Wednesday, December 18, 2013


It occurred to me, last week,
  I have a nice camera and I can take pictures of my kids!
So on Sunday, after church, while Tom was helping with tithing settlement,
I got all the kids dressed and took them over to the park.
We took a framed picture of Bradley and Bradley's picture chair too.


I got some photos of the kids with Bradley's framed picture too.
It was weird to worry about the glare on the glass and not his warm body anymore.
I miss his warm body.
And when I got home I did some editing.
And I uploaded some to a site to purchase Christmas Cards
and I spent about three hours going through all of the possible picture and card combinations.
Putting a picture, on the card, of the three kids.
Then replacing it with a picture of the three kids with Bradley's picture.
Neither felt right.
I mulled over it again and again.
I even signed one, "Love, Madeleine, Jacob, Charlotte and Bradley."
And at that pointed I realized, that Bradley could no longer sign the card.
He was gone.
He IS gone.
And putting up a picture of him does not bring him back,
because this is what my family looks like right now:

But I DID select a photo with his framed picture in it for the Christmas cards,
because I think this is the last time I can do that.
If I do it next year, Bradley's picture and age will look even more out of place.

Earlier this week I found one of Bradley's pacifiers.
I'm not embarrassed to say I quickly picked it up to smell it.
And I realized I cannot remember what his breath smelled like.
Time is cruel.

And today, in the car,
Charlotte told me that if I forget Bradley's name she will remind me what it is.
And that if I forget what Bradley looks like, I can take out my old pictures and remember.
And Charlotte innocently asked me if I'm forgetting about Bradley.
I told her I was starting to forget parts of his life.
I'm forgetting the medications he was on and things like that.
But I will never completely forget him.
I got tears in my eyes as I told her I could never forget any of my babies.
And I looked in the rearview mirror, saw her smile,
and I remembered perfectly the very first times I saw each of my babies.
How could I ever forget those memories?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Headstone and Family Pictures

I was 9 weeks pregnant with Bradley in this picture.
He was on his way to earth.
Pictures are haunting me right now.
I'm having a hard time figuring how to go get current pictures done
with the holidays looming and the empty spot in our family.
I know no one expects a picture.
 But it's an internal fight.
A fight between me and my grief.

 His headstone arrived yesterday.
Charlotte and I stopped by for our usual visit, not knowing it had been installed.
And as I turned to look out in the grass to find him,
I saw the glimmer of the black shiny stone.
"Charlotte, Bradley got his headstone!!"
She and I ran out on the lawn and stared at the piece of rock.
Tears came to my eyes.
One more cold thing in my life!
The thing that was most shocking about his spirit leaving his body
was how cold his body became.
How quickly the body changed after his spirit was gone.
His light and warmth gone.
And the decay started immediately.
I hate how quickly time passes now.

And now the weather is getting very chilly.
And his cold body is out under that cold ground, under the cold stone.
Man, I miss my son.

And do you know what I dislike most about his death?
New friends don't know about him!
When I meet a new person, they don't understand who Bradley was.
I can tell his story, but most will get glazed eyes at the part about the homebirth.
And the only thing you know about his life from this stone in the ground is our religion.
But he was so much more than those three words and a picture of the temple!!
He was my everything.
He was my teacher.
He was a bright light from heaven in my home.
He was a missionary.
He was a personal reminder to live everyday like it was your last.
He was happy.
He was brave.
He was strong.
He kept me up at night with worry.
He kept me focused.
He inspired me.
He made me love my body for the first time in my life.
He kept me praying and fasting and searching.
He made me talk to genius doctors.
He made me argue with genius doctors.
He helped me realize I am a genius too.
And when the time was over,
I could only think about how right those doctors were.
How the heck did they know what would happen?
So ironic when every special needs mother I had talked to in the last two years advised,
"Doctors don't know everything!"

Actually, in this case, they knew exactly what was happening!
All those tests that never gave any answers,
were actually the worst answers we could have ever gotten.
Inconclusive results + regression = death
I still don't understand what exactly happened.
I can say "respiratory failure", but that is NOT what really happened.
What really happened was Bradley had a purpose;
a set amount of time.
Breaths from Heaven.
A mission.
And Heavenly Father called him home when his mission was fulfilled.
Now that I've seen birth and death, so close together,
I can testify as to what a miracle LIFE is!
There is no denying, the genius creator, who gives and takes when he decides.
And this is my test.
To deal with what Heavenly Father's plan is.
This is his plan.
A home with three living children and one in Heaven.
And now I've got to keep that home for those three who's test is not over.
I guess I will take some pictures of those three again.
I think that is what Bradley would want me to do.
He wants me to raise his brother and sisters.
And Bradley will be there with us somehow in the picture.
I don't need to worry about including him.
He will either be tossing our hair in the wind,
sending an orange monarch, 
or showing his brilliant sunsets.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ordinances Not Needed

Jacob wanted to lay down with Bradley the other day.
So I took him down to the cemetery and let him.
He says he misses holding his hands the most.
He wishes he could hold his tiny, soft hand one more time.
I know exactly how Jacob feels.

