Bob says, “I was lucky to always have my cousins around.”
It is so true.
Growing up with cousins nearby for me was like being part of a mega-family - the group certainly prepared one for all types of folks in the grown-up world.
Eddie lives on in Bob's memory. Thanks to Bob's sharing with us, now Eddie's life lessons and his marvelous characteristics will be part of our memories as well.
Have a happy day -
I'm 34 years old. 25 years ago today, at age 9, I lost the most influential person in my life, my 17 year old cousin Eddie. Now you'd think in the last 25 years, I would have come across someone more influential than a 17 year old could be to a 9 year old, but you'd be wrong. What kind of wisdom and experience could a 17 year old pass to a 9 year old, you might be thinking.......
You never met my cousin Eddie.
Eddie was brilliant, funny, mischievous, determined, a natural leader, a great teacher........he was also born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Those first set of qualities defined him to us, the last one was simply what took him from us. He refused to allow it to define him.
Growing up, I was lucky to always have my cousins around. My mom and my aunt were very close, so naturally I became close to my cousins. Eddie and Troy were 8 and 6 years older than I was. Normally, when you're young, 8 years is a pretty wide gap in age.
But you never met my cousin Eddie....
Eddie's MD restricted him physically. Only physically. He might still be the smartest person I ever met. My penchant for learning came from Eddie. We used to sit around and read the dictionary. We'd just read through page after page, learning new words and quizzing each other on what was on the last page.
Eddie taught me to play chess. More succinctly, he used me as target practice. I always came so close to winning. I can't recall having ever won once. Looking back, he probably let me get close so that I wouldn't get discouraged. He always knew how to motivate me. Sometimes, that motivation was to pick on his younger brother Troy, who, remember, was older than me by 6 years. I can remember Eddie instructing me to sneak into Troy's room after he'd gone to sleep and put his fingers in hot water to try to get him to pee the bed. I doubt it ever worked, and Troy would always catch me, but it was fun trying.
He taught me critical thinking. I was learning skills from him that would serve me for the rest of my life. He taught me to look at the status quo and question why things are the way they are. I don't know if he was intentionally teaching me these things, quite frankly I don't care, he was teaching me to be a better person. Even though I didn't know what I was learning then, any time I think back about my cousin Eddie, I am overwhelmed by the influence he had on me at such a young age.
One of the biggest things I learned from my cousin was empathy. The dictionary describes empathy as: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitude of another. I believe that empathy is one of the most important traits you can teach a child. I go out of my way to try to teach my own son empathy. He allowed me to understand that physical limitations do not define a person.
Eddie lived his entire life, as I knew him, in a wheel chair. He lost his ability to walk right around the time I was born. That didn't matter to me. It didn't matter to Eddie. Sure, he'd complain about being uncomfortable in his chair (and we were forever having to adjust his pillows and tweak him to get him comfortable) but I can't remember once, him ever complaining about God using him the way He did.
Eddie was all fight, no excuses. He was all heart, no self-pity. He showed me that life isn't always perfect and even when it seems like you've been dealt the worst hand at the table, you can still win.
The first time I ever remember crying was the day my mom told me that Eddie had died. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He was my best friend and I often think about him and the lessons he taught me. Lessons that I can now pass down to my son. Lessons that have shaped the man I am today.
I miss you Eddie! And I look forward to the day we'll meet again........I've sharpened up my chess skills :-)