My guess is that most of you do not know what you were doing twenty years ago today at precisely 4:58 a.m. Just as quickly, as I typed that last sentence, it dawned on me that a lot of you were probably sleeping. The anti-climactic intro aside – I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing.
I was in a labor and delivery room at Baptist Hospital on Napoleon Avenue (New Orleans). After less than three hours at the hospital, the medical staff was placing a wiggly 7lb 3oz baby girl in my arms – Shannon Marie Posey.
Yes, you read that correctly. For about the first 24 hours of her life, Brooke was “Shannon.” After reconsidering the name and deciding it was not the best fit – “Shannon Marie” became “Brooke Erin.” I think everyone who knew Brooke in life would agree that she was a better “Brooke” than “Shannon.” The new name simply fit her better.
Whatever her name was/is – I was marked instantly.
It would be so easy – especially on a special occasion like today – to focus on how much I miss Brooke. The things that she might remind me about today – like me being old because all of my girls would now be out of their teens. Or making sure that she had her ice cream cake for breakfast and Chick-Fil-A for lunch and Outback for dinner. Perhaps finagling a shopping trip at Palm Village.
I could focus on what I simply can never know because it will never come to pass – like what she might want for her birthday gift. Tastes change, but we’ll never know how hers change. Maybe she wouldn’t want ice cream cake, Chick-Fil-A, or Outback now that she’s all grown up?
What am I saying? That’s crazy talk. She would never give up ice cream cake for breakfast.
Instead of focusing on what’s lost – I’d rather focus on Brooke’s life and the impact that she made in seventeen short years!
For two years, I’ve been waiting for just the right project to celebrate Brooke’s life. A few weeks ago, a little girl in Kentucky inspired me. Bella started “Bella’s Birthday Boxes” when she realized that there were children in her school who couldn’t afford birthday parties. The boxes contain the things you’d need for a birthday party – cake mix, icing, plates, napkins, candles, and so on.
My original intent was help Bella to be able to put together 20 boxes in memory of today – Brooke’s 20thBirthday. Long story short, after communicating with Bella’s mom – we decided to let Bella be the inspiration for us to spread the idea.
So, there I was with inspiration and a project but wasn’t sure where we would distribute the boxes. Turns out, these simple little boxes hold the potential to mark lives. The Director at the Children’s Advocacy Center Hope House (Covington, Louisiana), Thomas Mitchell, was excited to share the boxes with the children they serve, many of whom happen to be in the Foster Care system. These little boxes will help the counselors ensure that a child’s special day – his or her birthday – is remembered and recognized even when they may be struggling through a very traumatic time of their young lives.
This morning, a few of Brooke’s family members delivered 20 boxes to Hope House to mark Brooke’s special day.
There’s only one problem. Sending 20 boxes to an organization that needs closer to 400 is like pulling out a pack of gum in a crowd when you only a piece for yourself. How can we give boxes to only 20 children and leave all the rest out???
And just like that – Brooke it Forward has taken on a life of its own. Together with volunteers who are already excited to help – our goal is to put together enough boxes so that every child who goes through Hope House will receive a box just prior to their birthdays.
Brooke loved children and she loved birthdays. I know that she would be excited for this project to succeed in her memory.
The day before the celebration of Brooke’s life in March 2017, about 12 to 15 family and friends went to a tattoo parlor in Mandeville, Louisiana and were marked with a “B.” On the outside of my left wrist is a dainty letter “B” taken from Brooke’s school notebook. When the world sees my wrist they see a mere shadow of the mark that Brooke left on my heart and the hearts of so many others.
I pray that through the “Brooke it Forward” birthday box project, the Annual Swim-a-Thon (held at Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans), and the annual Memorial Scholarships awarded by Professional Women of St. Tammany that others will also be marked with a “B.”
If you are interested in helping with Brooke It Forward – please email me at Marie@BrookeitForward.org
Thank you for the time that we shared with Brooke during her life. You know how much we still love her and how intensely we miss her. Comfort and strengthen us through those dark moments when it all still seems like a bad dream. Keep us focused on Brooke’s tender heart and her generous spirit. Thank you for the inspiration from a young girl in Kentucky, Bella, and another young girl who is now home with you, Brooke. Guided by your Spirit and their hearts may many, many lives be marked with a “B.”
We pray this through your son, Jesus Christ – Amen!