I have made an effort, during Bradley's entire existence, not to be bitter. 
It's hard when I see a boy his age, to NOT think about all of the things Bradley could be doing.
Every time I see a two year old boy sliding down a slide I say to myself,
"Bradley WILL do these things someday; we just have to wait. We can wait!"

 I missed him terribly on my Birthday.
I can see how the holidays will be the hardest.

Tom was looking at last night.
And out of curiosity, he looked us up.
It had all of our children accounted for.
Even our precious Bradley.
Our child that no one can tell I birthed only two years ago.
All of our dates were accounted for.
Birthdates. Baptism dates. Wedding dates.
All of our ordinances.
And Bradley's death date too.
And under Bradley's name it said "Ordinances Not Needed"
What an incredible blessing it is to know that Bradley is taken care of.
His precious spirit came to his body and filled the tests of Heaven.
He is perfect and does not need to prove himself more.
He was indeed an old soul.
Why did so many of us know that?
I know Bradley is saved.
He did not need this test.  
My brave little man and his chance at mortality.
He has a pass directly to heaven now.
 I'm proud to call him mine  ♥ 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Great Thou Art

Yesterday I had to drive to a specialty store to get some fabric for a bride.
The store is across the valley, and is near Bradley's lung doctor.
As I exited the freeway, tears came to my eyes, as did many memories to my mind.
All the appointments last summer trying to figure out why he was requiring oxygen.
Him nearly coding in the office twice.
And after we passed the pulmonologists office we passed Nevada Early Intervention.
Memories of my first and last time being there last summer.
The hours of evaluations.
The questions.
Does he reach for objects?
Does he sit up unassisted?
Does he laugh?
Does he cry?
Can you feed him by mouth?
And most of my answers were, "No." and "He used to."
And then their reply was,
"You need to keep trying! Don't give up!"
And I wanted to scream,
And because he was undiagnosed, no one ever knew what to expect.
I was told over and over again that anything could happen.
There was no limit on what he "might" do.
But no one wanted to acknowledge that he "might" die too.
Those appointments were so painful for me.
Bradley's death certificate says cause of death is
chronic respiratory failure,
due to loss of developmental milestones,
due to undiagnosed genetic condition.
I still don't really understand how it happened or how we knew.
But his spirit left his body that night,
and all I could think about was how the doctors were right.
How I was right too.
How they had confirmed my instincts.
His death was very long and drawn out.
Almost a year of watching his brain die.
And now I really am feeling relief as I'm sure he is too.

I imagine he is doing all kinds of wonderful things now!
And I know he is painting in Heaven.
I've seen several of his masterpieces since he's been gone.

He was such a creative force in my life.
I'm certain he's an artist in Heaven.
An inspiration who could never use his legs.
I know he's finally standing at his easel creating masterpieces.
I feel like Heavenly Father did have mercy on us by taking Bradley when he did.
The suffering has ended for all of us.
And I love when he sends me his art.
He was always trying to teach me to look up.
And he still is.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Forever Changed

 Today marks six full weeks since Bradley returned to Heaven.
The baby wipes he was using are drying out.
And the grass is coming back on the top of his grave.
We also learned this week that Bradley's Medicaid
was canceled because he had exceeded care costs.
The letter stated that we can appeal the cancelation.
I guess I need to call them and let them know he is gone.
The trial we had with him was not financial.
He was always provided for, while he was here.
I'm grateful Heavenly Father took care of that.
Through our efforts and efforts we could not see,
Bradley was always taken care of finacially.
One of Bradley's therapists was at the funeral.
I caught her outside the relief society room after she had seen his body in the viewing.
It's the only time I've ever seen her with tears in her eyes.
She never cried in front of me while Bradley was under her care.
She was strong. Brave. Hopeful.
And we hugged and she told me she was sorry as she quickly wiped the tears away.
I told her I still was not giving up on Bradley.
That I knew I would see him walk someday.
She smiled and she said she knew that was true.
 Last night, as I was falling asleep, Tom was watching a show about a murdered boy.
And they interviewed the Mother and asked her about her son and what she felt with his loss.
 I was prepared to hear how angry she was.
But instead she had incredible faith.

