My name is Brandon Xavier Peterson. I was born on October 22, 1989 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Shandowlyon Lyzette Reaves and Affice Peterson. I have one sister, Barbara Antoinette Peterson, who is more like a second mother to me than a sibling. My dad, Elijah Jerome Reaves, has been in my life for decades. Barbara can tell you best about how great he is. All my life, they had to speak for me. Today, I will tell you about myself.
When I was born, the umbilical cord was around my neck preventing me from getting much-needed oxygen. As a result, I didn’t achieve regular development milestones similar to others. My family took me to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota when I was a baby to visit internationally acclaimed physicians and specialist. The resulting diagnoses were left hemiparesis, epilepsy and developmental delay. I was later diagnosed with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome which affects only five percent of those with epilepsy. My life expectancy was eight years old.
I completed the Birth to 3 program at Curative Care where I received early intervention services. I received special education services at Milwaukee Public Schools. When I graduated from Custer High School, all my fellow graduates stood up and clapped while Mr. Rush, my handicapped child assistant, walked me across the stage. I was so happy. My family cried because I wasn’t supposed to live to be eighteen years old according to doctors. I attended Milwaukee Center for Independence Day program. Throughout my life, I maximized my potential, defying what other told me I could and could not do.
My mother (Shandowlyon), dad (Elijah) and sister (Barbara) refused to allow my prognosis, disability or short life expectancy to negatively impact my quality of life. They evolved their lives around me. Our house became a certified adult family home. Caretakers made sure that my needs were met 24 hours a day. I attended church, travelled out of state on trains and handicapped accessible vans; enjoyed community events such as Summerfest; when out to eat a lot at Dave & Busters; and went shopping at Bayshore.
On September 12, 2022 at 7:35 pm, with my mother at my bedside, I took my last breath at Zilber Family Hospice. Please pray for and check on my family that I’ve left behind: Mom (Shandowlyon Reaves); Dad (Elijah Reaves), sister (Barbara Peterson); niece (Amara Powell); bonus brother (Damone Powell); grandparents (Bishop and Mrs. Harry L Hendricks, Sr.); bonus grandparent (Dr. Rogers Onick); aunts (Vicky Peterson and Shantel Hendricks); uncle (Harry Hendricks, Jr.) cousins (Jade Hendricks, Harry Hendricks, III and Joshua Hendricks), and a host of relatives. They have been my support system.
Don’t cry for me. I lived 32 years with unconditional love and immense support from family and friends. Everyone who knew my family, knew me. Thank you to everyone who encouraged my mom, dad and sister because even though they made it look easy, it wasn’t. As the song says, “I’ve had some good days. I’ve had some weary days. God has been good to me. I won’t complaint.”