Today’s post is one of celebration and remembrance. My cousin Brandie, who spent her life battling muscular dystrophy, died three years ago (in February) from difficulties caused by her muscular dystrophy and today would have been her 30th birthday.
When I was growing up, the cousins on my mom’s side of the family that were in my age range were all boys except for Brandie! So naturally we hung out a lot and we were the best of friends. We loved spending time together. We played Barbies together, talked about boys together, and taught each other things we were good at. Brandie taught me sign language and I taught her about music/culture. I always looked forward to family events and Friday night Poker Nights at her house because it gave us more time to hang out and have fun. She really was like a sister to me!
Because of her, I chose to spend 2 of my summers in Junior High volunteering at a school that specialized in education for special needs students. She taught me the importance of valuing people despite their disabilities and how one person could actually make a big difference in the life of another. A large part of the compassion I have as a person today is because of the things I learned from spending quality time with her before her family moved to Arkansas. I was away out of state on a school trip when she passed away, and even after years, it’s still hard to come to terms with her absence and the fact that I wasn’t able to be there to see her go. This morning, as I was riding in to work, my mind replayed the fun times when I would go over to Brandie’s and we would play board games and Barbies together and have sleepovers as if it was just yesterday. I also got to read a blog post that her brother (my cousin JJ), who is a radio DJ in Fort Wayne, wrote HERE and the love and sweet treasured moments kept flooding my heart and mind. Here is an excerpt:
She tried to live a normal life, she was on Myspace and in chat rooms and every once and a while my parents had to run some over zealous pervert off of our property for trying to meet the girl he met in the chat room. She wanted to be a Mom, she wanted to live a normal life, and you know what? She did. She went with me to see Tommy Lee play live in Little Rock, we had VIP seats thanks to the folks at the Rumba Room. She went with us on vacation to Disney World and rode all the rides they would let her on and some they wouldn’t. She was my sister, and I miss her every day.
Brandie passed away Feb. 28th 2008. Her heart had finally given out. The disease that tried to hold her back her whole life finally caught up with her. The Doctor’s told us she wouldn’t live to see her graduation. Boy, were they wrong. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself in my life all I have to do is think of Brandie and then I understand that whatever it is that is bothering me is just not that bad.
Brandie had a spirit that never gave up. Her one real joy in life was attending summer camp that MDA provided. It costs 800 bucks to send one kid to camp for the summer. It really does make their year… she would ALWAYS go on and on about what happened at camp. Cheap price to pay for putting a smile on a kids face that can only smile on the inside.
We all have heroes in our lives. Brandie was definitely one of mine. My birthday gift to her this year is a donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) on behalf of my cousin JJ, who is trying to raise $1, 600 for the MDA sponsored Fort Wayne, Indiana Lock-Up campaign to raise money to provide patients with clinics, research, support, and enrollment in their specialized camp. If you, or someone you know, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, please consider donating to the organization. If you don’t know where a good starting point is, feel free to check out JJ’s Lock-Up page.