She said she imagined he was in a meadow somewhere soaking up the sun.
Enjoying his time.
Free from the pain of his death.
Free from this world.

And they asked her how she was feeling having lost a son
and she said she has been forever changed.

I know exactly how she feels.
And I'm grateful that my son was not taken from me by a vicious murder.
I'm grateful it was not a sudden accident that ended his life.
 I had time to prepare.
I had picked where I wanted his body to go.
 I had talked about eternal life and the resurrection with his siblings.
And when he passed, I was able to let him go.

I think this trial has been a very good one for me, personally.
Forever changed because I know there is a God in heaven.
He has provided, so much, even in my loss.
I cannot deny that he has been here carrying me through the storm.
I have been forever changed too ♥

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Returned With Honor

 Today we were with Charlotte's cousins.
My nephews.
They are that adorable kind of boys.
They remind me of my boys.
Big beautiful eyes.
Unbelievable eyelashes.
And as we were leaving a store, a friend I've not seen in a long time, greeted me.
She looked down at Charlotte, then next to her, my nephew.
This nephew is only older than Bradley by 4 months.
He does everything Bradley never did.
He talks. He walks. He's curious. He giggles. He runs.
Her eyes got very big and she said pointing at my nephew, "He's doing SO good!"
She thought it was Bradley.
And I told her he was my nephew with a chuckle.
And her heart sank as she said, "Where is Bradley?"
I hugged her and I told her Bradley was in Heaven.
She got tears in her eyes.
I guess she hadn't heard.
I thought everyone had. 
She got more tears in her eyes as she told me,
she knew we were the perfect family for Bradley to have come to.
I told her I was grateful I knew he was in Heaven with Jesus.
I told her about the respiratory failure.
I told her where we buried his body.
And I told her he had served his two year mission and had returned with honor.
I am so proud of him for so many reasons.
He never walked, talked, giggled, asked questions, or ran around a store.
But he effected people.
Everyone remembers him.
He was quiet but unique.
And he has left ripples.
All across a pool of people.
Tom said tonight at dinner,
 after I recounted the story,
that he is sure Bradley was and is a somebody in Heaven.
A very righteous disciple of Christ.
That he was not a fence sitter.
That he knew who he served
when he took the body he was given.
And his salvation was guaranteed through his sacrifice.
It's a lesson I've learned over and over.
"Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven";
especially for Bradley!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Crown and The Conflict

There is a headstone by Bradley's grave that says,
"The Crown Without the Conflict."
The baby beneath the headstone, lived for one day.
I know that baby will wear a crown. 

But every time I see it, I think about how much conflict Bradley had.
How Bradley earned every bit of the crown that he will wear.
He suffered so much!
I am grateful I had him for more then one day.
I'm grateful his spirit filled our home.
I'm grateful he submitted his spirit to that broken body,
so that I could hold him in my arms.
I know with every particle of my body, that Bradley will wear a crown someday.
I know that he will be radiant when I see him again.
Right before we closed the casket,
I thought about pulling his body out and running away.
I wanted to hold him one more time.
But I touched his chest, and bent down to kiss him,
and I felt how cold he was, and I knew that it was only his body that was left.
This is the hard part.
The sad and treacherous, longing for him.
And tonight I realized there has to be a crown for me too.
I am enduring a conflict now.
All this time, I've been thinking about Bradley being saved.
But I think the lord will have mercy on me too.
This suffering.
This separation.
If I'm worthy, I will wear a crown someday.
He knows my sacrifice so personally.
There will be a crown for my conflict!!
I'm grateful that I learned that today.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rock, Paper, Scissors

 The other night I was crying about missing Bradley.
How empty my arms are feeling.
How empty the pictures I'm taking are.
How empty our moments and memories are feeling.

