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What Changed My Life


(An unedited essay by James Henderson III, as a fifth-grade student)


“Oh my gosh!” my mom screamed in the car as my brother, Robert, layed there limp, blue and breathless. “He’s dead, Robert is dead!” My mom waved somebody over. Several cars came and called an ambulance right away. When the ambulance arrived they gave Robert oxygen. After about 30 minutes of oxygen Robert was breathing and alright. This was the event that changed my life. This was when my family found out that my brother had epilepsy. Robert hasn’t had a big seizure in months. He has little seizures all the time. But Robert is fine, just the way he is.


Our oldest son, James has always had a distinctive way of expressing himself on paper which even his English teachers found to be particularly perceptive. He has a way of remembering profound experiences and capturing those memories for all to read. It’s a gift.


When James was in the fifth grade, he wrote the words above about his baby brother, Robert, in an essay for an “About Me” assignment. I found this essay when I was cleaning out his grade school memory boxes after he had graduated from college. I may have read it before he turned it in to his teacher years ago, but when I discovered it in his room recently, I was shocked by his honesty and recall.


I don’t know what it felt like to be a very athletic big brother to a younger, weaker brother. We all had secret dreams of the two boys playing on sports teams separately but watching every game together as a family. It must have been a very hard reality for James, too. He could play catch and basketball with his baby brother only in the strict confines of spaces like our family room. As the years passed, it would be from a wheelchair that Robert threw balls to James, never really missing standing up to play because James treated Robert as if he was the most incredible athlete he had ever seen!


It wasn’t always easy to be Robert’s big brother. Most of James’ friends didn’t gather at our home after school or basketball games because our home was filled with medical equipment and caregivers. But there were a few very special friends — Kevin, Chris, Matt, J.R., and J.T. — who visited frequently. These young boys grew into wonderful young men who always greeted Robert with a hug, bending over his wheelchair so their long arms could envelop him. He loved, and I mean really loved James’ friends. Robert’s smiles were bigger every time his big brother’s friends visited. I think he really thought they had come just to see him! And James never made him feel otherwise.


The weekend Robert passed away, Chris and I asked our children if any of them wanted to speak at Robert’s Celebration of Life service. We were shocked and proud to hear James voice his desire to do so. The young fifth grader had grown into a young man who had come face to face with death, realizing that his baby brother who he thought would be okay, was surely not okay any longer. James decided he was needed to speak about Robert and on his behalf. And, boy, did he speak!


I hope to share James’ words with you one day from Robert’s homegoing service. We were not privileged to read his words prior to his speaking; and I am so thankful we heard his voice for the first time along with everyone else who attended. James did what only a big brother could do. He spoke with keen insightful words from a full heart. He spoke of a special love for his baby brother that only he could share, but also of Robert’s impact on him.


Sometimes when children are young, they see and understand what we, as adults, fail to see. Our children observed us worry, scream, cry and mourn things about their sibling in ways we may never understand. But let us not judge their worry, screams, mourning and love. They feel deeply. I misunderstood it many times as I watched our boys grow.


Like I said, it was not always easy to be Robert’s big brother, but one truth James proclaimed throughout Robert’s life on his own:


“But Robert is fine, just the way he is.”


That belief is what changed James’ life. Robert’s unrelenting seizures were the obvious cause of James’ reflection, but his truth about who Robert was and not what Robert’s body could do, allowed him to be the compassionate big brother Robert needed.


I believe it was also what changed Robert’s life. May you experience deep love for your sibling if you are so blessed to have one with disabilities. They will surely change yours.


Listening Library: Born For This (The Score, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse)

https://youtu.be/t-eu6QGFgas


10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV)



Born For This


I’m checking my vital signs Drawing my battle lines Going to war again Feeling the rhythm inside of my chest All I need is just a pen I know I was born for this I know I was born for this Don’t care for the critics My words are like physics A force that they can’t stop They just don’t get it, I think they forget I’m not done till I’m on top I know I was born for this I know I was born for this I believe, I believe We can write our story I believe, I believe We can be an army We are the warriors, who learned to love the pain We come from different places, but have the same name ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this We are the broken ones, who chose to spark a flame Watch as our fire rages, our hearts are never tame ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this I’ve struggled for years and Through all of the tears I’ve faced the doubts I hide I never gave into my fears deep within ‘Cause I heard my voice inside I know I was born for this I know I was born for this I will never lose my voice If I cut out all the noise I know, I was born for this I know, I was born for this I believe, I believe We can write our story I believe, I believe We can be an army We are the warriors, who learned to love the pain We come from different places, but have the same name ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this We are the broken ones, who chose to spark a flame Watch as our fire rages, our hearts are never tame ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this These words that I write are for someone like me To know you’re not alone The moves that you make ya they come with mistakes Don’t ever lose your hope Just know, you were born for this Just know, you were born for this We are the warriors, who learned to love the pain We come from different places, but have the same name ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this We were born for this We are the broken ones, who chose to spark a flame Watch as our fire rages, our hearts are never tame ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were ‘Cause we were, ‘cause we were Born for this, we were born for this We were born for this We were born for this


Writers: Edan Chai Dover, Eddy Anthony Ramirez







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In Our Arms

LIFE UNEXPECTED