On March 16th, just two short days away, it will be the second anniversary of Brooke’s accident. With wedding anniversaries, there are time-honored understandings about what to do. Paper, cotton, leather, flowers, wood cover the first five years. Tin, crystal, china, silver, gold, diamond as time drags on. Even though you wouldn’t expect anniversary gifts to be “one size fits all,” society has tried-and-true suggestions for how to tick off each passing year.
Not so much with death. Like marriages, no two grieving families are the same. Yet, we don’t even try when it comes to death anniversaries.
There is no script.
Last year, an amazing thing happened to bring us together with family and friends. The day started with a charity event. Later that evening, the movie, I Can Only Imagine, premiered in theaters on the exact date of the first anniversary of the accident. We overtook the theater for a private viewing of the film that told the story behind the beloved Mercy Me song.
This year, there are no red-carpet premiers. Much as the fanfare settles when our favorite television programs progress beyond Seasons 1 and 2, we will enter Season 3 of “Brooke Was Here” more quietly.
Even the trailer for Season 3 is a little hazy. Who am I kidding, there is no trailer. This crazy, reality series is filmed daily – without much in the way of a script. While today marks 728 episodes in the can, we still do not know what tomorrow will hold.
Yet, in the midst of it all, some things will remain unchanged – each episode highlights the struggle to focus on the good over the bad. Divine over desperate. Hope over hopeless.
I’ve been blessed to be Brooke’s mom for 7,208 days not counting the time we got to know each other before she was born. For 6,480 of those days, we were lucky to have her present with us physically. There is not a single thing on this earth that you could offer me for even one of those days – not even to lessen the pain that is woven through today’s story line. In fact, if I could have loved her any more during those days, I would have – even knowing that today’s pain would be magnified as a result. The greater the love the greater the loss.
Even though I will be miles from home and our family won’t be gathered on Saturday, we will be “together” in kicking off Season 3 the only way we know how – spending it sharing our love of Brooke and honoring her memory with “things” that she loved. We will put a small arrangement of peonies at her burial site. The girl loves some peonies. Then we will go places and do things that she loved in an effort not only to bridge the distance as family members live all over, but to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, if only for an instant.
As many of you know, Brooke was an accomplished equestrian. Her dream as a little girl was to compete at the USEF Pony Finals in Lexington, Kentucky. The girl’s legs were just too long and she outgrew ponies before she could achieve that dream. In summer 2016 before her accident, though, she was able to compete at a horse show at the Kentucky Horse Park where Pony Finals are held each year.
The crazy path of life over the last two years has landed my husband and me in Cincinnati, which is barely an hour from Lexington. Turns out that there is a Spring Market at the Horse Park on Saturday. Seems like a fitting way to spend the day.
If you’d like to help us unveil Season 3, here are some ideas that would meet with Brooke’s approval:
- Watch a movie– Lilo & Stitch; High School Musical; The Little Man; Kicking and Screaming. Even though Christmas is still a way off, it’s never too early for Elf.
- Bing watch a show– SpongeBob Squarepants; Pretty Little Liars; Gossip Girl; The Office; Friends; Fresh Prince of Belaire; Full House; Outdaughtered; Jon & Kate Plus Eight; That 70’s Show; Family Feud
- Grab a bite– lemonade (Minute Maid, Chick-fil-a, or Raising Cane’s – only); Outback; Jimmy John’s; Chick-Fil-A; Raising Cane’s; sliced apples (best dipped in homemade caramel sauce – the kind made by boiling sweetened condensed milk); chocolate chip pancakes; Gardetto’s; Biscoff cookies; Cold Stone Creamery; Starbuck’s Bacon and Gouda Breakfast Sandwich and a Peppermint Mocha Frapp – no whip. If you grab lunch at Coffee Rani in Mandeville, order the Cobb Club sandwich. Have them save the avocado to the side for me. If you swing by La Carretta’s, order the large queso, one plain chicken (shredded not grilled) and cheese taco (flour not corn), and the Raspberry Burritos for dessert. If you are in Metairie, grab some macarons, gelato, and those little wedding-cake-shaped chocolates from Sucre’. Whatever you do – Saturday is not the day to eat “healthy.”
- Take a nap
- Need to Get Out of the House – go shopping at your local tack shop, Target or Lily Pulitzer store; ride a horse; compare gas prices and then drive 20 miles out of your way for the lowest one
- (For the overachievers) Complete an Item from Brooke’s Bucket List –swim with pigs; visit New York; visit Hawaii; adopt (another) animal (extra points if it is a pig or goat)
- Love Big –by sharing a random act of kindness
If you do help us kick-off Season 3 – we’d love to hear about it. The best means of communication in this case – post a silly selfie (preferably featuring an animal) and use the hashtag #BEPSeason3 or #Brookeitforward.
Dear Father – Thank you, thank you, thank you – for Brooke. She is truly as much a gift in our lives now as when she was alive. Thank you that our good memories are more than we can recall and our bad memories too few to matter. Send your Spirit to collect our tears and steady our limps as we commemorate the day that Brooke left us and went home to You. Help us to be mindful as we interact with one another that we are all in the middle of a “season.” May your never-ending love and your supreme sacrifice be a constant reassurance until we are all together again for eternity. Through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!
P.S. Father, send your Spirit to comfort our friend, Tara, and the rest of her family as March 16th will mark the first heavenly birthday for their beloved, Jacques.
P.P.S. Keep Janet, Kathleen, Holly, and the rest of the Aertker family close as they say good-bye to their mother/grandmother.
P.P.P.S. Father, give my baby girl an extra big hug and remind her that we love her almost as much as You.