My Hero This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   From the moment I walked into. Brian Wilson's hospital room, I knew my life would never be the same.

Being fifteen, I tended to see life through rose-colored glasses, as my friends and family often chided me. My biggest problem in life was oversleeping, or staying up till all hours to finish my never-ending assignments. But when I met Brian, I was exposed to a whole new way of life.

Brian, a smart, creative 25-year-old man, was dying of AIDS. When I happened to walk by his room on the way to visit my grandmother, I noticed how incredibly off-key he was singing. I smiled at him, and he invited me in. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Throughout the next year, Brian became my mentor. We would sit for hours, and although he told me right away he had AIDS, he would forbid us to talk about it. "I have AIDS. So what?" he used to say. "I'm still here and I'm alive and kicking!"

Instead of talking about his problems, we talked about life, flowers, and the New England Patriots. He was always cheerful, even when his disease made him so tired he could hardly move. He would never, ever let anyone help or take pity on him; he was completely self-sufficient. "I have two arms and two legs," he muttered once, "Why should I ask for help?" Although most people might sit back and wait to die, Brian lived life to its fullest. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he would ride around the hall in his wheelchair, talking to other patients, especially the younger ones, offering them books and kind words.

What I admired most about Brian was his courage. He would never give up. When his right leg was amputated due to diabetes, Brian said with a smile, "That's okay! My toes were crooked on that side anyway!"

Faced with insurmountable odds, Brian did not let his disease control him. He controlled it. He read books, he talked to others, he made plans for when he would recover: he never thought he would die. He had the resilience that few others possess. Never once did he give in to his disease. In his weakest moments, near the end when he could barely talk, he would whisper, "Amy, put on the radio and invite the kid from Room 211 in; let's have a sing-a-long!"

Every day Brian faced the world and his disease with a positive attitude and a fresh look on life. He would constantly encourage others to get better; he would constantly encourage me to excel at school. Since he was too weak to write, he would dictate letters to me to send to other ill children he heard about on the news. Defeat was not in his vocabulary. Life was there for him to live, and, as he said, "Dammit, I'm going to live it!"

Brian was a miracle to me. Before I met him, I only worried about the trivial things in life. But now I realize how important it is to do my best in everything I attempt, and to never, ever give up. Brian helped me gain the knowledge and confidence in myself that I will need to succeed, and for that I will always be grateful.

On October 12, 1992, Brian died after fiercely fighting for his life. His last words were, "Carry on my spirit ... never say goodbye." I don't think Brian has to worry. He was a legacy to everyone who knew him.

Brian represented the courage, faith, and determination that all of us should strive for. Brian was my dearest friend, and I will miss him. But most important of all, Brian is, and will always be, my hero. Thank you, Brian, for giving me the courage to maximize my life and my potential. I only hope that, someday, I can make as big an impact on someone's life as Brian has made on mine. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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