Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Little Things

When I first realized that we were going to lose Bryan, my mind filled with all the big plans we had had for the future.  Plans that would never come about.  Our summer trip to DC, our trip to Israel, the weekend away for his birthday.

But now that he's gone, it's the little things, not the big plans, that we miss the most.  The story-reading, the chess games, the hugs, and the "push me on the swing, Daddy" moments.

Bryan was good about the little things.  He credited me with "teaching" him how important small things are in parenting, but he could not have been such a good "student" if the desire hadn't already been in him.  And, often, he did things that I would have considered too troublesome, and certainly too messy.  Those were the things the kids loved best.  Like sliding down the "snowy" driveway on cardboard.

And bringing home kittens for Megan.  (This one was zipped in his jacket when he walked in the door.)

Here they are doing an "Orange Juice Taste Test," complete with cracker "palate cleansers" and secret labels.  HEB brand versus Simply Orange.  (Simply Orange won- I know you were curious about how that came out.)

Bryan was especially good about talking to the kids.  He turned so many average conversations into deep discussions, and he loved it when they showed signs of insightful thought.  At night, when I would be tired from the long day, I was ready to rush the little people into bed and collapse on the couch.  Bryan, though, would take time with them.  He would sit with them just before bed and talk with them (or sometimes wrestle with them and make them completely hyper!)  "It's a window, sweetheart," he'd tell me.  "They open up right before bed.  You have to catch them in that window."

When I was searching through our pictures desperately trying to find just one photo of all us together (no such luck), I found this one.  It was taken the last Saturday in May, just before Bryan went into the hospital.  He's reading to the boys before nap time.  They loved that time.  They would carefully select their library books so that they'd pick one that "Daddy would think is funny."  I can't believe how happy he looks in this picture.  The only way that I can even tell anything was amiss is that none of the boys are sitting on his lap.  He was in too much pain for that.  But, in this picture, I can see that nothing made him happier than doing the little things with his family.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Month

It's been one month since Bryan passed.

I realized the other day (when I was paying medical bills), that Bryan entered the hospital exactly one month before he died.  The 29th of May.  The 29th of June.

On the 29th of May, the two of us entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death together.  We walked hand-in-hand, comforting and encouraging one another.  His faith was so strong!

We really did believe at that point that it was merely a shadow of death.  But at some point, the shadow for him became reality.  He really did die.  He crossed the river. And I was left standing in that Valley- now so much darker- alone.  The shadow is still with me.  Yet I'm not alone.  There is One who has promised to be with me, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

But He walks beside me very quietly.  Perhaps because He knows I'm not yet ready to listen.  I know He's there, though, and while that isn't comforting now, it will be as time passes.

One month.  It seems so much longer.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who God Is

If you had asked me before what my view of God was, I would have given a theologically correct answer.  I am not one of those people who views God as unconcerned.  I am not one of those people who views God as a cosmic vending machine- passing out answers to prayer on command.  I would have said that God was all-powerful, all-knowing, compassionate, loving and involved with His creation.

I would have been right, but, truthfully, my view of God was (and still is) limited by my experience of Him.  God is not a man.  He's really nothing like us at all.  For one thing, He exists outside of time.  The end is the same as the beginning with Him because there is no beginning and no end.  I know, I don't understand that either, but it might explain some of why He allows tragedies.  He knows that it will be okay in the end.  The long period of pain from His perspective is just a moment that results in greater glory.  

As a result of Bryan's death, I am becoming acquainted with different aspects of God's nature.  The God who sent His Son for the express purpose of suffering.  The God who allows us to suffer because He knows that only suffering will make us more holy.  The God who grants us great happiness and then withdraws that happiness without an explanation.  The God who cares more about our holiness than our happiness.  The God who has all the power in the world, and then uses that power to do what He wants, not what I want.

So as my view of God expands, I'm learning something of the fear of the Lord.  But it's important that my view stay balanced.  How can I keep from forgetting the compassion and mercy of the Lord?  After losing his wife to cancer, C.S. Lewis said, "Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God.  The real danger is coming to believe such dreadful things about Him."  What keeps me from only seeing the "dreadful" aspects of His nature?

