I should classify by saying that by “little brother” he is only three years my younger. But he will always be my little brother, just like he’ll always be my hero. My brother suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy — a progressive disease that weakens his muscle (all of the muscles, heart and lungs included) until, well, yeah.
My brother fights for his life every single day.
And you know what else? He never lets his disease get him down. I have never seen my brother cry over his disease, or even get fed up about it. He’s accepted that this is his life… but that it doesn’t have to define him. You know what does define him? His love of sports, especially the Mets and Jets.
Honestly? I think I’ve broken down over my brother’s disease more than he has. He doesn’t let it get to him — and that can put your entire life into perspective. Whenever I let things bother me, such as a boy not liking me back or ending a friendship, I take a step back. I think to myself, how silly this can seem that I’m complaining about this when my brother doesn’t complain about his disease at all. There is so much more to life, and so many other things to be grateful for.
I am so grateful for my brother. For his daily inspiration, and for his strength.
Despite all the obstacles he’s facing personally, his empathy for others is still awe inspiring. Last year, we were watching The Theory of Everything together, and in the movie they show Stephen Hawking’s diagnosis and battle with ALS, which is a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Instead of getting upset seeing similarities on the screen, do you know what he turned to me and said? “There’s people who have it so much worse than I do. I’m lucky.”
My heart melted. My handicapped brother, who can’t even lift his arm up to blow his nose by himself, is putting his own hardships aside, focusing on how fortunate he is, and sending his love and empathy to others. If that’s not amazing or awe-inspiring, I really don’t know what is.
My brother went to a Greek-American day school for ten years just like I did. For high school, he went to The Henry Viscardi School, an amazing school for physically handicapped students… where he ended up graduating salutatorian. He went on to get his Associate’s Degree, making dean’s list every semester. My brother achieved all this while his body was working against him, and making him weaker and weaker. He accomplished all this despite losing his father at 15 years old. And most importantly, he did all this with a smile on his face.
And on top of all of this? He’s my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. If I come home upset, he’s the first person there to cheer me up. If I’m going through a rough patch, he’s the one there to give me advice, and offer up some witty humor to get me laughing. Whenever I achieve something, no matter how big or how small, he’s the first one congratulating me. He’s the one calming me down when I’m anxious before a flight — the boy who can barely travel goes out of his way to make sure I’m okay. If all of this isn’t love, I really don’t know what is.
If we could all have the outlook on life that my brother has, the world would be a happier place. Despite all the bad in his life, that’s not what he focuses on. He focuses on the things in his life that bring him joy. He focuses on the fact that he has a roof over his head, food to eat, and a loving family that cares for him above and beyond.
We can all learn a little something from my little brother.