Tell your story about giving and inspire others to live generously.

I Like a great ending.

Submitted by Rhonda McLaughlin (Frederick, MD)

helping a family member find perspective and ultimately find God

I like a Happy Ending, especially to difficult beginnings…

My Mom’s youngest brother, Rick has not had an easy life. He is the youngest of 5 and my Grandparents were very poor and uneducated. My Mother could hardly wait to begin her own life, so she married my Father at the age of 17 and had me a year and half later. When I was just 4 years old my Grandmother decided that she was going to leave my Grandfather for another man – she did not only leave my Grandfather, she also left 2 of my uncles behind as well – Uncle Gary was only 16 and Uncle Rick was just 7, which is the age my daughter is now and I can’t imagine her not having me in her life anymore!

My Grandfather was a soft spoken gentle man with strong faith and morals, he was a hard worker and a good father, but he had NO IDEA how to raise two boys on his own…so, from that time on my Uncle Rick lived with us on and off, since he is only 4 1/2 years older than me – he was more like a brother… My Mother did her best with him, but she had my Brother and I and her own problems including ending a 9 year marriage to my Father… so, ultimately Rick returned to live with my Grandfather and he was pretty much raising himself with very little supervision or rules in his early teen years. At the age of 17 he got his 15 year old girlfriend pregnant and the got married. He began building his own life and had three children with his wife – they tried very hard to make it work, but ultimately she left him.

Throughout his teen and early adulthood he drank, smoked pot, and experimented with a variety of drugs and that continued and became more frequent once he was divorced… In the late 90’s he was out with a friend on their regular Thursday night bar hopping – it was his buddy’s turn to drive and so he was suppose to be the sober one… they crashed their car 1 block from my Uncle’s apartment on their way home – no seat belts – the car flipped upside down and landed on a huge boulder – the driver had minor injuries and was released that night – my Uncle Rick’s skull was crushed, his legs and one arm were broken, his ribs…. he was barely alive. My Mother and I both got calls from my other Uncles at 5am and we were on a plane to Indianapolis by 9am. I will never forget how he looked – not even recognizable! It did not look like he was going to make it at all and if he did – he would have severe brain damage…. well, miraculously after 1 year of rehabilitation – he learned how to walk, talk, and write all over again – it truly was a miracle! The Doctor’s said it was a miracle!

I was in touch with him practically every day while he was in rehab and then finally he was able to go home – one of my Uncles moved in with him and helped him with his medications and therapy – he still had a long way to go! He did have brain damage – memory loss and he lost his sense of taste and smell… he would have pain for the rest of his life all over his body… his face was disfigured… at first he seemed so thankful to be alive and it looked like he would change his life for the best, but after time, once his insurance ran out and he started taking his pain management into his own hands – he fell right back into a destructive lifestyle – in fact, it was much worse now. He could no longer work because of his injuries, he could not pay his child support for his 3 children, and he began selling and using harsher street drugs like crack! I had no idea that this was going on – I live in Maryland 560 miles away! I did suspect that something was very wrong, because he was no longer returning my calls and I was hearing all of the rumors…

So, I went to Indy for a visit and found Rick living with a woman that my family says was a prostitute. He weighed about 110lbs – it was shocking! I tried to convince him to come back to Maryland with me, but he wouldn’t. I went home and within a week, my Mother and headed back to Indy to get him… we convinced him to fly back with us for “just 2 weeks” – I knew it would take longer than that, but we just made it sound like it was a visit. Anyway, within a couple of weeks, we had him in a clinic to receive the help he needed – this was a Community Action Agency that I had done some volunteer work for – they had a free clinic, counseling and ran the soup kitchen… I took Rick in there for our first meeting and while we were waiting – he said “ what is this place? is this for homeless people?” and I asked him to lower his voice – he got really angry with me and said it louder – I said “Yes, Rick most of the people in here are homeless” and he said “I’m leaving – I’m not homeless” – I began to cry – you can imagine the kinds of things we had been dealing with for a few weeks now – withdrawal from not having drugs… I looked directly at him and said “Sit down Rick, if you are not homeless, they what is your address?” – We did get the help he needed that day and it was the perspective that he and I both needed. He lived in Maryland for a couple of years – we got him well and off of drugs, got him on Disability and so his kids were also being taken care of….

Today, Rick is a born again Christian, living in Lynchburg, Virginia and happily married to his 2nd wife and raising his 9 year old daughter. His first three kids are now young adults living in Indiana with his 9 grand children. It’s no mistake that Rick now runs a soup kitchen through his church and often witnesses to people with is favorite story of “What is your Address”.

Coincidentally, he will be 50 this year too.

The attached photo is of Rick with his 3 brothers and my Mother last October at my Brother’s wedding in Indiana. Rick is the 2nd from the left SO@50