There are probably two answers to that.  The first is time.  The God who exists in timelessness uses time to heal.  That's what everyone says, though I imagine the healing isn't without some pretty ghastly scars.

The second, though, is most important right now.  It is the kindness and compassion of others.  When I see others caring for us and praying for us, I know that the Lord is working through them.  (Yes, even through the people who might not believe He exists.)  And to all of you I am grateful.  Thank you for reminding me that the Lord's goodness and His terrible strength exist side by side.

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead...
 make you complete in every good work to do His will, 
working in you what is well pleasing in His sight."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


So, Bryan really loved his car.  Some men have media rooms, some men have hunting leases- Bryan had his car.  He called it his man-cave.

He commuted a good distance each day, so enjoying his time in the car was important to him.  That way, he came home already "unwound" after a long day.

And this weekend, it was time to sell it.  It was really hard for me to see it go, but not as hard as coming home each night and seeing his car in the garage, and then realizing afresh that he's gone.

Nathan is a car guy.  He likes to look at them, research them, memorize the stats on them.  He's been hooked ever since we started buying him Matchbox cars when he was a toddler.  One night, before he turned two, Bryan and I went to check on him before we went to bed.  We covered him up, and he said in his sleep, "Cars, cars, more cars." 

The folks at Gunn Acura were wonderful.  They gave us exactly what we needed for the car.  And the salesman, Moe, took Nathan around to see all the cool cars.  At first, he thought he was just dealing with a ten year old, but when Nathan started talking about the 7.2 second acceleration time on the Acura MDX and 19 inch premium wheels, he gave him the full tour.

And so we said goodbye to Bryan's fourth Acura.  Saying goodbye to his "things" is really only difficult because we had to say goodbye to him.  We'd gladly give it all up if it would bring him back for even a single day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I had planned a blog post on words.  Words that, no matter how carefully chosen, cannot help me right now.  I am convinced that words have never helped in a situation such as ours, with the exception, perhaps, of, "Lazarus, come forth."

And then I got a letter- a packet of letters actually, with a little note for each one of us.  They came from a family that we had gotten to know through homeschooling, but hadn't known well because a new job caused them to move just a few months after we met.

The dad of that family sent me a note, and what he said touched me deeply.  Yes, his words may have even helped.  He told me that he had read Pilgrim's Progress.  Have you read it?  John Bunyan's classic tale of Christian, who leaves the City of Destruction and travels, through many dangers and adventures, to the Celestial City?  I love it.  I first read it when I was thirteen, and the images have stayed with me.

In fact, as Bryan struggled during his final week, the closing scenes of Christian's life kept coming to my mind.  Christian and his traveling companion Hopeful both enter the river of death together, but what seems to Hopeful a shallow stream, is to Christian deep and terrifying.  He suffers, but Hopeful tells him, "These troubles and distresses that you go through in these Waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you, but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses."  And Christian arrives at the Celestial City in spite of his struggle.

(As a quick side note, one of the hospice nurses assured me that death is very often a long process, particularly when the person is young.  Although we would all like to die peacefully in our sleep, the reality is that very few of us do.  If your loved one had a hard time, don't despair.  Such is the way of men, apparently.  There is a reason that death has no place in God's perfect kingdom.)

But back to our friend's letter.  He said that as he read the book, he kept waiting for the part where Christian would go back and get his wife and children, but then instead, Christian dies.  But the story is only half over.  His wife, Christiana, and their children, follow the path that her husband had forged.  His legacy of leadership stayed with his family and carried on through them.

I can't tell you how much that analogy meant to me, because Christiana didn't travel alone with her little ones.  She was accompanied by Great-heart, a character of great courage who is surely representative of the many members of our Christian family who come alongside those who need them.

So we'll follow in Bryan's footsteps, even though we had desperately wanted to make this journey together. 

Psalm 112:2
"His descendants will be mighty in the earth;
the generation of the upright will be blessed."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Do you believe in spiritual discipline? Not the discipline that the Lord administers to us as a Father, but the practice of godly behaviors?  Do you pray and read the Bible because you should- because it's the right thing to do?

