Our James family’s cousin, Bobby Brush, died this morning at age 53. His was an extraordinary life, in fact, an heroic life. Bobby lived in those recesses which most people never experience or will recognize. Bobby was born with what is called today a pre-condition. Bobby was born with Down Syndrome.
From birth, Bobby’s life was in peril. His only assurance was his life would not be long. He could expect 18 years at most, maybe a bit longer if he was lucky. Bobby beat his odds.
Had Bobby been born a decade earlier, society surely would have banished him to its darkest shadows, never to experience the things most people take for granted, like playing ball, having friends, living independently, or going to work.
Had Bobby’s parents the means, they surely would have given all to make Bobby’s life, at best, an average one. But they were people of average means with limited resources. Still, they gave everything they had. When Bob & Eleanor James Brush died, Bobby’s sisters Anne and Elizabeth assumed his care with dedication and human compassion.
Before Bobby entered his teens, another family entered Bobby’s life. The late Senator Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family established programs to help those born with Down’s syndrome meet their challenges. With his family’s and the support of the Kennedy family, Bobby attended school, made friends, and played games. In time he got a job in a bank, went to work every day, and lived with friends. I recall Bobby in 2000 when he offered an elegant toast to “my favorite aunt,” Deanie James, at her funeral. Bobby’s afflicted life had developed heroically.
In recent years, Bobby encountered Alzheimer’s, not a pre-condition of life like his Down’s syndrome, but just as devastating. Bobby had been on my mind for a while recently, particularly as I watched those who were not born with Bobby’s pre-condition swarm mindlessly and with antagonism over issues of public health care, with a lack of human compassion that is far too loud.
I’m grateful for the compassion Bobby’s parents and sisters showed him. I’m grateful for the foresight of the Kennedy family. I’m grateful for each person who helped Bobby to live his life as the rest of us do. With their support, Robert Charles Brush lived a truly heroic life. May his life never be dishonored by those who would withhold what it takes to make heroes of those damaged through no fault of their own by life’s pre-conditions.
UPDATED: March 24, 2018
In honor of Bobby and Eleanor Marie James Brush, Bobby’s mother, and others among our James family who live with Down Syndrome.