Siblings are important. In fact, I’d call mine the cornerstone of what shaped my character. My brother, Dustin Ryan Bartz, was born with congenital myotonic muscular dystrophy. He lived with a lot of love.
I was three when Dustin was born, but I didn’t meet him until three months later. My father told me Dustin would likely have a shorter life than me before I even met him. I am a sibling of someone with a disability; in fact, I’m a sibling of a loved one born with a terminal disease. That shaped me.
From my brother, I learned about life’s simple pleasures. Each day, he found things to laugh about and enjoy. He loved life, even when it hurt, even when there were things he couldn’t do. And he loved me, (almost) no matter what I did.
My brother was different than most brothers, and by that token, I was different than most sisters. But I grew up in a way similar to many of you.
From my sib, I learned about fighting. Yes, sometimes with him when he would slobber on my new CD, but also sometimes about fighting to survive, fighting to find joy in another day of a wonderful life. His name, Dustin, actually means fighter. It epitomizes him. He bravely learned to fight past the obstacles to crawl towards his toys. He valiantly pushed forward to learn to hug with all his might. Because of him, I’m better equipped to fight the battles that matter, and perhaps wiser to not fight the ones that don’t.
Dustin was given a lot of things that could be called disadvantages. He didn’t dwell what he couldn’t do. He didn’t pout because he was different. Sometimes he would cry because of pain, but in the same day he would laugh in joy. My brother helped me learn to make the most of what I have. His example leads me to try to find the joy in each day and to make the best of the time I’m given with those I love.
My brother taught me to value life in a way without him I may have missed. Each day is more worthwhile because I was given the chance to get to know my brother. The little things mean more because he showed me life’s simple joys. And I’m more ready and able to fight the good fight because I lived near his strength.
It wasn’t always easy, and changing diapers for 13 years wasn’t necessarily fun, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I had with my brother. Being a sib is a perhaps the most important aspect someone would need to know to understand who I am and what I value. I encourage you to post a “thanks” to your sibling today. For good, for bad and from love, they shape us.
Happy National Siblings Day!
If you’d like to read more about my family’s story in From My Mother: Surviving and Thriving in a Family Ravaged by Genetic disease, visit darcyleech.com