My brother is an amazing person. I love him more than words can ever describe. Here is our story.
My parents had three children within 3 1/2 years. I was the youngest. Bill was the oldest. Bill was born prematurely and with a collapsed lung. The lack of oxygen from his collapsed lung caused severe brain damage thus resulting in his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. My parents didn't know until my Mom was pregnant with their second child that Bill had an intellectual disability. They knew his development was slower than other children his age but they didn't realize the extent of the damage. As time went on it became clear that Bill was severely challenged.
I have memories as a very young child of playing with my two older brothers on the floor. Bill always crawled and was a little slower. I knew something was different about him but I loved him just the same. There was something special about him that attracted my heart even then. I wanted to protect him and take care of him. When Bill was 5 he was put into an institution. The doctors told my parents it was the best thing they could do for him so that they could focus on their "normal" children. My parents trusted the doctors and did what they thought was best for all of us. That was how things were done back in the '60's. Medicine didn't know better...not like they do now.
While we as a family adjusted to this arrangement it was very difficult. Time went on but the one thing that never changed was how much Bill loved coming home and being with his family. He still does today. I think about what if Bill was born 20 years later. Maybe then he could have gone to school and learned how to read. Now, at the age of 48, he is asking to learn how to read.
I have made it my personal mission for my remaining years on this earth to serve my brother and others with intellectual disabilities. I have been blessed to know someone with such a pure heart and gentle soul. This precious person has touched me deeply and opened my eyes to servanthood and what that truly means. I have made it my personal mission to speak the words they cannot speak, give them a loud voice where they can be heard and love them in ways that most cannot.
I have gone to Springfield Illinois and met with State legislators on Bill's behalf asking them not to cut the Medicaid funding. I am developing a website called mybrotherbill.org that I hope will be a place of community and love for family and friends of those with disabilities to come to and share their stories, resources, concerns and issues. Bill will have a voice and presence in the community as well.
I want others to know the blessing and gratitude that comes from knowing these very special people.
Susan Downs, Grateful and Proud Sister of Bill Downs