You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you wake up to the phone ringing? When it’s either late at night or early in the morning…times when you don’t normally get phone calls? Friday morning was one of those mornings for us. It wasn’t terribly early, a little after 7:00. Brad is usually gone by that time, but he was still home last Friday. I was in that state of half-awake, half-asleep…but still not ready to get up. The phone rang and Brad answered it. He said five words, that normally wouldn’t make me shudder…but today the innocent words broke my heart.
“Hey, Mel. What’s going on?” Melanie is Brad’s oldest sister. Her husband, Bryan, was diagnosed with brain cancer about a year ago. He’s been through several treatments and had lots of ups and downs since his diagnosis. The last time I saw him, he seemed pretty normal – the quiet, but silly and teasing Bryan that he’s always been. That was in September. From what I understand, he’s actually been doing pretty well…he just took a bad turn on Thursday and went downhill really quickly until he was gone in the early morning hours on Friday.
As soon as I heard who it was on the phone, I knew. She would never call so early if it wasn’t to tell us that Bryan was gone. Brad walked into the other room to talk and I gave him his privacy, but after he was off the phone, he confirmed what I already knew. Brad was particularly close to Bryan when he was a teenager – Bryan was almost like a Father…or at least a big brother. (Brad is the youngest of 6 kids, and there’s a big gap between his oldest siblings and him…he has nieces and nephews that are my age.) I’ve been surprised at how well Brad is taking everything.
My heart breaks for a little family who will be without a husband, father, and grandpa for Christmas this year. Every time I think of Melanie, I cry…she’s had so many challenges, so many things that would make it easy to throw your hands in the air and just give up – on everything. Yet she remains strong and faithful – sure that Heavenly Father has a plan and this is all part of it. She’s right. I know she is. I admire her for being so strong and such a good example. I just need to focus on the beautiful reunion that happened in Heaven a few short mornings ago. Patrick, Bryan and Melanie’s oldest son who was killed in an accident when he was 14 years old, was probably the first to run up and give his dad a big hug. I’m sure they’re together now. And eventually their family will all be together again – because that’s what eternal families are all about. I know it. For sure.
And as hard as all of this is…it’s another reminder of how precious and sweet our families are. I need to be better at not taking mine for granted. We aren’t guaranteed any amount of time here on this earth and we need to make the most of the time we do have with our families. Once a loved one is gone, we only have memories until we can be with them again. Memories. One more testament to the fact of how important it is to keep a scrapbook or a journal – something tangible that we can leave behind when we are gone. Memories ARE precious…they need to be preserved.