I was moved to post for Blogging Against Disabilism Day — and a day late, the usual for me. I just saw these posts at Emma and the Mason Dixon Folks. This is a topic dear to me, as I had a brother who was disabled. He died in 2002 and I miss him every day.
Here’s a picture of us acting goofy – I was about 19, I think.
This is an excerpt from the euology I wrote for him.
Stephen Patrick came into our lives by all accounts wrong, retarded, disabled, handicapped. At the time he was born, many people believed that only dirty bad people had children like that. Our parents overcame that attitude, and taught all the other children to overcome it as well. My mother would say “You can be embarrassed by something Stephen does, but never ashamed.”
Psychological family theory tells you that having a disabled child disrupts the family system, puts things out of order, shifts burdens, causes conflict. It does at that, but so much more. Over the years I came to see Stephen and his presence in our lives as a gift, with him as a teacher. From Stephen we all learned many things, sharing, giving, discernment, compassion.
Stephen taught us how to laugh at things, often things which might have seemed a bit strange to outsiders, but he had a great sense of humor. That was a good thing, because for him, the same joke was funny every time, over and over. We all learned to share in his humor and took delight in making him laugh. He took total unself concious joy in what he enjoyed, or found funny. It would be a gift if all of us cared a little less what people might think, and more what our heart says.
Stephen’s presence in our lives exposed us to all sorts of kids we might never have met, kids with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, kids with crutches, braces, seizure helmets. We learned not to be uncomfortable around differently-abled people, but to see them as individuals and laugh at their foibles and quirks in a compassionate way, and help where we could.
Stephen taught us unconditional love, something few of us carry into adulthood very well. Stephen loved us all, and we loved him for who and what he was, even when he drove us crazy, frustrated or angered us with his stubbornness and often strange behavior. Opportunities in life to do kindnesses for others are a spiritual gift. Stephen provided that and so many people came through in ways that still amaze me. Thanks to them all.