Last month we buried my stepbrother and little buddy Chuck Browder. Chuck was only 36 years old and yet he was a great example of living life to the fullest. Chuck was born with Osteopetrosis, an extremely rare genetic disorder that makes bones too dense and brittle. His condition caused deformity from birth, difficulty hearing and constant breaking of his bones.
I met Chuck when my dad and his mom, (Debbie), began dating when I was 14 years old and Chuck was 4 years old. We took to each other and had loads of fun; Chuck was bright even at an early age. I remember him attempting to teach me to sign the alphabet and how he got frustrated that I needed a refresher each time he tried to teach me.
I was asked to read Chuck’s obituary at his funeral and say some things about him. I thought of how some people referred to Chuck as stubborn and hardheaded, the positive angle on this is determined and that is what Chuck was, determined. His stubborn determination led Chuck to achieve things most people only dream of.
Challenges to Overcome
Chuck’s appearance caused many people to stare and be curious about his condition. Chuck’s father abandoned him saying “I didn’t have a child like that”. Chuck had countless fractures, hospitalizations, and near-death experiences during his life. He was confined to a wheelchair most of his life.
With all these challenges facing him, he remained positive. He got frustrated and disappointed at times but never stayed in that state of mind very long.
Chuck’s Mom shared with me that she felt like society and charitable organizations could have provided more support to Chuck, but I know Chuck did not want any handouts. In fact, he asked me to build a ramp for his house a few years ago and insisted to pay for it, I told him he could buy the materials, but I wanted to build the ramp for him.
Given Chuck’s condition and Debbie’s role as a single mother, he spent much of his time with his cherished grandparents Bill (PePaw) and Dot (MeMaw) they are amazing people and took me and my sister in as their own. Chuck’s sister Amanda was what a big sister should be, caring and concerned about Chuck and his needs.
I never expected Chuck to have a wife and children, those were my limiting beliefs. Chuck had different plans. He married Bonnie and then had Joel age 4 ½ and Abigail age 3 two beautiful children that he adored.
Chuck had so many friends and people that he made an impact upon. At the funeral and celebration of life services there were many stories about how he influenced and impacted others.
Chuck graduated from Bartow High School in 2004. He went on to Southeastern University and then obtained his master’s from Ashford University. He was determined and disciplined. He was a history and math teacher and taught at Bartow Middle School and a few other Academies in Central Florida. Chuck bought his own home and was excited about a place for his wife and children to live in Ruskin, FL.
Setting an Example
We have often heard the expression “making lemons into lemonade”. Chuck was an example of this knowing the reality of his disability and yet persevering and living life to the fullest. One of my previous podcast guests, Jessica Cox, the world’s first armless pilot shared the concept of “disability is not inability” with me. Those with life challenging disabilities who set and achieve goals in spite of their disability are an inspiration to me. Listen to Embracing and Overcoming Challenges.
“Chuck was not only a mentor, but a friend, he taught me how to learn in a way that I understood. He made learning fun. Chuck had a way to capture my attention, where I couldn’t do anything but pay attention. When I went through tough times in my personal life, he was there to comfort me with open arms. I built a relationship with Chuck, one that I will never take for granted.”
Written by: Michael Tew a former student of Chuck’s.
I left Chuck’s funeral inspired to be more and do more. The photos of him enjoying family, friends and fishing were a testament that although his life was shorter than most, he made the most of it. I was glad to have him as my “little buddy” even after he grew up to an accomplished husband and father.
I would also encourage you to recognize someone who has positively influenced your life. We are not promised tomorrow and today may be your only opportunity to support and encourage someone that they are making a difference for you and the world.
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Brian Brogen, Build Yourself & Then Build Others!
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