and how many mistakes I made, and my kid, Adam, would give me a death stare. Once I saw it, I realized I would have to work a little harder.”
Prashaw, a former Catholic priest, journalist, NGO executive director, and political aide, said his book includes questions he and his family had, and the challenges Adam faced. He said he didn’t ever see two dramatically different kids, and it always came back to loving his child.
His author’s note reads: “Learning, listening, and loving worked well, and I highly recommend it.”
Adam had two major surgeries for his epilepsy. On the day he died, he did have friends nearby to check in. They found him quickly and called paramedics, who managed to resuscitate him. It was 36 hours later a doctor pronounced Adam dead. But at 16, Adam – still Rebecca then – told his dad he wanted to be an organ donor. In death, Adam saved four lives with his heart and three more organs.
The cover of the book is a photo Adam took in the hot tub minutes before he died. He posted the photo to Instagram, and his final word was "#transgender."
“My kid didn’t do sad,” said Prashaw. “He had lots of reasons, he had a hard life. I wanted to shine a light on his life – on the organ donor part of the story, the transgender part, and the epilepsy part.”
Prashaw said his son faced his days with humour and joy, and that’s what he’s tried to capture in his book.
Prashaw will be at Gibson and Co. in Collingwood on Feb. 20 for a reading and a book-signing event. He’s also included guest speakers from Simcoe County Gift of Life (organ donation) and the Collingwood Youth Centre LGBTQ group. He will be there from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and the speakers and reading will take place from 5:15 to 6 p.m. There will be books available for purchase at the event.