Some might argue that our spirituality should be an expression of the passion within us.  The "streams of living water" (John 7:38) flowing from within should drive us to do the things that will make us grow in the Lord.  Doing the right thing will come automatically from a right heart.

But what if you heart is hurting?  What if the stream seems dry?  It's at this moment that spiritual discipline comes into play.

At its worst, spiritual discipline is the rote performance of godly activities:  prayer recitation, perfunctory Scripture reading. But the Word of God never returns to Him void (Isaiah 55:11), so could this discipline have value?  Paul told Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.  To the spontaneous, this might seem stilted, but, I must say, it works.

Lately, I've been turning to the Word more because it's what I should do, not out of some deep desire to seek solace in it.  (If you had presented me with my present situation in hypothetical form, I would have painted a very different picture of my reaction than what I'm actually experiencing now.  I suppose you don't know till you've been there.)  I'll post more on the Bible reading later, but now I'd like to share something about prayer.

The other day, I had hit an enormous obstacle with wrapping up Bryan's affairs.  I couldn't find our will.  I had spent hours looking.  I had gone through the attic, the filing cabinets, the library.  I knew we had one, and I just couldn't find it.  I had given up.  Then our lawyer told me that I REALLY needed to find it, so one evening, I called all the kids together, and we had a family prayer time, asking that the Lord would lead us to the will.

As soon as I prayed aloud, I realized that for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no expectation that the Lord would answer.  It's not that I thought He was incapable of hearing, it's just that I had prayed an awful lot the last few weeks to absolutely no avail.  I was pretty sure that He was just going to let me work this one out without His help.

But I prayed anyway, not because my heart told me to, but because my head had been trained from my earliest days that it was the right thing to do.  If you face something you can't handle, you pray.  If it's something really big, pray with other people.  It was, quite simply, a knee jerk reaction to the situation.  Need will+can't find it=pray.  Pray without ceasing.  If you lack wisdom, ask God. 

And guess what?  I got up the next morning and found the will.

God answered my faithless prayer, and by doing so, He started, in a very small and subtle way, to restore my desire to pray.

Romans 15:30
"Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me"

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Any parent of a three year old has heard the question, "Why?" dozens of times. 

In our family right now, though, Justin, our six year old, is the one asking why.  And his "why" is a reflection of the question in my own heart.  "Why did God have to take Daddy?"

I have decided that there is no answer to that question that would satisfy me.  There are suggested answers- possibilities- but none of those are good enough.  I have a rebuttal to each one. 

"So that he won't have to be in pain."  As glad as I am that Bryan isn't feeling pain, anyone who knows him knows that pain never made him wish his life away.

"So that he didn't have to go through cancer treatment."  Bryan would have gone through any amount of chemo, and had already started that process, in order to stay with his family.

"So that people would be touched by his faith."  People were touched by his faith when he was alive.

"Because the Lord has great plans for the family going forward."  I liked the plans that I thought He had before just fine. 

The basic problem with "answers" is this:  While I don't doubt that there will be good things that happen for our family, I'll never be convinced that having Bryan here would have led to bad things.  Because of that, no amount of "answers" will ever persuade me that Bryan's death was a good thing.

The other day when I was driving home from the cemetery, it occurred to me that Bryan never felt like he understood why his mom died.  They were very close, and she died before we married and had children.  We talked about it on several occasions and he never had an answer to why.  But he did continue to live life, and the answer wasn't necessary.

Job said of the Lord, "If He takes away, who can hinder Him?  Who can say to Him, 'What are You doing?'"  (Job 9:12)  The fact is that the Lord's thoughts are far above our human thoughts and His plans  extend through eternity.  Our human minds can't fully grasp even the smallest portion of His purpose. 

So sometimes the best answer to "Why?" is "Just because."

Thursday, July 12, 2012


This blog, of course, started just as a way to keep people (mainly grandparents) up to date on our family's life.  I never dreamed that it would become a cancer blog, or that it would become the chronicle of a grieving family.  I'm glad I didn't know what was ahead.

But life continues, and kids need clothes.  Especially Nathan.  He has decided in the last few months that he only likes polyester clothes.  (He was clearly born in the wrong decade.)  And not just any polyester clothes, but clothes that do not have itchy seams.  So he's been rotating two outfits, while begging me to get him some of the exact same clothes, just in different colors.  His perpetual athletic wear ensures that he is ready at a moment's notice for a run, a bike ride, or gymnastics.

