Editor’s note: Several months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Kenneth and Romena Lawrence. The couple recently lost their son Keenan due to epilepsy. The Lawrence’s have chosen to remember Keenan by setting up a memorial fund in his honor Through this loving tribute to their remarkable son, they hope to support other parents raising a child with epilepsy. This month we are sharing Kenneth Lawrence’s tribute to his son Keenan by sharing some of his remembrances.
You asked me if I could give you some information about Keenan. There is so much to share, but I’ll begin Keenan’s story at the age of 11 when he started having seizures.
When Keenan realized what epilepsy was, and that he would live with epilepsy the rest of his life, he got very depressed. One day he asked me how I would like to be like him. I responded, “What do you mean?” He said, “I’m a freak.” That just hurt to hear, in fact, it wounded me. Not knowing what to say, I tried to give him some encouraging words.
That night I prayed for God to give me the wisdom and knowledge to let my son know that he was not a freak. When I woke up the next morning, something told me to go to the computer and Google “Famous People with Epilepsy.” Hundreds of pictures of famous people popped up. I was so excited that I woke Keenan up to show him what I had discovered. That day, I left him on the computer and when I got back four hours later, Keenan was still there. He told me that he wanted to read about everyone. I’m sharing this story because after that point, Keenan never looked back. Everything Keenan attempted, he mastered.
When Keenan was 8 years old, he invented at board game called Dice Cards. If you would like to see an infomercial on the game, just Google Dice Cards by Kenny Lawrence. The game is very entertaining. Please keep in mind he was only 8 years old when he brought this game to the family.
Keenan showed an early interest in electronics. At age 12, he found the very first video game that we bought one Christmas for Keenan and his older brother. The game, Sega Genesis, wasn’t working and Keenan told me that he wanted to try and fix it. I said that it would be good practice for him. I remember coming home from work and finding Keenan in his room working away. After about a month, I started to feel sorry for him, and thought maybe I should jump in and help him out. Then one day, he told me that he fixed that game! We went upstairs to his room, and sure enough, he had the game working. We played that game all night long. I went to school for electronics and was amazed at the troubleshooting techniques Keenan used. He diagnosed the problem with the broken game as if he were a certified technician.
When Keenan was attempting to get into college, he needed an admissions letter from his doctor. I was shocked when I got the letter. It read as if Keenan were mentally retarded. We never showed Keenan the letter. Instead, I made an appointment with his doctor to let her know that for the last three years he was an honor roll student. She had seen Keenan for eight years and did not know what was going on with him. The doctor agreed to rewrite the admissions letter, and with her more favorable endorsement, Keenan entered college without any restrictions.
Keenan first went to a junior college, which he didn’t like very much. He kept telling us that he wanted to go to a technical school. We encouraged him to stay two years in a junior college, and then agreed to send him to ITT Technical College. This is when Keenan started accelerating academically. Keenan was on either the dean’s list or the honor roll the entire time he was at ITT. During his last two years, he tutored many of his classmates who were of different ages and races.
When we lost Keenan this past January, he was just a few months away from graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Engineering.
I’m not sure how we will ever get over losing Keenan so early in his life. He worked hard, overcame so much, and showed great promise. To make sense of everything, we called the Epilepsy Association to see how we could help others. This is why we started the Keenan Lawrence Memorial Fund. We want to help other parents see the promise their children have too. When we first learned of Keenan’s epilepsy, we needed to talk with someone who understood how to raise a child who has seizures. We needed to know what to expect and how to handle the difficult situations that were bound to arise. After some research, my wife, Romena, and I selected the Epilepsy Association because of their Kids & Family Program. We understand how this program helps other families like ours. As a family, we invite you to support all the Keenan’s who were lost too soon because of epilepsy. For our friends and family who have asked, “what can I do?’ and for everyone who is moved by our story to help, we ask that you consider making a gift to the Keenan Lawrence Memorial Fund. The Epilepsy Association has created a link so that donations are securely made on-line. Here is the link to Keenan’s Memorial Fund. All proceeds will go to the Epilepsy Association in Cleveland, Ohio.