Lawrence Dilworth grabs life and makes it a worthwhile adventure
Detroit, Michigan, United States —Lawrence Dilworth turned 70 years old this week. He is not shy to say that he is one of the oldest people in the United States living with spina bifida. In 1944, Larry’s life expectancy was similar to his peers—50 years, the doctors told his parents when he was born.
Larry has been on my writing To Do list for nearly a year. I planned to write a feature article about his adventurous life and when it came down to his birthday deadline, I ended up writing it in first-person. That’s because, Larry’s spirit isn’t constrained within a fact list of life events. It’s my experience knowing him which has formed my understanding of this incredible man.
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After connecting through this magazine, Larry quickly friended me on Facebook. Over the past year, I've read his daily, sometimes hourly posts on Facebook. He spills his guts online every day (I know when he gets up, when he goes to bed, and I always know his mood).
It feels really good to be his friend. But I’m pretty sure he quickly invites everyone he meets into his circle. However, Larry makes me feel like his arm is perpetually around my shoulder and every day he leans in to whisper the mysteries of the universe and secrets only my soul would know.
Growing up in Detroit
Larry energizes me with his “warrior spirit” and this leads me to wonder who his parents were and what decisions they made in 1944, 1954, 1964, etc. which empowered this man to live so freely despite a constant reminder of physical limitation. Larry’s parents both passed in 2009. Not until the last few months of his life did Larry’s father say that the doctors predicted Larry would only live until age 50. Their relationship must have run deep. As a business owner, Mr. Dilworth’s work schedule granted flexibility to be with Larry as he grew up in and out of the hospital.
Larry attributes his spiritual perspective on a near-death experience when he was a pre-teen. In the hospital with a severe fever, the doctors packed him in ice. He hovered over his body, watching the nurses tapping his face saying, “Wake up, Larry.” He felt peaceful and wanted to move toward a bright light. “For some reason, God sent me back into that carcass,” Larry refers to his physical body. After that day, he felt no fear of death.
Despite the fact that I have never met Larry in person, I consider him a friend and you would too because Larry affects every person he meets. His wheelchair doesn’t affect me. Nor the one remaining leg which doesn’t work properly. It’s because Larry clearly has more than others. He sees the Big Picture.
Larry does not worry if the glass is half full or half empty, he just drinks the water. He calls himself a “Dash Person”—when you are born, they give you a date. When you die, there will be a second date. Between these two dates is a dash. And that’s right where Larry lives…in the dash. Right now. Right here. Today.
What you get with Larry is a consistent focus on what is awesome about being human and alive on our planet. I can attest for myself, a daily dose of Lawrence Dilworth over the past year has been good for my soul. What sets Larry apart the most is his consistent focus on seeing the Devine in all people and situations.
So, Happy Birthday, ‘Leaping Larry!’ May God grant us another 70 years of your goodness.
You are loved by all!
The staff and readers of Faces of Spina Bifida
Facts about Lawrence Dilworth
Born June 25, 1944, Detroit Michigan
Occupation actor, photographer
Nickname Leaping Larry
Why that nickname? from a sky-diving adventure
Wheelchair name “Chariot of Freedom”
Gets around in it since 1982
Member Warriors on Wheels
Best thing about being a bachelor “I’m allowed to eat anything I want!"
One honor Michigan Governor's Appointment, 1984-1986