So, yesterday evening, we ventured to Academy- land of multi-colored polyester clothing.  We all piled out of the van, and I realized that Steffen (he's two) was not wearing shoes.  (Before you start feeling sorry for me, thinking that our recent tragedy has caused me to lose my mind to the point where my children are running around shoeless, let me set your mind at ease.  Arriving somewhere with at least one barefooted child is a common occurrence in our life.)  No problem.  I brought the stroller so I popped him in the stroller, put Austin in the Ergo front pack, and we were off.

Academy had LOTS of options for my polyester-loving son.  Too many options.  They all had to be tried on, of course, before a decision could be made.  Otherwise, we might have gotten home with itchy seams.  Steffen was not happy about being in the stroller.  He thinks he is an adult and the indignity of being strapped in is just too much for him to bear.  I decided to have him and Austin switch places.  I put Steffen in the front pack.  Sometimes that works, but on this occasion, it didn't.  Steffen just kept insisting, "I can't breathe!  I can't breathe!"  I kept calmly asking him if he was ready to be strapped into the stroller.  He finally relented, and I strapped him in securely.

Then, we headed to get Megan some tennis shoes.  At this point, Steffen was apparently having the same breathing problems in the stroller.  The buckle around his waist, he was quite certain, was going to suffocate him.  As I helped Megan find shoes, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the other boys and telling them that they were NOT in need of new shoes, I turned around and saw that the stroller was empty.

A few feet in front of it, I saw Steffen, who was not only without shoes, but without pants.  Or underwear.  In the middle of the shoe aisle.  At first I thought that he had stripped in protest, like a mini PETA activist, but then I looked back in the stroller.  Apparently, I had buckled him so tightly that the only way he was able to get out was to actually pull himself out of the stroller and his pants at the same time. 

I grabbed his pants, put them back on him, and decided that we'd worry about obedience later.  Right now, it was all about getting those shoes and getting out of there!  Which we did.  (After we checked out and then had to trek all the way to the back of the store to stop at the bathroom.)

As I wrestled Steffen into his car seat, I looked down at Austin in the Ergo.  As is generally the case, he hadn't made a peep during the entire trip.  He had his head back and the rain drops were falling on his face.  Every time one hit him, he giggled.

Yes, life continues.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


One more quick note- People have been commenting that I haven't been sleeping.  I figured they were assuming that just because that can be a common reaction to grief.  Then, I realized that the blog emails go out in the middle of the night.

I am sleeping, and I'm not blogging in the middle of the night.  If you ever want to see when I actually post, you can visit the blog itself.

Just didn't want anyone to be unnecessarily concerned.  My little people take a lot of energy, so when the opportunity presents itself, I sleep.

Thank you

When Bryan was in the hospital the first time, he told me that he was just overwhelmed by the "outpouring of love and support" we were getting from everyone.  "How are we ever going to thank everyone?" he asked me.  I told him that he could post a thank you on the blog.  He said he wasn't a writer, but that he'd do that when he was home.

That, like so many things that we had planned for our two week "break" that never was, never got done.  So I'll do it for him, and for all of us.

Thank you!  We can't believe how helpful and gracious and generous everyone has been.  Thank you for the meals, the cards, the help with yard work, the childcare, the donations, and so many other things that I can't even list them all. 

To our church family and others, your donations on Sunday paid for Bryan's funeral expenses.  Your generous spirit leaves me nearly speechless.  You are truly practicing pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God the Father.

Many people have asked to be allowed to help going forward.  The meal calendar is ending at the end of next week.  I promise that if we feel the need, we will reinstate it.  Many of you have also offered help around the house.  I do appreciate the love that your offers represent, but right now, I need the work.  I suppose not everyone has the same reaction to tragic events, but for me, having something to do is really important.  The days are really long without Bryan.

