Joshua Long was a fighter.
During his short life he never put on a uniform, but for the last eight years he fought every day to live and be understood. Severely injured by a teen driver at age 9, Long spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair unable to speak.
Despite his limitations, he had a profound effect on the people he met.
"He'd light up a room," his mother Sonia Long said. "Everyone fell in love with Josh."
He learned to communicate with facial cues, raising his eyebrows and smiling or frowning.
"One of my fondest memories was him trying on hats," Joshua's mom said. "His facial expressions showed how much he liked them or hated them."
Long died last Wednesday at 17 from complications from a May 19 surgery to remove a bone in his back. In the years following the accident Long developed scoliosis, and doctors wanted to remove the bone that was causing his spine to curve. The process took eight hours.
"He did well, but his lungs didn't do well," Sonia Long said. "He was on a ventilator, then he'd come off it and have to go back on, until finally his lungs filled up with fluid."
Throughout his life, the Fort Mill community rallied around Long, raising money to help pay medical bills, even building a wheelchair ramp at his home.
"I want to thank the people of Fort Mill for all their support over the years," Sonia Long said. "It's been a long road."
Long's funeral was Saturday at Rehoboth Church in Chester.