Before I begin, I'll give you a warning... this is probably going to be the longest post I'll ever write. I thought about splitting it up into several posts, but decided against it. These last several days have been some of the hardest of my life to be honest. Yet, God was there, by our sides through it all. I've seen God work in mighty ways and provide strength that I never thought was possible. This post is going to be set up like a journal. I realize not everyone will want to read it all, but I have to write it. If you do read it, I hope you'll see for yourself that God is good, all the time. He is so, so good.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. -John 14:27
Our church's week long revival meetings were starting, and the air was full of excitement for what the week would hold. After potluck, we invited the youth over to our house to play some volleyball. Our church is fairly small and all of the youth are cousins. We grew up together, we had family get togethers, we went to church together, and the result is that we are almost as close as siblings. Almost all of the cousins are youth-age. There are a couple younger children though. Kedron and Brooklyn - two siblings that were born much after their other siblings, were less than a year apart, and were as close as two peas in a pod.
Every time we had volleyball, Kedron and Brooklyn would beg to go with us. We always let them come, and usually we only let them play one game - and the rest of the time they had to entertain themselves. This Sunday, Kaitlyn didn't have room to take Kedron and Brooklyn with her. My mom saw that they were both sad about it and invited them to ride with us. It was just my parents, Kedron, Brooklyn, and I as we rode home. We talked about getting pictures in a sunflower field that we passed and about a house that their family was thinking about moving to. At volleyball, we ended up letting Kedron and Brooklyn play every game. As we sat in lawn chairs resting, Brooklyn grabbed a bowl of party mix and took it around to everyone. We teased her that she was the "snack bearer" - a title that she gladly accepted. As we gathered for dinner before heading back to church, my dad asked Brooklyn to lead us in prayer with her favorite song:
God is great, and God is good. And we thank Him for our food. By His hands, we all are fed, give us Lord, our daily bread. Amen.
In the car ride back, Kedron and Brooklyn figured out how to get the car headphones to work. Kedron wanted to listen to a football game on the radio, and Brooklyn would try to sneak her arm up to change the station to a Christian music station, looking over at me with her contagious smile and giggling as Kedron would catch her and try to change it back.
That night as we sat in church, she noticed another little girl sitting by herself a couple rows ahead of us. She quickly grabbed her things and ran up to that bench, sitting by the girl as if they'd been friends forever. That's the way Brooklyn was - never knew a stranger, always willing to help, giggling with happiness and joy.
|Brooklyn serving the volleyball on Sunday |
We were pulling into the driveway after the second night of revival meetings. The service had went well - the message was good and the fellowship afterwards was even better. We stayed late talking, and I drove my parents home in the darkness of night. My mom's phone rang, and I could hear my aunt's distorted voice on the other end. She had been crying.
There was an accident.
Another aunt and her two daughters had been involved in a car accident. Brooklyn, the youngest, had been badly hurt and was going to be life lined. As I parked the car, I pulled out my phone to begin calling people. My brother's number came up first. Mom's phone rang again, and my aunt said we needed to get back to the scene of the accident. Brooklyn was having trouble breathing, and they might need my dad (an anesthesiologist) to help intubate her. As we dove back into the car, my brother answered.
I could hardly talk, but I managed to tell him that Brooklyn was badly hurt and asked him to call our sister. This time my dad was in the driver's seat with the flashers on. My mom and I hung on for dear life and prayed that we'd make the 25 minute drive safely as the car began smoking from being pushed to its max. But we can replace the car, and every second counts - we made it in under 10 minutes - and my dad was out of the car almost before it stopped, sprinting over to a group of ambulances.
By this point, I was shaking uncontrollably. The evening air was cool and I didn't have a jacket, but I think it was more because of the fear than anything. As my mom and I walked up to a group of sheriffs and EMTs, we overheard that Brooklyn was in the ambulance. A helicopter was waiting a few yards away. The first person I saw was my uncle, Brooklyn's father. He'd come upon the accident a few seconds after it happened. A large truck had blew a stop sign, t-boning my aunt's car and sending it spinning into a nearby field.
Neighbors had seen the flashing lights of the van spinning after being hit and had come to help. This is deep in Amish and Mennonite country and many of them were running around the scene helping out wherever they could. Another aunt and some of my cousins came over. I hugged my grandparents tight. We all had tears in our eyes. Sharla and Kaitlyn had already been taken to the hospital - neither one in serious condition.
Finally, the doors of the ambulance opened. I caught a glimpse of her - my 9 year old little cousin - just moments before so happy and full of life. There were large gashes on her face...I looked away, tears filling my eyes again as they hurried her to the helicopter. My cousins, grandparents, and mother formed a group hug and an Amish man came up and began praying the words that we couldn't manage to choke out. As he finished, the helicopter took off and more family gathered into the group hug.
My two uncles were there, and my dad. We went around the circle praying, ending with Brooklyn's 10 year old brother (and best friend)'s desperate prayer to help his sister. As we prepared to leave the scene and travel to various hospitals, there were no dry eyes. Yet, through God's grace and power, there was no longer the shaking fear that gripped us at first. There was a peace, that no one could explain or comprehend. It just was.