I've had so many people offer to do laundry.  In fact, it kind of makes me want to laugh.  I figure that I either have a lot of friends who REALLY like to do laundry, or else they REALLY hate it, so it would be the first thing to go if they were faced with a tough situation.  Honestly, I don't do all of our laundry by myself.  I do the washing and sorting, but the kids hang it up or fold it.  And they need to be kept busy too.

Our greatest need going forward will probably be childcare.  Not on a regular basis, but when I need it for an appointment or whatever.  We'll also need help with the things Bryan used to handle.  A special thank you to all the techie types who have offered to help with anything Nathan can't figure out.  And I've been getting great support with Bryan's business transactions.  Time with other families will also be important.

Ultimately, what we need most is your continued prayer coverage. 

From 2 Corinthians 9

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.   

For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Friday, July 6, 2012

One Week

It's been one week since our daddy was taken.  I say "was taken" instead "left us" because I know that if it had been up to him, Bryan would still be here.  Even so, he knew that his life was the Lord's.  He was not a casual Christian, he was a surrendered Christian.  He placed himself in God's hands and trusted Him with the outcome.  His family will continue to do the same.

Now, it's just the eight of us.  We will move forward, not so much because we want to, but because there are no other options.  Life goes on.  We can choose to live it well or give in to dark thoughts and live poorly.  The Lord will give us the strength to live well.

Life will move on.  Austin will learn to walk, Carsten will learn to read, Nathan will learn to drive.  I will rejoice as we reach each milestone, but each moment will be bittersweet because the only one who would have cared as much as I do will be gone.

We have a new purpose in life.  We will strive to be the kind of family Bryan wanted us to be.  We will be a family who serves the Lord, who loves to be with friends, who talks about God's Word.  We will rely on the Lord's grace fully.

And we'll talk a lot about our daddy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Bryan was big on tradition, especially when it came to how someone was honored at the end of his life.  He had had experience with such things.  He had lost all of his grandparents, his brother, his parents, a cousin; and he saw the tradition as a means to honor the dead and give comfort and closure to the family.

I, on the other hand, had no experience with such things.  All of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and parents are still with me.  (I pray our children have my genes.)  I am much more introverted than Bryan. (The "in front of people" things that I've done have been at his side or at least at his request.)  In the past, we've debated the value of things like visitations and big public funerals.  Bryan said that those traditions had been established for a reason.  People need to grieve together.  I insisted that grief would make me feel like going into a cave all by myself.

And it does.  But that's not really a good thing.

So, as I sat next to Bryan that last week, I struggled with how to handle the funeral arrangements. My chief problem was that I did NOT want to have a visitation the night before the funeral.  I really didn't think I could handle being surrounded by loving, sympathetic friends.  (You extroverts are thinking I'm crazy, but you introverts are right there with me right now.)  I went back and forth in my mind, but I finally knew that I HAD to do it.  Bryan would have wanted it, and I needed to honor that.

Bryan passed Friday afternoon, and Saturday and Sunday, I felt myself getting sucked into the black hole of grief.  I felt angry, lonely, hopeless.  The days seemed endless.  Then Sunday afternoon, we prepared to go to the visitation.  As we got ready to go to the car, I thought (and may have said), "I'm staying here.  I can't do this."  But I got in the car anyway.

We got to the funeral home, and there were a few members of my family and a couple of friends who might as well be family already there.  They were showing the slide show of Bryan's pictures, and we all cried as we watched them.  Then, I saw the first people begin to walk up.  I looked in panic toward the exit, but stayed put.

And I talked to people.  I listened as they told me how much Bryan had meant to them.  We hugged and cried together.  Everyone was so encouraging.

Two things in particular, though, happened, that were, I am sure "divine appointments."  One of Bryan's fellow deacons, Greg, told me that he had lost his father when he was three.  He said that although he had missed out on having a dad, the men at church surrounded him and supported him, teaching him to hunt and fish, and just helping him grow up.  That gave me such hope for the future for all of my sweet boys!

Then, one of our AWANA helpers, Linda, told me that she had been in my situation.  Her husband was the same age as Bryan and she was right about my age when he passed.  She had two children at the time.  Linda was able to tell me that although it may not seem possible right now, there is still life after grief.

So, as I came home from the dreaded visitation which had turned into such a blessing, I was able to say, one more time, "Honey, you were right."

