Like any proud father, Nick Vujicic (pronounced Voy-a-cheech) wanted to be there for his firstborn's first steps. But a few nagging thoughts troubled him. A baby's first steps are usually a crash-and-burn affair, so most parents are ready to catch their little one. But Nick was born with no arms or legs. Would his son, Kiyoshi, be hesitant to come to his daddy, knowing Daddy couldn't catch him?
The moment came in a Hawaiian hotel room while the family was traveling together. Kiyoshi was ready to walk on his own. With focus and determination, the boy staggered haltingly but intently across the room — directly for his daddy. He grabbed fistfuls of shirt, collarbone and shoulders and docked safely against his father. The boy beamed with pride. The father nearly fell apart.
"I flashed back to all the days of my life I'd spent fretting over whether I would ever find a woman, get married and have a family," Nick writes in his book Love Without Limits. "Who would want me? Who would love me? Who would want to have children with me? Is there love available for a man such as me?"
The answer has been a resounding yes.
Nick has grown — through the challenges of childhood and bullying, through the depression and suicidal thoughts of adolescence — to find deep purpose in his relationship with God and, as he says, "a ridiculously good life." Nick founded the ministry Life Without Limbs and has motivated millions of people around the world to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams. His books have appeared on The New York Times best-seller lists, and he has proclaimed God's love in school classrooms, government chambers, slums and stadiums. And the love story of Nick and his wife, Kanae, is as inspirational as the rest of Nick's life.
Courtship and proposal
The chemistry was obvious from the moment Nick and Kanae met in 2010. While speaking in Dallas, he noticed the Japanese-Mexican beauty in the crowd and had to force himself to look away from her. She was captivated by his warm, compelling eyes, his deep faith and his passion for touching hearts and lives. The two met later that day at a smaller gathering.
"When I looked at Nick for the first time, of course I knew he had no arms and legs, but I was captured by how he came across," Kanae says. "When he looked me in the eyes, I felt like he saw my soul."
But the two 20-somethings didn't begin dating until several months later. Once they began seeing each other, Nick and Kanae spent a lot of time talking by phone, Skype or other Internet connections. They also met each other's large families and allayed any concerns their loved ones may have held.
Nick pulled off a surprise proposal by using his mouth to slip a ring from inside an éclair and onto Kanae's finger while aboard a sailboat. The couple married in 2012.
Love and care
From the beginning, Kanae has viewed Nick as highly abled. After all, Nick surfs, golfs, plays cricket, skateboards, swims, has skydived and generally defies the limits one might expect of a person with no limbs. He does have partial feet, which he calls flippers, and he makes extraordinary use of them.
Yet Nick does require caretakers to help him with many common activities. "Obviously, there were questions in my mind, but we took one day at a time," Kanae says. "Nick had to explain to me how he functions from day to day. It was a journey that we took together, and we worked it out together."
Early in their relationship, Nick asked Kanae to scratch an itch on his back that he couldn't reach by rubbing against something. "Sorry," he added at the end of the request. Her response cemented Nick's confidence about how she might handle his disabilities: "Don't ever apologize for asking me to scratch your back or help you in any way! I will always be there for you."
For now, Nick and Kanae have chosen not to have a live-in caregiver. That has meant extra responsibilities for Kanae, especially since they were both surprised to go from newlyweds to parents in less than a year. Three months after they married, they discovered Kanae was pregnant. Kiyoshi was born in February 2013. Their second son, Dejan, arrived in August 2015.
The couple laughs about mealtimes with Kanae feeding Nick and the children. "Kiyoshi has started feeding Daddy with a fork on his own accord at times, so that's been fun and helpful," she says.
Nick admits that he feels frustration with not being able to help hold, feed, bathe or change diapers for their babies, so he makes a point of trying not to sound demanding about his own needs and to be sensitive to Kanae's workload. It's been helpful that Nick learned to use a special sling to hold his newborn sons, and as Kiyoshi has grown, Nick has loved chasing him around the house or yard.
"Regardless of what other dads can do, I value Nick for all he does for both Kiyoshi and myself," Kanae says. "It's fun to see Nick make new ways to have interactions with Kiyoshi. Watching them play together and seeing how Kiyoshi adores him is beautiful."
Lessons along the way
Although Nick and Kanae's marriage includes navigating some special challenges, the hard work of keeping their relationship vibrant is no different from that of any other couple.
"In marriage, you realize how selfish you can be," Nick says. "You have to work on your flaws because you've never had to think about considering someone else first for everything. Taking time to serve one another is new and definitely takes an adjustment. So is seeing things from each other's points of view rather than only your own."
Nick says he and his wife are alike in many ways — they're both analytical and creative — so they don't run into a lot of conflict. But when disagreements or hurt feelings do arise, he has learned that he doesn't process anger well by talking through it in the heat of the moment. So he takes a few minutes to calm his emotions, and then he and Kanae address things together, calmly and considerately.
"Disability or no disability, it's about love and understanding the heart in marriage," Nick says. "Trying to understand each other more and having open communication all the time."Jeremy V. Jones is a freelance writer in Colorado. His books include Toward the Goal: The Kaka Story and Triple Dog Dare.