His name was Lawrence William Jackson. He was four years older than me in years but in knowledge of life he was much older. He was born with a disability. At the time they called it Muscular Dystrophy. Being younger, I don't think I ever really knew what it was. I just knew I had a brother who was different.
He could never walk and his arms and legs couldn't extend all the way out. He could not sit up straight. He spent his life bent over and crawled around on the floor with his legs tucked under him. He had to be helped in going to the bathroom, getting into a chair or getting in bed. Somebody had to be with him all the time in case he needed something.
When I was in elementary school, I had to come right home if mother wasn't going to be home to make sure somebody was there when Larry got off the bus. At the time, they tried all kinds of therapy to help him but the only thing I can remember is him crying in pain as they tried to stretch his legs and arms out. As he got older, his condition got worst and he had to be home schooled.
Growing up with him I did not see his disability as other people did, he was just my brother. We played together, had our fights and jealousies - just like all brothers do. I never really thought about having to help him because I grew up with him. I'm not saying there were times when I didn't want to do it but I knew it had to be done. I can't say I always treated him kindly but like I said, we were brothers and we acted like it.
My parents had two boys and he was the one that had the special talents with his hands and his mind. At a young age he could do things that seemed way beyond his years. He could draw, paint and figure anything out, if he thought about it awhile.
When he was 16, my father was building a house and Larry sat done and drew a whole set of house plans. My mother still has pictures that he painted hanging in her house. When he was in high school he took tests that showed he was at a 2nd year college level. He would tell me things about space travel in the 50's and I would think he was just making them up but later on they turned out to be true.
As he grew older, I'm sure life was harder because he saw other teenagers doing things and having girl friends. To my regret, I probably didn't even see the torment he was probably going through. I was just becoming a teenager and I was so use to him that I worried about my own life. I was playing football and running track. Because of his condition, a lot of what Larry dreamed of doing, he would never be able to do. He got weaker and weaker. When he got sick, his body wasn't strong enough to fight it.
When he was 17 years old, my brother passed away of what was called pneumonia. I was only 13 at the time. I can remember the night we took him to the hospital. He was unconscious but I thought he would be fine. When we got him to the hospital, I couldn't even comprehend what the doctor was talking about when he came out and said there was nothing they could do for him. When I did realize he was gone, I started to cry and I don't think my parents even realized the impact it had on me.
The next week I had the last track meet of the year and the coach said, "Win this one for your brother". I loved track but I just looked at the coach and said, "I wouldn't run at all because my brother was more important than any high school track meet." I know the coach didn't mean anything bad, telling me to win it for my brother, but I just couldn't see how he could relate losing my brother to winning a race.
I didn't know it at the time but I had lost the person that had the most affect on my life. He taught me more about how to accept life and how to treat people than anyone I had met or will ever meet in my life. My father was a stern man and a hard worker and taught me how to be a man. But my brother taught me the important things in life.
Larry's life was harder than I can even imagine but he never complained. He took life as it came and always tried to have a good attitude when he had every reason not to. He never gave up trying to be the best person he could be, against all odds, and accepted life as it was for him knowing that it was not going to get much better.
After Larry died, I went on to become the Captain of my high school football and track teams, All the time I was participating, I always felt his presence - like he was there helping me and wanting me to succeed.
During my life I have been a police officer, a firefighter /paramedic and have always tried to help people. I do not judge people for their faults. I try to be good man and kind to everyone I meet. I try to understand that all of us are trying to find the same thing in life; that's happiness.
In 2001 I was assaulted and left for dead. I had a brain injury and was in a coma for 4 weeks. When I finally woke up, I had some disabilities from the head injury and people could not figure out why I wasn't more depressed or bitter about my situation.
Growing up with a brother who had so many disadvantages, but took life as it came without complaint, my problems seemed to be small in comparison to 17 years of living with a disability that was never going to improve and accepting it.
Every day of my life, I thank my brother for showing me the kind of person I should be.
If people would just appreciate all the gifts they have in life and not try to harm or cheat other people for greedy reasons, thinking that this will bring them happiness. If we would try to help are people without looking for something in return, this would be a much better world.
We must find happiness in our journey through life and not always be searching for it. Always strive to achieve and be the best that you can be but be happy with the things you have while you're doing it.
I moved to Florida after graduation and I hadn't gone to my brother's grave in 35 years. When I went back to Michigan last year, I decided I would go to his grave. I didn't realize how emotional I would become when I saw his grave marker. I began to cry knowing that he had always been a big part of my life.
Thanks Larry, for making me a better person and accepting life as it is.
Copyright © 2005 Jon Jackson (Florida)
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