Eulogy from a Friend

Bryan's childhood friend, Andy (you may be Andrew to other people, but you'll always be Andy to us) gave a beautiful eulogy at the service yesterday.  He's allowing me to post it here.  Nathan asked me afterward, "Mommy, did everyone know that he was talking to us kids?"  Only a true friend could make Bryan's kids feel like the eulogy was given for them alone.

My Oldest, Longest Lasting, Best Friend

Bryan Bain

June 16, 1968 – June 29, 2012

July 2, 2012

            Aimee asked if I would think about giving Bryan’s eulogy, and I told her that I didn’t have to think twice about it; I’m honored.  And I would like to tell you kids [Bryan’s and Aimee’s children] some stories about your Dad when he was about your age …
            I’ve always thought of Bryan as my oldest, longest lasting, best friend.  I’ve known him since the first grade – since Mrs. Link’s class at Coker Elementary, when he called me up after school.  I was in my bedroom, playing with my Matchbox cars, when my Mom came in and said, “You have a phone call.”  I’d never had a phone call before.  Bryan gave me my first phone call, calling from two doors down and across the street, asking my Mom, “Can Andy come over and play?”  He was an assertive little first grader, and when I saw the huge swimming pool in his backyard, he became my instant best friend!
            We were inseparable during those early years – me, Bryan, Jennifer, and some other kids in our gang – all playing Marco Polo ’til we were prunes; then sun tanning on his diving board – talking about what we wanted to be when we grew-up, while watching the lazy summer clouds drift by.  I told Bryan that I wanted to be an architect when I grew-up, and he said, “You just want to be an architect because Mr. Brady on the Brady Bunch is an architect.”  The things kids say … The truth is that I liked Mr. Brady’s red convertible, and I thought if I was an architect, I could drive a cool car. 
            Bryan actually taught me how to swim!  “All you have to do,” he said, “is hold your breath, pinch your nose, go under, stick out your other hand, and start kicking your feet like crazy.”  It worked!  No more floaties ever again!
            After swimming, we’d go inside and watch TV.  Famished, we’d devour pickles, our favorite.  Double- and triple-dipping them in the mustard jar, an acquired taste that Bryan introduced me to, and something that I don’t think his Mom appreciated!  All our pickle debris left floating in her mustard … The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, the Brady Bunch – these reruns were all our shows, and of course, Bryan’s favorite, Lost in Space! 
            I used to try to debate him on the merits of Lost in Space vs. Star Trek vs. Battlestar Galactica vs. Star Wars, when it later came out, but he’d have none of that … Anyone who knows Bryan, knows there’s no winning a debate with him.  Lost in Space it was, and we reenacted scenes from Lost in Space, developed our own sequels to the show, turned his playhouse into the Jupiter 2, and created our own robot from a metal trash can with some old dryer duct tubing for the arms.
            Even as a kid, Bryan was already on his way to being a techie type – he rigged up an old cassette recorder to the TV, so we could record all those shows (no doubt, in violation of copyright laws), and when the knob on the cassette recorder broke, he found a pair of pliers to use; nothing would hold him back.  Back before the days of cable TV, and when were a little bit older, we’d climb this tree in front of his parent’s bedroom to get up on the roof of his house so that we could turn the TV antenna just the right way when the weather was just right to just barely pick up the Kerrville station.  Then Bryan’s poor Dad would come home and not be able to watch the local news!  “Hey, what’s wrong with the TV?!”
            Spending the night at Bryan’s house was always a blast!  We’d stay up until midnight to watch the TV stations sign-off with the Star Spangled Banner, the end of the broadcast day, something they don’t do anymore … And then there were our bikes!  We rode them all over Hill Country Village and Hollywood Park,  back when there used to be a bunch of trails before it got so developed.  We’d cut through the trails to Highway 281, which used to just be a four-lane highway with some barbed wire on both sides back then, if you can believe it.  We’d cross the highway and park our bikes outside the Pizza Hut, which is still there, on the northbound side between Brook Hollow and Thousand Oaks.  That Pizza Hut used to have a PacMan video game and later Ms. PacMan, and we loved them both!  Running up our Coca Cola tab, we’d stay there all day, in the air condition, playing PacMan and Ms. PacMan.  Those were wonderful summers, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface, keeping it G-rated, but Bryan gave me a beautiful childhood and lifelong friendship, for which I will always be grateful.
*     *     *
