Right after Brooklyn passed, a family friend printed off some pictures from when Brooklyn was younger during a season Justin volunteered with One-on-One, a inner-city Zion basketball camp. During camp, I would bring the kids up and they would run around and make friends with all the coaches and players. Jayden would dribble balls and shoot hoops, Brooklyn would dance and sing.
One of the pictures, now a bookmark in Justin’s Bible, is a picture of B wearing a shirt that says, “My heart belongs to Dad.” Sometimes, I find him fighting tears as he looks at it. They sure share a special bond.
I am not sure if this is true of every family, but it feels true for us. There’s just something different about the bond shared between a mother and a son, a father and a daughter. Not better or worse, more or less, just different. A boy needs his mom and a girl needs her dad. (I know both need both, but you get it.)
Maybe it has to do with protection. A dad protects his girl and raises his son to be a protector. A mother protects her son and raises her daughter to be a protector. Maybe it’s simply because Jayden was like his dad, and Brooklyn was a lot like me.
I don’t know why, I just know it was true for us and impacts how we are grieving.
Justin’s words about his sweet B that he shared at her funeral are so precious and the lessons he learned from her are really lessons for us all. Lessons about living life to the fullest, real heroism, love, and joy.
Here are Justin’s words:
The moment I laid eyes on Brooklyn I was in love. I remember watching the nurse wrap her up in a blanket put a cap on her little head and hand her to Stefanie. I immediately grabbed the camera and started recording her.
We wanted to get a better look at her hair so Stef started to pull the cap off her head but she was not amused. She opened her mouth and we braced for what we thought was going to be a loud ear piercing wail, but instead what came out sounded more like a kitten cry. I couldn’t believe how sweet and angelic that noise was. I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be easy. A day later her real voice made its presence known and the cute kitten cry was gone. She was never to be quiet again. But that became Brooklyn’s trademark. She was loud and she was proud.
As soon as she was able to talk we began to teach her nursery rhymes. We were amazed at how easily and quickly she could remember and recite a song. We honestly never thought it would be possible for her to achieve these milestones. She would sing songs in medleys. After she finished one she would jump right into the next followed by another. Many days it was hard to keep up with her. Her singing was music to my ears and food for my soul. I loved to hear her sing and we would often sing duets together. We would sing every night before we put her to bed. It was one of her favorite things to do. She would get so excited to go to bed that she would smile and have giggles that would come from her belly.
When she was about 2 years old we bought a play set and built it in the backyard. Brooklyn loved to play on her new play set. She would climb all around it while singing at the top of her lungs. She loved to boss her brother around and drag him from one place to another. However she was not the most coordinated little girl when navigating the ladder. She often made me nervous how fearless she’d be when going up and down.
One afternoon after Stefanie left for work we went out to play. I went up to the top of the play set first and Jayden followed next. Up came B a little slower than her brother but she was determined to make it by herself. She got to the last step and lost her balance and started to fall backwards. I reached out my hand and caught one little foot that was dangling in the air. Brooklyn was hanging upside down and had the biggest smile on her face. I looked over at her brother who had witnessed the whole event and he began to laugh too. I had no choice but too laugh as well and was extremely grateful their mother wasn’t home.
But that was how Brooklyn was. Every trial and obstacle in her life was always accompanied by a smile. You couldn’t keep that girl down. The light that was shining from her heart was hard not to notice. This world wasn’t going to get the best of her. She would live her life to the fullest. I learned that very early on in her life.
As if a play set wasn’t dangerous enough for her we decided to get her a bicycle on her third birthday. We had no idea if she would be able to ride one or not. Jayden was never able to learn so it was a shot in the dark for B. It was a little princess bike with cute pink training wheels. It took her about 3 minutes to master bike riding.
The driveway couldn’t contain her. She needed to explore Boyce Ln. I wouldn’t often chase her up and down the road so she could get some extra ride time in. One particular day I turned my back on her for what I thought was only a minute or two and she was gone. The driveway was empty and Boyce Ln. was empty too. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a little pink blur on the main street off our road.
By the time I got there a car was already stopped in the middle of the road and a very sweet couple were attempting to usher B to the side of the road. She wasn’t very fond of that idea and wanted to continue to ride right down the center of the street. She was brave, fearless, and knew exactly what she wanted. She was everything that I wanted to be true of myself.
I was learning so much from this little girl. Oh and that sweet couple that saved her on the street that day came back into our lives a few years later. Donna would eventually become Brooklyn’s one on one aide for her bus ride to and from school everyday. She was trained to administer B’s medication in case of a seizure on the bus. Thus potentially saving her life again.
Brooklyn was a hero to me and she did hero’s work. We were selected to participate in two studies of Sanfilippo patients. She traveled with her brother to Minnesota four different times and Ohio 3 different times. They were able to collect valuable data about how the disease progresses in each child. She went through 3 surgical procedures in Minnesota and 3 procedures in Ohio too. Brooklyn was on the front line fighting for children with Sanfilippo.