And Jacob came and got in bed with me and asked if I was missing Bradley.
I told him, I was, as I wiped my tears on his shirt.
And Jacob said he was too.
He said he wished he could play Rock, Paper, Scissors with Bradley again.
I started laughing and told him I didn't know they had played that game together.
And Jacob explained that Bradley was always paper.
And if Jacob wanted to beat Bradley, he would be scissors.
And if Jacob wanted Bradley to win, he would be rock.
We are redecorating the house.
Trying to make the house peaceful.
Also doing jobs we have neglected for two years because of our stress and grief.
And the toys have been out of control and needing to go somewhere.
My children are out growing them too.
I had to move the girls back into the big bedroom, in order to move the toys into Jacob's room.
Bradley and Jacob went into the big bedroom when Bradley got the nurse.
Made sense that Bradley get the big room,
 since he had more medical equipment then the girls.
And as they have come to pick up the medical equipment,
I have realized the only personal possessions Bradley had were his clothes.
It's hard to even have toys when you are blind.
At one point Bradley had tons of toys for therapy,
but most had been taken by Charlotte and used for her dolls.
And Bradley did not mind.
Tonight I cleaned out the dresser we were using for him.
His life had been so hectic.
So progressively, regressive.
Everything, I saved to be done after he got here, never happened.
He never even had a dresser.
He was using an old buffet that was perfect for his medical supplies along with his clothes.
So he never got a chest of drawers like the other kids.
And Bradley did not complain.
Tonight I unloaded the buffet that wasn't his;
that he only used because of the medical supplies.
And I took the last things out of the drawers, which were his clothes.
His beautiful clothes that smell like him.
The t-shirts with funny words.
The clothes he wore in every picture I have of him.
The clothes which hold so many memories.
And I loaded them into a storage box with a tight fitting lid.
I'm hoping the tightness of the lid helps them to never lose their scent.
And when I was looking for the perfect box in the closet,
I came across hand-me-downs from Jacob,
 that Bradley was supposed to fit into someday.
Which is harder?
The clothes he actually wore?
Or the clothes I hoped he would one day wear?
I've lost a child.
I've lost a friend.
I've lost a purpose.
But it's a strange loss.
The regression was so cruel the last year,
I was not planning much for his future.
Planning for his future would nearly paralyzed me.
And now I'm just empty.
 I'm lacking.
But I've been lacking a while.
He was gone a long time ago, in so many ways.
I wish I could go back to this time,
before the 20+ seizure days.
Pray that I can have a dream about him soon.
One where I can see him crawl or walk or smile.
I miss my baby.
But I've been missing him for longer then 3.5 weeks.
It's been slow, progressive regression.
I'm crying tonight for everything lost.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mending A Smashed Toe and A Broken Heart

Whenever anyone is sick or hurt it takes me back
to that place that only Bradley has taken me.
Fear for life.
Precious breath which is given by God.
 Breath that can be taken from us at anytime.
Because he is in control and we are not.
I think this is a lesson I am going to revisit many times in my life.
We have received so many condolence cards and letters.
I've been surprised how many have come from doctors and therapists.
They really did and do care.
I just hated everything about the medical side of his life.
It's very hard for me to accept medical care, I guess.
I don't gravitate naturally to it.
I guess that is why I'm more comfortable birthing my babies at the foot of my bed.
But I've always fought against my natural preference, if I knew it would help my children.
Charlotte smashed her toe this week.
She squished it when a heavy barstool fell on our stone floor.
The impact popped a hole in the end of her toe,
spewing cartilage onto the stone.
It turned black instantly.
I started balling when I saw it.
I couldn't handle another one of my babies suffering.
I held her and rocked back and forth.
Crying and aching for both Charlotte and Bradley.
Then I realized she should probably go into the ER.
See if it needed stiches or had a broken bone or something.
We went to St. Rose,
 because Sunrise is the best,
but I couldn't bear the thought of going there.
They took an x-ray that was normal.
They gave us a Band-Aid and Neosporin.
And sent us home.
Told us to come back if it looked infected or if she ran a fever.

Ironically, she did get a fever the very next day.
And by 5pm she was throwing up.
I knew I had to take her to the best hospital if she had a possible infection.
So Tom and I and all the kids headed down to Sunrise.
The ride was so nostalgic and heartbreaking.
A weird mix of sad memories about my Bradley.
Memories of fear mixed with everything we have been through together.
We walked into the familiar waiting room
and every single nurse who has ever helped Bradley was working in triage that night.
We filled out paperwork for Charlotte and because she had a
fever associated with a wound they let her back very quickly.
When we got into triage they looked at all of my kids and said with curiosity in their eyes,
"Are these all the kids you have?'
I burst into tears and told them I was Bradley Brinkerhoff's mommy,
and that he had passed 2 weeks ago.
That he had been referred to hospice care by Dr. Nakamaura, 9 months ago.
And he had died of respiratory failure, like every doctor had said he would.
All of the nurses got very sad looks in their eyes and told me they were sorry.
It was obvious they didn't want me to cry.
They took us back to a familiar room.
They repeated the x-ray which was normal, again.
They said the site didn't look infected.
They said that it was too soon for that degree of infection to have developed.
They said it was probably a coincidence she had a fever and was throwing up.
And they let us go home.
And I was relieved nothing was wrong
 and they didn't have to poke another one of my babies.
When I got home I realized Heavenly Father
had given me the opportunity to find closure with that part of Bradley's life. 
He let me tell the nurses who had helped us so much in the Sunrise ER.
I had wondered, when we went on hospice 9 months ago,
if they would even notice when we stopped coming in. 
While it was painful to tell them, I'm glad they remembered him.
That they remembered him on their own and asked me.
It made me feel like he really
did effect hearts of the people in the hospital.
Grateful for that opportunity to tell them myself of his passing.
Grateful Charlotte is okay too.
I feel very taken care of.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Butterfly