            As the years went on and we got older, we went our separate ways some.  I got involved in Scouting High Adventure stuff; Bryan transferred to MacArthur High School, and I stayed at Churchill, but ours was that type of friendship that, even if we hadn’t seen each other for a while, we could still get back together and pick up like it was just yesterday.
            I was absolutely honored to be there when Bryan and Aimee got married, and one of my fondest memories of Bryan is actually a time not too long ago … He and I met at Specht’s Store in Bulverde, about five years ago … Sitting out on the back porch of that place, listening to the rain, we had a real honest heart-to-heart about our lives, about some of our hopes and fears, about his older brother Mike and that fateful day back in 1981, and about how our lives had gone separate and similar ways since childhood.  It’s probably one of the closest times I’ve ever felt to Bryan.   
            I used to think that I went off in pursuit of my career, and Bryan stayed home to be a Dad, but that’s actually not quite true, for Bryan did have a career – a very successful career, with his own software and consulting firm and he had a beautiful family, while overcoming his own set of hardships and challenges; things weren’t always easy for Bryan, but he wasn’t one to let obstacles get in his way, and one only has to spend five minutes in the company of his kids to see how loving and kind and beautiful they are to each other. 
            Nathan, Megan, Evan, Justin, Carsten, Steffen, and Austin – I want you all to know that you’re Dad was a very good man and he loved each of you more than you might be able to understand at this point in your young lives, but you were each on his mind as he started to get sick.  One of the last things he said to me, when I saw him in the hospital a few weeks ago, was about you kids – he called you each a miracle.  You are his seven miracles …
            It’s really not fair that he died much too young.  And I don’t know why some things like this happen.  I’d like to think that it’s all part of some bigger plan, and some day, we’ll all understand – some day we’ll see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, but that will take time.  Right now, we only have one piece of the puzzle, and it’s hard to see what bigger picture it might be a part of.  But in time, maybe we’ll get another piece of the puzzle, then another, and then another, and maybe it will start to make sense; at least that is my hope …
            What I do know is that Bryan was a man of faith.  When I saw him in the hospital a few weeks ago, the first question he asked me was, “So, how’s your faith going?”  I was thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m supposed to be ministering to you, and you’re ministering to me, what’s wrong with this picture?”  But that’s the way he was … Underneath all his friendly banter, dry wit, and attempts to engage me in political and theological debates, was a genuine concern for my welfare and the welfare of others.  And though we might occasionally quibble over the latest Presidential controversies, when it came to the stuff that really mattered most – life, love, family, the existence of God, we agreed.    
*     *     *
            In his book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats, Roger Rosenblatt writes that you have to “transform your grief” (2012, p. 20) into something positive, something productive, and Bryan’s death has already given me pause to examine my own life and what’s important to me.  He’s reminded me not to wait too long to do the things I really want to do.  I know it may sound cliché, but you can’t keep saying, “Well, maybe someday” or “next year,” for someday or next year may not come.  If you want to do it, whatever it is, then you need to do it now; don’t wait too long.
            Bryan actually accomplished quite a lot in his short life with his business, his family, and his commitment to his faith, and he didn’t always have it so easy.  God only knows how much more he might’ve achieved, had he just had more time.  I think his advice to us might be to get our priorities in order – put God first, and with God first, I’ve found that all the other little details I often worry about have a way of working themselves out, as we begin to know a new freedom.
            I’d like to close with a prayer …
            Most gracious God, Ruler of the Universe, I thank you for my best friend, Bryan, for the beautiful childhood he gave me and for all the ways he touched our lives – shaped us and helped us become who we are today – for the values and commitments he left us, and for the ways he will remain in our hearts and in our memories.  I especially pray for his family during this time – for Aimee and his beautiful children, may they be healthy and safe, and may they know wonderful childhoods as Bryan and I shared; in Christ’s name, I pray, amen.
                                                                                                      Andrew D. Reichert