Final Wish for Dying Teen in Foster Care

Michael Ybarra, 16, has spent half his life in foster homes. Now, he will die in one.

At age 8, Michael’s biological family gave him up to the state.

A violent, angry child, he went through more than a dozen unhappy foster homes.

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About a year ago, Michael was diagnosed with an aggressive cancerous brain tumor.

Surgery left him with a crater in his skull, blind in one eye, and feeling more unwanted than ever. “He had nowhere to go after brain surgery,” said Bernice Jackson, his new foster mother. Jackson and her husband Robert decided to take in the troubled teen when no one else would, in the waning days of his young life.

“He was angry, he was bitter,” says Bernice. “Michael had gone through a lot of ups and downs in his life.”

“He didn’t like no adult telling him what to do,” Robert added.

After weeks of positive confidence building and reading the Bible, the Jacksons watched a change come over the young man. “He just began to shell off the old way,” Bernice said.

“He’s turned out to be a joy,” Robert noted. “Like I said, at first, he wasn’t a joy. We’re just happy that we could be a part of it to make a child’s life better than it was.”

Today, a gentle exterior belies the cancer raging through Michael’s body. He has been given only weeks to live. And yet, he smiles – a lot. He said it’s the first time he has felt what love is.

“Having this good family right here. Whatever I need, all I got to do is tell them, and they give it to me,” he said.

Brain surgery has taken away some of his short term memory, but Michael says he remembers getting in fights when he was younger because he was angry with his biological family. He knows he’s finally happy and at peace.

In his final, dying days, Michael has fulfilled dreams, including going to Sea World, Disney World, a Dallas Cowboys game and meeting players from the Dallas Stars. That’s positive attention a troubled kid never gets, he says.

The Jacksons’ final wish for Michael is a proper burial in a nearby cemetery. That is a dream his foster family cannot afford. The state pays a minimal amount to bury a foster child. The Jacksons say they want more for a young man who has finally — dignity.

“He’s ready to go. He’s free,” Bernice said, sitting on the hospice bed where Michael will likely pass away.

Whatever happens, Michael says he finally knows what it feels to be wanted.

For information on contributing to Michael Ybarra’s funeral fund contact Refuge House at 972-662-5112.

This story was originally run by WFAA news in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on August 5, 2008, in children, India, news, shelley seale and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I want more than anything Shelley, to believe in the power of unified prayer, the power to heal all children, yes, 16 year old children. I will pray regardless, I will pray with hope and I send blessings to this young man and his parents.

  2. Do you have any updates on Michael? I actually worked at the high school he attended, and would love to know how he is doing…

  3. I will pray for michael and will try to convey the message to every parents that if they are having kids and want to get help for troubled teens should try to see this example that could give there kids and teens to live life happily before death.

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