Tender feelings today, as I walk around my house and think about my son.
He was my everything for the past two years.
And now he's gone.
And my house is so quiet.
Pictures and flowers decorate my house from the funeral.
I wish I could hold and kiss him.
I wish I could smell his sweet little head one more time.

But there is a sweetness, knowing he is finally safe.
Knowing no one can hurt him.
No one will poke him with needles ever again.
No more medicines or seizures.
No more annoying nasal cannula.
No more gasping for air.
No more being tied to cords and machines.
That hard part of his existence is over.
And I know he is not gone.
He is still here.
He has just changed.
Like a butterfly, he has morphed into something more.
He is free from that horrible cocoon that held him so tight.
But pain fills my soul when I think about cuddling him.
It was too short.
I hate degenerative brain diseases.
On the morning of his funeral my Aunt Edris found me and presented me with a tiny box.
A box that had once belonged to my Grandma.
And she handed the box to me and told me, Grandma had asked her to give me this.
 Grandma had told her to give the black butterfly pin to Mary Gay,
17 years ago, before her death.
And Edris had misplaced the pin, but found it again one day, recently.
And she remembered when she saw it that it was intended for me.
And I opened the box and saw the black butterfly pin.
I had seen my Grandma Wanda wear it many times.
And now it was mine.
Seventeen years after her death, Grandma Wanda sent me the message
that Bradley was flying free from the pains of this world.
And that Bradley is not gone.
He has just changed.
Bradley the boy who changed everything about us,
is now free to change himself.
And he is now honorably released from his mission on earth.
I'm very grateful Grandma sent me that message on the morning of his funeral.
Proud of Bradley and his completed mission.
He is my butterfly. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bradley Herrick Brinkerhoff, 7/20/11 - 9/7/13



Bradley, we love you very much!
I know we can live together forever!
You have taught me so much!
I <3 U Bradley
Love, Maddy, your Sister


I love you Bradley.
You have taught us a lot of things about our life.
I love you Bradley.
Love, Jacob

I love you, Bradley.
Love, Charlotte

Bradley Herrick Brinkerhoff, returned to his heavenly home
in the early morning hours of September 7, 2013. 
He passed in our home, surrounded by his loving parents, brother and sisters. 
He leaves behind his Mother and Father, Mary and Tom,
 beautiful Sister Madeleine, brave brother Jacob and loving Sister Charlotte.
 He is also survived by his grandparents Gay and Steven Sluder,
and Lori and Kent Brinkerhoff.

His Aunts; Jennifer Rubio, Laura Bunnell, Cynthia Sluder, Beth Sluder, Natalie Tappan, Tamara Hansen, Shalee Brinkerhoff and Kristina Brinkerhoff.

 His Uncles; Jose Rubio, Zwieba Bunnell, Steven Sluder II, John Sluder, Trampus Tappan, Joseph Hansen, and Paul Brinkerhoff.

 And his twenty-nine first cousins;
Emily, Jose Jr, Isabelle, Wendy, Juan-Steven,
Samuel, Sarah, Adam, Eliza, Benjamin, Alice, Naomi,
Megan, Haley, Brooke, Ryan,
Addyson, Kate, Luke, Jack,
Megan, Vesta,
Heidi, Kent, Benjamin, Samantha,
Aiden, Evan and Ashton.
In his short life,
he did not receive the opportunity to walk, talk, or see
but his spirit affected the lives of all he knew. 
 He suffered from many health problems but did not complain. 
His vision was not limited to his “earth stuff”,
 he could see the greater purpose of life,
to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize
his divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.

We appreciate you letting us serve you,
by humbly submitting your amazing spirit to a broken body. 
We learned from you, loved you,
played with you, served you and walked for you. 
We all love you and are grateful
for your enduring influence in our life. 
Until we are together again,
enjoy walking with our Savior in Paradise.
By Tom Brinkerhoff