Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jed in the News

Today marks eight years since Jed, our beloved son and brother, left us here on earth so suddenly and went before us to heaven.

If you look on Jed's website and click on 'Jed in the News' it no longer takes you to the article that was written about Jed and his lawn business.

So, I thought it fitting to remember him by posting the article here.

I hope you will take the time to read and remember, and tell your friends and family about it...

"A customized lawn mower and a determined 14-year-old"
By Susan Reinhardt

     Almost as if timed to perfection, the rain paused, long enough for Jed Williams to steer himself straight into a dream.

     It was Saturday afternoon, Sept. 21, and gathered in a level yard in Leicester were Janis and Ted Williams, their three children and the neighbors who hired Jed for his first paying job, mowing grass. Most of his life Jed has been in a wheelchair, unable to walk, feed himself or live without constant care.

     Since he was a child, lawn mowers had fascinated Jed, born three months prematurely and suffering cerebral palsy, lung problems and, most recently, scoliosis, a curve in his spine that needed correcting. The surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, four days away, and in the meantime Jed wanted to cut as many lawns as he could.

     His mother called me one day at work. They were fairly new to the area, had moved here in May, and she was home-schooling the 14-year-old and trying to give him every opportunity she could find.

     "He's a very dynamic young man," Janis said on the phone, "and he has a great vocabulary. He's got a power wheelchair and an idea to be able to cut grass."

     Like the devoted mother she's been ever since Jed's birth, Janis searched the Internet and found a company called Promow out of Fort Wayne, Ind., which manufactures reel-type lawnmowers, the light-weight, non-motorized machines that cut grass the old-fashioned way.

     The company's vice-president was impressed with Janis and what she was trying to do for Jed. The company shipped the lawn mower, custom-modified and adapted for Jed's chair, and charged the family nothing. Many of the employees signed the packing slip, sending greetings and well-wishes for a young man finding his way in the world.
Chuck, ProMow's VP

     On Friday night, Sept. 20, the evening before his big job, the skies released a much-needed rain. The Williamses crossed their fingers. Maybe the rain would break. Maybe in the morning Jed could sit in his chair, lawn mower fastened to a bar behind him and learn to mow grass.

      Before he went to bed that night, the excited boy looked up at his mother as if she could change the weather with her wishes.

     "I don't get to do much," he told her, voice slow but understandable. "But I can do this."

     "How does it make you feel, Jed?" Janis asked before her son closed his eyes, eager for morning.

     "Like a million bucks. I'm so excited I could pop."

     Morning arrived, but the rain hadn't stopped. Janis heard Jed calling her from his room down the hall. She glanced out of the window, then made her way to his room. He asked her to open the curtains. "I knew he was going to be upset." she said. So she waited.

     When the rain stopped. the family, including younger brother Nathan and sister Sunny, met in the neighbors back yard. Ted and Janis had their cameras and camcorders charged and ready. After a few pointers about turning and avoiding sticks and holes, Jed took off, the smile on his face as euphoric as any I'd ever seen.

     Nathan, 6, tagged along like a puppy. They'd always been inseparable, best friends as well as brothers. Nathan wanted to help. But this was Jed's business, his dream, the motivation a teen-ager sought and found to build confidence and a small bank account.

 Jed with his manager, little brother Nathan

Jed being interviewed by Susan Reinhardt

     The push-mower quietly cut the grass as he maneuvered across the yard, turning back to check the progress. He smiled continued, this back-and-forth driving through disabilities and improbabilities.

     "Turn!" Ted shouted in the encouraging tone of a coach. After a few attempts, Jed managed the turn.

     "I did it," he said, arms shooting up in victory. Halfway through the session, the neighbors presented a business envelope, Jed's first paycheck enclosed. The family recorded the moment with film and cheers.

 Our neighbors, Bruce and Eric, who helped Jed realize his dream.
They even had a cap made with his business's name on it.

 His first check!

So thrilled!

     By the end of the afternoon, he had finished his first yard.

    "I'm so proud of myself," he kept saying. "Can I do some more tomorrow?"

     For the next few days, the jobs poured in. And Jed mowed, his abilities growing. He asked his mother if he could write the vice-president of Promow and thank him for the opportunity.

     "His eyes have just been sparkling," Janis said.


     On Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, at 5:30 a.m., the family arrived at Mission St. Joseph's for what they knew would be a long, involved surgery to correct Jed's sudden curvature of the spine.

     It was to be an eight- to 10-hour operation, and while the Williamses were concerned, they were looking forward to the future, to the continuation of their son's new business, Jed's Earth Friendly Lawn Care. He'd even had business cards made.

     The surgery began at 10 a.m. Around 11, the Williamses got a call from the operating room, a report that everything was going well. Another call came after lunch.

      The unexpected had happened. Halfway through the surgery, the boy's heart stopped beating. Doctor's worked to bring him back. And they did, once. The second time his heart stopped, it failed for good. At 4 p.m. the doctors, crestfallen, faced the family with the sad news.

     In the end, Jed left this world as unexpectedly as he'd entered.

     Janis Williams bravely called me that night, courage and faith wrapping it's arms around her broken heart.

     "I want you to still write the article," she said. "Jed would have wanted that."

     There were a lot of things Jed might have wanted. But he rarely complained. And something as simple as a job had given him great joy in his last days.

     How many people died, I wondered, having fulfilled a real dream? It was a comfort to know his last days were wonderful.

      Jed's father and I had talked briefly while I watched him mow that Saturday afternoon. His words stuck with me as I mourned Jed's passing.

     "He's a great little guy," Ted had said. "One thing about Jed is he really brings out the best in people."

     One Thursday afternoon, the family sent an e-mail to friends and family.

     "God," they wrote, "decided Jed had suffered in his body long enough."