Grammy-nominated Musician With Missing Fingers Adopts Boy With Same Birth Defect: "It Was All God's Plan!"

Barry Abernathy was born with just a thumb and part of his index finger on his left hand. Still, he’d become a Grammy-nominated musician. At 50, he had success, a loving wife and two grown daughters… it was time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. But God's plan proved his life still had greater purpose…

An unexpected calling

"Daddy, I’ve got to show you a picture of these kids. The little boy has a hand just like yours!” Barry Abernathy’s 18-year-old daughter, Chassady, said one June evening in 2019.

Like Barry, 4-year-old Tyler had been born with just a thumb and part of his index finger on his left hand.

Chassady often talked about the kids at the day care where she worked. But there was something in her voice, and when she mentioned that Tyler and his sister, Zoey, almost 6, were in foster care…

“You’ve brought dogs and cats, even goats, home, don’t start talking about kids now,” Barry quipped with a laugh. But a couple of weeks later, Barry felt a pull to meet the little boy as his heart opened to what God's plan could be next.

As Barry approached him, Tyler immediately noticed his hand and rushed to him. “Are you my dad?” Tyler asked. As Barry fumbled for an answer, Tyler bubbled, “You are my dad!”

Barry and his adopted son, Tyler, have the same birth defect but are bonded by love
Barry and his adopted son, Tyler, have the same birth defect but are bonded by love, Barry Abernathy adoption

Following God's plan

As Barry drove away, he found himself in tears as he felt a spiritual pull to adopt Tyler and Zoey. I’m 50 years old, God. He prayed, How can You want me to do this now?

Barry had worked very hard to get to this point in life. Since childhood, he’d had people doubting his abilities because of his hand — but that had only fueled his determination to prove them wrong.

In school, Barry had became an athlete, playing baseball, football and basketball. And to everyone’s amazement­ — even his mother’s — Barry followed his dream to be a musician and became a Grammy-nominated entertainer. He is currently a founding member of the award-winning band Appalachian Road Show.

Barry playing the banjo
Barry learned to play the banjo at 14

Life was good. Barry had success, a nice home in Ellijay, Georgia, and he and his wife, Beverly, had raised two beautiful daughters, Chassady and her sister, Emma, then 15. The couple was looking forward to a slower-paced existence.

But Barry couldn’t deny the divine tug on his heart.

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A meant-to-be family

Soon after his visit, Tyler and Zoey’s foster parents said they needed a break and, having heard about the instant connection Tyler had with Barry, social workers asked if Barry and Beverly would take them in for a weekend.

It’s just a couple of days, they reasoned, and agreed. But on Monday, a social worker called to tell them that the children’s foster parents had decided they couldn’t care for them anymore.

The kids needed a new home fast… and authorities were considering splitting them up.

That can’t happen! Barry and Beverly had the same thought.

“We’ll take them,” they told social workers.

Overcoming bumps in the road

This was the siblings’ ninth placement and the bouncing around had taken a toll. Barry and Beverly noticed Zoey was especially slow to trust, and frequently acted out. But Barry and his family countered with unconditional love.

Tyler (right) with sister Zoey on adoption day in April of 2020
Tyler (right) with sister Zoey on adoption day in April of 2020, Barry Abernathy adoption

Tyler settled in more quickly. “I love my family, and I love my dogs,” he would gush.

But some days, Tyler would come from school upset, saying kids didn’t want to play with him. “They say I can’t do things because of my hand.”

Barry felt Tyler’s pain and his heart went out to him. “I had to live through all that too, buddy,” he’d tell Tyler. “You have to learn to use what God gives you and let it be a blessing.”

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With love and encouragement, both Tyler and Zoey began to thrive. Zoey let her guard down. Tyler became more confident. Barry remembers the day they stopped in a Chick-fil-A and Tyler was in the play area with another little boy.

Suddenly, Tyler tapped on the window partition and held up his hand, motioning for Barry to do the same. “Me and my dad have the same hand,” Tyler proudly told the boy, who gave him a thumbs-up.

To the family’s delight, in April of 2020, the children were officially adopted.

The Abernathys in their first photo as an official family
The Abernathys in their first photo as an official family; Barry Abernathy adoption

Barry knows they still have challenges ahead, but he and Beverly will always be there.

“Nothing is more important than love,” Barry says. And while he and Beverly admit life these days isn’t what they would have imagined a few years ago, they’ve embraced God’s plan.

“We believe this was meant to be,” Barry says. “There’s no other way to tell it. It really was all God.”

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