As I sit down here today, I have no comical story of Naughty Dog to share. I have no wild adventure of hers to elaborate on. Today, I write of a boy. A little toe-headed miracle that was a true gift to our family--and many others.
I was around 10 when Bradley Benjamin came home from the hospital to the farm down the road. He was a miracle baby born very early at "half the size of an egg carton". My earliest memories of him are of following his oxygen tube through the house while I babysat, trying to locate the giggling bundle of boy hiding under a chair or table thinking he had "got me".
Due to life's happenings, Bradley spent much of his time with our family while growing up. He went to Gram's. He went school shopping. He even sat through many of our concerts and school events. If he was at the farm, he would wait for the school bus to pass signaling Jayson’s and my arrival home. He would call wanting us to come get him after we had our snack. We would walk the dirt road, maybe help with a few chores in the barn, then gather Bradley and his ride-on tractor. Grandpa Roy had purchased this tractor long before Bradley could even walk. And long after he could walk, he continued to persuade Jayson and I to pull him up the long hill to our house by a rope Jay had rigged to the front of it. Dirt bikes, sibling squabbles, Tonka trucks, fishing, sledding, collecting eggs, ice cream, tree houses, movie nights….we did it all. He was our brother.
As time went on I moved off to college and received a letter almost weekly with the illegible handwriting of a youngster. Readable or not, that envelope always found its way to Mackenzie North--C4B2. He would tell of his latest tales with our brother, Jayson, and always ended with "I miss you." Sometimes Bradley would come "camp out" for the weekend in my dorm.
As I married, and moved into our own home, Bradley, now driving on his own, would randomly appear with a brownie mix and bottle of chocolate syrup in hand. I learned quickly those items would become staples in our home as we never knew when he would appear wanting a sweet treat and "couch time" with our dogs.
As our own boys came into the picture, Uncle Bradley, involved heavily in the Fire Department, would drive out of the way to our home so our boys could run the lights and sirens---terrifying all the neighbors who soon became accustom to Uncle Bradley’s visits and realized there was no need to run to my aide. No emergency. Just Uncle Bradley and the boys.
Throughout our life, roads lead in twisty, crazy directions. Sometimes paths cross, and sometimes, for long periods of time, for reasons unknown, they don’t. But any time I came upon Bradley’s grinning face through a crowd, or heard his truck pull in our drive--always accompanied by the "blip" of his siren--my heart was made happy.
We lost our Bradley this past weekend. Not one of us suspected there was a problem, that he would ever do what he did. I didn't know he was where he was. I have many questions. I try to focus on what I DO know-- That the little, tiny boy tethered by an oxygen tube had grown into a great man. A son. A dad. A brother. A husband. A grandson. An uncle. A nephew. A cousin. A fireman. An EMT. A corrections officer. This "gift" of a tiny little boy from so many years ago went on to do many wonderful things for so many people in our community. For that, I am very proud.
But now, while I sit in the quiet of my home, hearing my own two boys giggle in the next room, my heart flashes back to that little toe-headed boy, holding on to the steering wheel of that yellow, ride-on tractor with one hand, and a bag of M n' M's in the other, chocolate running down his face, giggling as Jayson and I dragged him up that hill. I still feel that little boy, held right tight, on my lap, sound asleep on a Friday night, because he had grown weary of trying to keep up with us older kids and our "out of control" baseball game. I can see his "chocolaty grin" and hear his intoxicating giggle if I sit in the quiet and close my eyes.
Through the events of the past days, I've had moments where I have hung tightly to God--and honestly, I've had moments where I've pushed Him away...I have cried…laughed…reminisced. I have felt the people around me hurting so badly. I have struggled with what God could possibly do with a situation like this. And at times, I have no words. I can't even construct a prayer. All I can do is simply say the word, "Jesus". I call on the name of Jesus. In the midst of all of this "awful", He is there with me. I am certain of that. I may appear a jumbled mess on the outside, but somewhere deep inside, under all the tears and mess, Jesus holds me together, and I have HOPE. Hope that through the tragedies of this world, something wonderful will happen. Hope, that others will see a loving, forgiving savior waiting for them to simply speak His name, "JESUS".
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
I have no clue how many read these thoughts I put down. I know some of you, and others I do not. Whether I know you personally, or you are miles across this country, if you find yourself struggling--PLEASE reach out. Call a friend. Tell them. Go to the nearest church building. Someone there will help you. Or--call the number. Jesus loves you, and your life IS a gift, no matter the circumstances.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.