Saturday, July 17, 2010


It's been a while since I have written on the blog. I've been doing some writing of other sorts. Sorority recommendations, student teacher intern recommendations, letters of support for friends trying to get jobs....and then, last week I was contaced by a classmate of my brothers. The class of 1990 is having their class reunion and they wanted a few words about Brandon for their booklet. It took a lot out of me. It was harder to write than I thought. I went over the few paragraphs they requested, but I don't think they'll mind.

How can you sum up someone who was larger than life in just a few words? It's impossible. My parents and I have been invited to the ceremony at the school on Sunday. We won't be able to go, neither physically, nor emotionally. When they contacted my mother to do the write up and get pictures, she broke down. It's still too hard. Too hurtful, too unfair that life is going on and Brandon is not. I still pretend that he's on vacation. When I am forced to remember that he is really gone, the breath gets sucked out of my lungs and my heart feels like is is breaking in two.

Here's what I wrote for the reunion. Have a great time Class of 1990. Boo is smiling down on you.....(and if you put your beer down and in a second or two it's half gone......don't say that I didn't warn you!)

Smiling through the tears Princess....smiling through the tears.....

After graduating from high school and attending classes at ICC and The University of Alabama, Brandon Berry worked for Belmont Homes for many years and then for our daddy at the farm in Belmont.
Most people would have been content to stay at home after an accident as severe as Brandon’s, but most people were not as determined as Brandon. From the time he got hurt in May of 1987 until he died in September of 2008, Brandon was a contradiction in terms. Initially, (and for months following the accident) the doctors were not even convinced he would live, much less live to go on to college, to hold a job, to get married (twice!) and to have a full and rewarding life. Everything they told us he would NOT be able to do…..he did do. He surpassed the expectations of the medical community, but not those of the people who loved him. His first wheelchair was built and guaranteed to last a lifetime. Brandon went through more than 20 wheelchairs! The amazing thing is that I really don’t think that people noticed the wheelchair as much as they just “saw” Brandon.
There wasn’t anything he couldn’t drive, from Caterpillar bulldozers to golf carts and there wasn’t much that he could not fix when it was broken. He liked his music loud and he liked to drive fast….especially across the bottoms……Not having his legs did not slow him down. If anything, it made him more determined to prove to the people who doubted him that they were wrong. We always had to be careful when saying that something could not be done, unless Brandon take it as a personal challenge. He did not know the meaning of the word “can’t”.
Brandon loved raising and training his Labrador Retrievers: Curry, Oprah, Eli Gold, Samson, and Dixie. He was happiest when he had a house full of friends and he rarely met a stranger. He had a tender heart and hated to see anyone cry. He was a Mason and loved learning about the history of that group. He enjoyed grilling and cooking (he was a secret Martha Stewart fan), watching NASCAR and Alabama football, watching stand-up comedy and movies and drinking a cold beer (or a few!) He loved Lynyrd Skynyrd and thought “Sweet Home Alabama” should be the National Anthem. He even elevated napping to a hobby. He loved being known as “Boo”. He was able to forgive quickly, but would never forget. He always had a smile on his face and would laugh until the tears rolled. He put the parental lock on our parent’s satellite more than once, just blocking out the western channel and HSN….just for the fun of it (because our parents could not unlock it). Brandon always built all of the toys at Christmas. He rode a million miles on his Polaris with his Labs at his side. He was generous and kind and loved his family and friends with all of his heart. Many people, guys and girls alike, counted Brandon as their best friend. He would give you the shirt off of his back and the last dollar from his wallet if he thought you needed it more that he did.
He would drive our mother crazy by cutting the sleeves out of almost every shirt he owned, and would call it “dressing up” when he attended a function wearing a shirt with sleeves. In his honor, the pallbearers at his funeral cut the sleeves out of their shirts at the cemetery. I know Brandon was laughing at that gesture. He talked to our parents on the phone or in person every day and was notorious for coining phrases that over the years have become part of our family vocabulary. He was my constant… rock…my safe place to land. He loved his nephew, (my son) Grayson and taught him to ride the four-wheeler, among other things. To this day, Grayson still changes gears with his hand…..just like Uncle Brandon showed him. It never occurred to Grayson that he could change the gears with his feet!
Brandon was always larger than life. He was an amazing survivor. It always seemed that there wasn’t anything he could not do. That’s why it was such a shock when he became so sick, so quickly, after his abdominal surgery in July of 2008. Brandon’s life ran out before Brandon was done with life. He died in the early morning hours of September 4, 2008 surrounded by his wife Jada, his family and close friends. To this day I cannot believe he is gone and there is a hole in my soul that can only be filled when I hear him call me “Seester” once again.
Brandon would give anything to be here in person with you at this reunion. But I can promise you this…. He is here. If you look for it, you’ll see something, or hear something that will remind you of him….. and when you do, say “Hey Boo!”….he’ll hear you… can count on it.
So, the next time you hear Sweet Home Alabama, or watch the Tide play….the next time you have a cold brew, or drive across the Red Bay bottoms really fast with the windows down and the wind in your hair…the next time you settle into the recliner on a hot summer day with the air conditioner on high to take that Sunday afternoon nap, the next time you laugh until you cannot catch your breath and tears are streaming down your face…..remember Brandon…………and maybe you’ll savor those things for just a small moment more…….just a little………just for him……and when you do, say “Hey Boo…..this one is for you!”…………you can bet he’ll appreciate it…….and I know that he’ll tell you “thank you” when he sees you again. He’ll be waiting……don’t look for the chair ‘cause he’s going to be STANDING at the gate with a big smile on his face………… THAT will be a reunion……don’t you think?

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