God's grace would sustain us, through whatever we had to face.
|This picture was taken 2 weeks ago at another cousin's wedding. This is Brooklyn's family - her parents Mark and Sharla, brother Justin and his wife Michelle and their baby Ellie, brother Colten, sister Kaitlyn, and brother Kedron. |
My parents and I took Kedron back to his house to gather some clothes. Kedron fed the dog, and sat for awhile with her in his arms, hugging and petting her. We finally left for the hospital where his mom and Kaitlyn were. As we arrived, the waiting room was filled with cousins, aunts, and even the visiting minister. Kaitlyn was already being discharged, and Sharla was waiting on results from x-rays and CAT scans. Kedron went back to see Kaitlyn and the life line team returned. Kedron and Kaitlyn were able to get pictures with the team and see the inside of the helicopter.
We were finally able to go back and see Sharla. She had a broken collar bone, and were waiting on more results. She was in a lot of pain, but seemed to be doing well - considering all she'd been through. We decided to go on home with Kedron to get some sleep while waiting to hear word about Brooklyn.
We stopped at McDonald's for a snack before heading home and my dad received a call. My uncle was on his way back to the hospital that Sharla and Kaitlyn were at, and Kedron needed to be there. We made a u-turn and headed back to the hospital. We sat in the parking lot waiting for my uncles to get back. We tried to talk about different things with Kedron, to keep his mind off it....
They finally got back, and we made our way to the chapel room, with heavy hearts - not wanting to hear what we already knew in our hearts. I sat down as the rest of the family made their way in... last of all Sharla, who had just been discharged. Things were a blur as Mark explained that Brooklyn hadn't made it...she'd passed away in surgery...and then as the sobs subsided, two phone calls to Brooklyn's oldest brothers who live out of state. And more gut-wrenching sobbing. It seemed like the tears would never stop, and surely this was all just a horrible, awful nightmare. Before we left that room, we prayed again. And we left the room with heavy hearts.
I woke up after four fitful hours of sleep, and began crying all over again. I got up and started helping my mom clean for guests that would probably stay at our house for the funeral. My brother and sister were on their way home from college. They arrived that afternoon and we headed over to Mark and Sharla's. Sharla told her story from the last night - she and Kaitlyn had been looking the other direction - at a beautiful blue light that they had never seen before. Just like that, the crash happened and their car was spinning out of control. After seeing the damage to Brooklyn's brain, the doctors thought she probably died at the scene - she didn't suffer. As we drove past the scene of the accident over the next few nights, there was no blue light....we don't know, but maybe it was an angel coming to take sweet Brooklyn to heaven.
The next few days were filled with sadness, yet some happiness began to emerge. Happy memories of Brooklyn's life. Memories of her dedication to prayer, of her cheerfully giving spirit. Memories of her contagious smile and giggle. Word was coming back to us of thousands of people praying, from many, many states. We thought of how happy she is in heaven right now. Memories of her first time to visit a beach earlier this summer, and how she bounced along the shore line exclaiming "This is so interesting to me, I've never been to a beach before - this is so interesting to me!" and imagining her doing the same in heaven.
We found hundreds of silly band bracelets that she'd made with Kedron and decided to pass them out at her viewing. We decided to wear her favorite color - pink.
Brooklyn's viewing started at 2:00 pm. Hundreds upon hundreds of people came. Family from other states, some of Brooklyn's best friends, and so many that had only met her once or not at all. People who were impacted in some way by her death. People that wanted to show their love and support to the family.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, Brooklyn's family held up incredibly well. It was almost as if they were the ones doing the comforting to those who came to support them. One of my friends posted this observation on Facebook, and I couldn't have worded it better.
The little girl who made this bracelet, along with many others had no idea she was making them for her family to give away at her funeral. As my family waited our turn to pay respects to this lovely family I observed. I observed a mother, father and siblings stand in this line comforting people. Hundreds, probably reaching thousands by the end of the day. With every hug and person that fell to pieces, this family remained strong, choking back their own tears to comfort droves of people all day long. Listening to sad music and watching pictures on a slide show of her full of life while her lifeless body lay next to them. The grief was unbearable. Yet Gods grace is sufficient and He perfectly provided for them during this time. I do not know how a person could get through this kind of grief if they don't have Jesus. Knowing where their hope lies. Keep this family uplifted in your prayers because hard days are yet to come.
The day of Brooklyn's final earthly resting place had come. The church was filled to the brim with people, friends, and family. As we gave our final earthly goodbyes, a theme emerged victorious - we have hope. We will see Brooklyn again. Even as we speak, she's in heaven praising Jesus. Like King David's son with Bathsheba - she cannot return to us, but one day, we will go to her. She's happier now than she ever was on earth. Her smile is bigger, her giggle louder. And we have hope, because of Jesus.
There are still hard days ahead. Especially for Brookie's family, as they attempt to return to "normal" life. As the people slowly leave, and the prayers begin to slow. Please continue to pray for them. <3
|all of Brooklyn's cousins - wearing pink, her favorite color|