It’s been one year since you took your last breath.
That hits me. Hard.
You were there, right by my side majority of my life and one morning, you weren’t.
You were only eighteen a senior in high school. You had your entire life ahead of you. You were going to be a husband. A father. An uncle to my children. It hurts knowing someday I’ll have to tell my children they have an uncle that’s no longer here.
I now have nothing but old memories and it hurts knowing I’ll never create a new one with you. Some of them are incredible like dad pulling us around on the the inner tube he attached to the jetski. You always trying to flirt with my friends. Even just laying on the couch watching tv together.
I had no idea how to process the news when I got it. I was driving home from mcdonalds when dad called me. “Brayden was in a wreck. They are flying him to UVA.” I ran into my house, thankfully to see that henry was home from college. We left immediately. You were alive, but unconscious when we got to the hospital. We weren’t allowed to see you because they needed to prep you for surgery. You were bleeding internally and your brain was swelling. Nothing felt real.
You were my protection. From bullies, from dumb boys. Who was going to protect me now? There was no way I could do life without my other half. I refused. I KNEW you would wake up. I kept telling myself you would be fine. YOU’RE BRAYDEN.
I remember the exact moment I was told you weren’t going to make it. It’s like my heart went numb. It’s like the world just stopped in that moment. I wanted to be strong for everyone. I went back with so many people to say goodbye to you over and over again. They let the whole family surround you. I remember there weren’t enough chairs, so majority of the family had to stand. for hours. my legs, my feet, my entire body hurt so bad. But nothing compared to the pain of watching them take you off of life support. Watching your heart rate drop. Everyone took turns holding your hand. Then it happened. 6:39 you were gone. We watched you take your last breath and your heart take its last beat. My baby brother was gone.
It hurts. Every day. How could God take away someone that would help any person that needed it? You were full of so much kindness, love, ambition, and strength.
I remember on the way to the funeral home to see you for the last time, I was a hysterical wreck on the inside, but completely silent on the outside. I wanted to see you alone. You looked so good. I hugged you and kissed your cheek. I just sat there, in that moment, with you. I didn’t want to leave you, but I also couldn’t stay. I was stuck between wanting to be in your presence, but also knowing it was just your body and your soul was long gone.
To see my family fall apart was horrifying. We are by far one of the strongest families you will ever meet, but once you were gone we all went numb. Nobody wanted to talk, nobody wanted to eat, we just wanted to sit in silence. But we couldn’t. We had to plan your funeral. Planning a funeral is by far one of the hardest things I have ever been part of. We wanted it to be authentically you and we accomplished that.
So many people have been impacted by your story. Around 700 people showed up at your funeral. By far the biggest funeral I had ever gone to. I also got to speak at your funeral. That was probably the scariest moment of my life, but I am SO glad I did it. I know you would be proud because I did it for you.
In the midst of the pain that no one could possibly understand, I’m comforted by the fact that God doesn’t always expect us to be put together, He understands when we fall apart and sometimes allows us to crumble so we can be made whole again. We can let Him fill the cracks of our broken heart, so His light can shine right through.
We have all come together for you. Your friends still come have dinner with us as often as they can. Cody, Danielle, Colton, and I are good, closer than we have ever been actually. They are my rocks we all miss you more than anything, but we are getting through it together.
Your dad (michael), your mom(stacy), your stepdad (aka my dad danny) and your stepmom (jennifer) very quickly became the strongest people I have ever met in my life. They miss you so so much, but they are getting through it. Everyday they wake up and show their strength. They do it for you.
You would love to see all the tattoos people have gotten for you. I swear almost the entire county has your name tattooed on them. You’re kind of a celebrity around here, it’s kinda crazy. I love it though. You deserve so much credit. You are so incredible. So strong. You are everything I hope to become.
I can’t wait to see you again. I would give anything to hug you again. Thank you for being my best friend, my protector, my secret keeper, and my rock.
I cry because you’re not here anymore, but I rejoice because you get to be with The Lord and are in a place where there is no mourning, no pain, and no tears. You’re in a place where nothing but joy exists.
I love you endlessly, Brayden.
See you soon.