Tomorrow is January 11th, 2017, the ninth anniversary of my son Brandon’s death. I would love to tell you that it gets easier and in a way it has. I no longer feel the shattering grief I felt nine years ago tomorrow and for a long time--years—after that. I don’t wake up in pain every morning. I can laugh, smile, enjoy life. But I haven’t gotten over the loss of Brandon, walking around in a body, an ordinary part of our lives, and I never will. What I wouldn’t give to see that ornery grin again. Yet I feel grateful and know that I’ve been blessed. I got the privilege of being his mother for twenty-seven years. I have the memory of rocking that sweet little roly-poly toddler to sleep. I remember him in the front yard as a little boy, hitting rocks across the road into the field with his yellow plastic baseball bat for hours. I remember his sweet smile, curly chestnut brown moptop, his wonderful big true heart, and his neverending sense of humor. His laugh…oh that laugh. I still can hear it echoing inside my head.
Brandon would say he hasn’t gone anywhere and I know that in a way that’s true. I still feel his presence, his spirit, around me. And a few times a year I talk to him with the help of a world-class medium. I know that it’s truly him, talking to me through Jamie, because of the things she passes along from him. Once when I met with her, for example, Brandon said, “There goes my mother, Miss Positive.” Another time he said, when I had commented on something he’d said that was less than angelic, during one of those meetings with Jamie, “If I was angel boy you’d say, where’s my son?”
Brandon has said some interesting things about death. He calls the anniversary of his passing his death day, and once he said, “A lot of people [here in the afterlife] see their death day as a celebration, sort of like a graduation.” At the time I thought of how different that was from what most people in the everyday world feel about the anniversary of their loved one’s passing, which seems like a dark day, not only for them but for the person who died. It makes me think of how we only see part of the picture, here in this life. I know my mind has been opened and my perspective on death and everything else has completely shifted since Brandon died, or rather since I started talking to him through Jamie Butler after he died. Brandon commented on that once too: “My passing has given you a new awareness that you don’t have to know everything or have all the answers and now can be your new normal.”
In the early years, the anniversary of Brandon’s death was horrible for me and my family. But since I’ve been talking to him so regularly, and since I’ve come to truly believe that he’s still with us—just not in a form we can see or hug or talk to in the ordinary way, without an intermediary—the dark cloud above his death has lifted a bit, for me and the rest of my family.
Throughout the last nine years we’ve discovered a number of different ways to deal with Brandon’s death day. We celebrate his life by going out to dinner with family and reminiscing about him, often having a round table discussion to see who can tell the funniest story about Brandon when he was here. There are some really funny stories told by his brother and sister, like the time Brandon and Cody came over to our house in the middle of the night when they were in their twenties and Brandon was living on his own. Cody was staying the night with Brandon, and they snuck into my and Kenny’s house, avoiding the motion sensor light (“Don’t go in front of that light,” Brandon told Cody, “because it’ll go on and it will wake up Mom, the gestapo, and then we’ll have to explain.”) I didn’t wake up, and they stole our hotdog buns and ketchup so they could have a cookout at two in the morning. Kenny and I didn’t find out we had no buns or ketchup till Kenny made brats for lunch the next day. Or the time Jessica, Brandon, and Jessica’s boyfriend at the time Johnny were driving from Phoenix to Iowa, stopped at a Quick Trip when they got relatively close to our house, and Brandon bought a toothbrush because he’d just remembered he’d forgotten his and hadn’t brushed his teeth during the 26 hours they’d been driving back. Johnny told that story, about six years ago now on Brandon’s death day, and we all laughed uproariously, partly at the look of his disgust on Johnny’s face.
Tomorrow my husband Kenny and I are going to take off the afternoon and go to a movie, and then we’re going over to my son Cody and his wife Britni’s house and have dinner with them and their two little kids, my two grandchildren, McKinli and Calvin.I know we’ll talk and laugh and reminisce about Brandon and that Brandon will be with us. We won’t be able to see him as we look around the table, we might not be able to feel that he’s there. But he will be. That much I know for sure.