The last couple of years the disease had really taken a toll on her body. It seemed like every other week there was something new causing her pain.
After Jayden went to heaven we decided to take a family trip to Florida so that just the four of us could be together. We ended up spending almost half of our vacation in the hospital. Poor Brooklyn had to deal with a tube that entered though her nose and went down to her stomach for almost 3 days while it pumped medication into her body. Every day the doctors would come in and tell us that she was going to need to stay another day.
After the third day I was desperate to get her out of the hospital. I was on my knees praying that we could salvage what was left of our vacation. I had been anticipating the doctor’s return to see if she had made progress enough to go home. To my dismay, the X-ray had shown that she made no progress and would need to stay another day. I was devastated and started to cry. I watched another doctor whisper something and they went over to the computer and looked at the Xray one more time. She said “I’m sorry about that, she’s all clear and can go home now.
I new immediately that God had changed the X-ray results right in front of our eyes. I was blown away and Brooklyn was so excited to get the tubes out of her nose. We went straight to the beach and I will never forget watching Brooklyn siting in a beach chair soaking up the warm sun and enjoying the beautiful weather. She was my hero. I was so proud of her.
She wasn’t sweet all the time though. There were moments when she could be down right naughty too. She loved her brother and her sister, but there were many times when it was hard to tell.
When we built our house we designed a special room for Jay and B. It was perfect for them. The floor was padded and the room was loaded with pillows and crash pads. We had a dutch door installed so the bottom door could be shut but the top door was always open so we could always observe what was going on in the room. Jayden loved to lay on the floor with his head resting on the crash pad. However, one particular time I walked into the room to check on them and Brooklyn was literally sitting on top of Jayden’s head.
I looked at her and she looked back at me as if nothing was wrong with this picture. I quickly grabbed her and removed her from his head. Jayden’s facial expression was priceless. It was as if his heart was broken from his sister’s decision. She apologized to him the best way she knew how, by bossing him around. Jayden accepted her apology and they both moved on.
She could also be really tough on her sister. Brooklyn had some of the quickest hands I’ve ever seen. She could walk by Elliotte and grab her hair before she could even think of protecting herself. B would walk off with a chunk of Ellie’s hair in her hand. We would always tell Ellie that’s how B show’s she loves you.
Despite those rare moments the love that Brooklyn had for her brother and sister was immense. She loved to hold her brother’s hand and even more than that she loved to drag him any and everywhere. She would say “c’mon Jay Jay”. He knew he didn’t have a choice. It was Brooklyn’s way or the highway. Jay understood that and always played by her rules. It was safer that way. It was as if she wanted him to experience life the way she lived it.
And she lived life really well. You couldn’t keep that smile off her face. She loved her little sister too. When Ellie was little she loved to hold her. She would use her own hand and wipe Ellie’s spit up from her face. And when there was more than she could handle she would tell us by saying “uh oh Elwie”. As B lost more of her mobility she would just sit and watch Ellie run around the house and she would have the biggest smile on her face. She was so grateful for her little sister and loved being around her.
We took a gamble earlier this summer and bought a camper with the hope that Brooklyn was the camping type. We had never taking her camping before so this was a big deal and it could easily crash and burn. It ended up being the best decision we have ever made. We had a blast with her all summer long. Our goal was to show her and Ellie new and different places and make memories doing it. We got way more smiles and giggles out of her this summer than we ever could have imagined. We went somewhere new every weekend and packed in as much camping as we could.
Our last camping trip was a 9-day adventure through Wisconsin. Though B’s health was not great the day we left, we never would of guessed it would be the last trip she’d make. She was so brave and strong throughout the whole adventure. But Jesus was calling her home. And Brooklyn was ready to go. She ate a hot dog Friday afternoon and by Monday afternoon she was reunited with her brother.
Brooklyn and Jayden have taught us so much about heaven. It’s not just a place that I read about anymore. It’s more real to me than ever now. Every day that I live is one day closer until I get to see my babies and be with my Savior.
Brooklyn didn’t need or want gifts. She just wanted you. When I was around her I felt closer to Jesus. She was my soul mentor. I was a better person when I was around her. Everything felt right in this world when I was near her. Just one smile from B is all it took for my heart to melt. Whatever bad day I was having was completely forgotten when I was with her.
Our world won’t be the same without her. I will miss every second that I got to be close to her. But I can’t help but thank Jesus for the nine most wonderful years he gave her to us. Though I wanted more I couldn’t be more proud of the way Jesus used her to change my heart and the hearts of the people who met her.
I will spend the rest of my life trying to live my life like Brooklyn did, like Jesus did. Her smile and her heart brought so much joy to my life. Even though Brooklyn was called home to her Heavenly Father, her earthly father will store up this joy in his heart forever. For our joy doesn’t come from circumstances. It comes from the promises of our Savior.
John 16:33 says, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.”
Thank you, Brooklyn Kayelee Boyce, for showing me what real joy looks like.