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  • Debbie Maier Jacknin

Larry Bird Takes Flight, a Reflection

Larry Jacknin passed away from complications due to ALS on February 23, 2016

Larry created this pastel while we were on the beach. I love the way the bird looks like it is deep in thought, reflecting a lovely day spent at looking out at the ocean. I told him that if he were a bird, he would be that bird and that is how he got the nickname "Larry Bird."

People have said to me that they were sorry that Larry suffered for the last few years of his life. And while ALS was unfortunate and made things tough, he really only “suffered” the last few weeks.

Larry stopped working in January of 2014 and we spent quality time together. We did everything in our power to make the most of those two years. He wanted to be with me and I wanted to be with him.

Larry and I made a very conscious choice to live life. He had ALS but the disease would not define who he was nor what he could do. While battling ALS, we traveled to Israel, went to Colorado for his daughter’s wedding, and enjoyed time with family and friends.

We traveled to Boston to participate in an ALS study. There was always the hope they might find something that would help him, but we really did it hoping to help others in the future.

In the two year period, we created more art than we ever had before. Our most prolific time was the winter of 2014-2015. We went to Florida where we made over 50 stained glass mosaics and made sure each family member had one. We both always wanted to be artists and now we were.

Our final series was one we called "Reflection" and was created our last winter in Florida before Larry passed on. We reflected on religion, death, and dying. We reflected on our lives. We reflected on how we treated others and how others treated us.

Everywhere we went, people stop and offer to help us. Doors were held open. People helped him take his groceries out of the cart on put them on the belt. At the gym, men lifted him from his wheelchair to a bike. ALS helped Larry renew his faith in man.

We were so grateful for all that was done for us. But can you imagine a world where it doesn’t’ take a man in a wheelchair to elicit that response?

The idea for our reflection series came from an event we participated in called Art All Night in Lawrenceville, PA. We volunteered to show the public how to create stained glass mosaics and created this piece called "Tree of Life" that they auctioned to raise money for future events.

Art All Night takes place in a large, crowded warehouse. By this time Larry was confined to a wheelchair so when it was time to leave a volunteer with a big booming voice helped us navigate through the people, he walked in front of us saying, “Excuse us, coming through.” As we approached a large line of people waiting for beer, I watched a man looking annoyed and he started to say something to our helper who pointed to Larry. The man took one look at Larry and changed his attitude. He helped to clear the path asking others to move so we could get through the crowd.

Why did the man have to see Larry to become compassionate? Why not show the man with the booming voice the same concern? At one time or another we all have pain or something we are dealing with, some like Larry is very visible, but sometimes we cannot see what another is experiencing.

This year, I volunteered again at Art All Night where I made this piece. The sail boats were made out of mirror so everyone who looks at the mosaic can reflect upon how he or she treats others and themselves.

I reflect on Larry Bird's life remembering a man who he was bright, imaginative, and loving. He listened, cared deeply for his friends and family, and pressed on when others might have given up. We honor his memory by being the best we can be.

I think we all want our lives to matter and we want to think we made a difference in this world. Larry did.

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