Remembering Braden

You know the feeling when something bad is coming and the thought of it makes you really sad?  It is called anticipatory grief.  When you are experiencing anticipatory grief, you do everything that you can to prepare yourself, and you begin to think that you will be able to handle the bad thing when it comes.  Except that when the bad thing actually happens, you feel like you got punched in the face and then kicked in the stomach, over and over and over again.  In reality, there is no way to be prepared at all.

I had a dream early this morning that I was falling down a deep hole.  I dropped and dropped for what seemed like miles, clawing at the dirt as I flew down desperately trying to get purchase on the wall.  After a very long time, I hit the ground.  In my dream, I screamed from the utter and complete agony.  My bones were broken and my head was throbbing and spinning.  I hurt so very much all over.  And then I woke up.

But that was when the pain became really intense.  Because I remembered that Braden was gone.

Braden Dean Smith died peacefully at home in the early hours of Monday, May 13, 2013, surrounded by his family.  His fourteen-month long fight with leukemia had left his body and mind exhausted and worn, far beyond his mere nineteen years.  He tackled his illness with bravery and intensity, but the disease was simply insurmountable in the end.  He is survived by his mother, Stacy, and his father, Steve, as well as five younger brothers and sisters… Chloe, Maddie, Cameron, Rachel and Eric.  He is also loved by countless family members and friends who consider ourselves so lucky to have had him in our lives.

I am so very grateful that Braden is no longer suffering, even while we are left behind to suffer in his absence.

Braden was exceptional.  He had book and street smarts.  He was athletic.  He was funny.  He was passionate… about sports and politics and religion.  And he was also compassionate and caring and forgiving.  He was a great friend and a doting boyfriend.  He wanted to go to college and get married and have a family.  He wanted the good life.

But even when he was in the middle of the hardest battle he would ever fight, he was always looking out for those around him.  He was kind enough to indulge my anticipatory grief and go to lunch a few times with me over the last few weeks.  We talked about everything and nothing, fears and regrets, hopes and dreams.  It was inspiring to me and those conversations, as well as many others we had together, are memories I will always cherish.

I am so very sad right now.  My sadness comes in waves.  I am sad for the profound loss that his family is enduring.  A mother and father lost a son.  Siblings lost their big brother.  My daughter lost her first true love.  I am sad that a young man with so much potential had to suffer and die before his life ever really got started.  I am sad over the loss of my friend.  My grief is no longer anticipatory… it is here.

I know that it is healthy and normal to be sad and to grieve, especially over the loss of someone so young.  There is no rule book or guide to follow, but it is very important to seek counseling or fellowship immediately following the death of a loved one.  Fortunately, we have each other to lean on, confide in, reminisce with.  We need to remember Braden, talk about him, share stories about him.  It will help us and it will make Braden happy when we reach out and help each other.  Do it to honor him.

These pictures are from one of my favorite days with our whole family, including Braden, after he had been diagnosed and had gone through a transplant.  He was getting his energy back and it was a nice day, so we went over to Webb Bridge Park to play on the playground and throw around the football.  It was pure and happy and good.  Remembering that day will always make me smile.

It will not bring him back, but it will keep him eternally alive in our hearts and our memories.

I sure do miss you already, Kid.  Until we meet again…

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

20 responses to “Remembering Braden

  1. I was so touched by Braden and yet I never knew him. He reminds me of what the values of life and family really stands for, May God grant his soul eternal peace and grant you and your family grace now and the difficult days ahead, Linda A, Jane Lew, WV.

  2. There are no words. Your lives will never be the same nor should they. Braden was here and blessed your lives and is now gone but believe it or not life will go on as you remind yourselves that he is now with the only One who loves him more.
    Debra Z/Forever Mason’s Mema

    Mason Campbell McLeod 11/13/98-10/20/09

    • Thank you for the kind words, Debra. Believing that gives us hope, even with all of the hurt.

      And I am so very sorry for the loss that you suffered as well.

  3. Stacy– thru tears I just had to read your tribute again. So sad this morning as this all finally hit Jared last night. I know our hearts are breaking for our kids who loved Braden so deeply. As I read the responses posted here, I realize that Debra is the grandma of sweet Mason — Mason was another incredible kid, (who fought and was taken too soon) that I had the honor to know when I worked with him and his family at Ocee ES. Taking deep breathes, remembering our special friend and know that he is doing just fine.

    • Rose, you are so right about feeling the loss on so many levels. Today I am sad and angry. The tears haven’t really stopped, but I think it is good for the kids to see us cry and to remind them that it is important to talk about him and keep his memory alive. Thank you for the nice note. Prayers for Jared and your family.

  4. Hi Stacy… I was Braden’s first grade teacher. Your kind sweet family always left me with smiles and giggles… Your love of your family always touched me, the kindness you showed to me when I was expecting my own set of twins was comforting. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers…

    With love,
    Brantley Abrams

    • Brantley, Thank you for reaching out and sending such a nice note. I will be sure to pass it on to Braden’s mom. It is so confusing that we are both named Stacy… I am actually the mom of Braden’s ex-girlfriend, Ellie.
      And twins… that’s crazy. Double trouble would knock me out, so my hat is off to you. Take care.

  5. I’ve followed events through Ellie on FB thinking what an extraordinary young man. Of course knowing Ellie well enough to realize how extraordinary she is and see her stedfast supporting him as I can atest to her strength of character from her early adolescence. I think as a parent how in the younger years it was so easy, the little bumps and falls were cured with a kiss and a bandaid. How fast now they grow up to face the harsh realities of this life, the lessons of joy and sorrow that test the human spirit and character. I’m thinking of all of you, especially that young lady I’ve admired ever since she walked into my classroom. You are a special family so I know that Braden’s family is of the same cloth. The kids truly inspire me with their amazing lives, even too soon taken.
    K. Wilson

    • Beautifully said, Kristy. Ellie was so lucky to have you as her teacher. I hope you are enjoying life in paradise!

  6. Stacy:
    Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to my Grandson Braden. Even with 3 days out, the tears are hard to keep back. You and your entire family are exceptional – you are family.
    Ellie was the perfect young lady/girlfriend to have come into Braden’s life when she did. she is special! I will continue to pray for you all; but, I know that ‘you all are already covered’ by the Man himself for all that you do. At (your house) resides LOVE – not just the Swigers. And most likely an Olympic goaltender in 2018!

    • Grandad Walt, You are so very welcome, but the thanks is totally unnecessary. We think of you all as family as well. Much love to you, Stacy

  7. Pingback: Braden’s Memorial – Part Two | This is How I Do It...

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