12. My Favorite 29 Year Old

Wimg_0345hen I was a kid, some of my best memories involved me being outside playing. And one thing I remember very clearly was always keeping an eye out for my Grandma Jean’s little red Honda Civic. I knew if she was coming by there was a good chance she was there to pick us up and take us to the beach for the weekend. At that time my grandma lived for the weekend. She was a free spirit and she did what she wanted to do. At that point in my life there was nothing better than leaving for a weekend with my grandma. While driving there she would ask my brother and I which way we should go: the short route or the scenic route. It made no sense to us— we always wanted the quickest way to get there. But sometimes she would just take the scenic route anyway. That’s who she was. She appreciated spending time with us, and she lived in the moment. Of all my memories of her, when I think back on them, I see her the exact same way. She truly NEVER aged. She had a young, vibrant soul. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you a funny story. Two days prior to her passing, I was sitting at her bedside, trying to talk to her as much as I could. She was able to talk a little, but you could tell it was hard. She mostly just listened to us and acknowledged us here and there. I realized that her birthday was near, so I said, “Grandma, you have a birthday coming up.” Her eyes quickly opened, and she perked up a little and said, “I know, I’ll be 29!”  We were all in disbelief. We laughed so hard. In case you didn’t know, every birthday my grandma had she said she turned 29. And no one ever questioned that. Grandma was different. She wasn’t like anyone else I’ve ever met. She taught me so much and her opinions meant so much to me. For example, Grandma didn’t vote based on who was Republican or Democrat. If you asked her how she chose who she was voting for, she would tell you, “I vote for the person… the person that they are.” She didn’t need anyone telling her how to do anything. I was always impressed by her. Above all, she was an extraordinary grandma. I honestly could go on for days about how she had perfected being a grandmother. That is how I knew her, since she was my only living grandmother I ever knew. But having her as a grandmother was like having 10 grandmothers in one. I am here today telling you these things because I feel like I owe her so much. If you were really close to my grandma, and you were lucky enough to be loved by her, then she always told you how much she loved you. Not once or twice, but hundreds of times over your lifetime. While writing this speech I realized that if I had to think of one thing that she was known for, it would have to be that. I think her favorite thing to do was tell the people she loved how much she truly loved them.

Her final days will live with me forever. Those of us that were lucky enough to be with her during the last two days will forever have a couple of funny stories to tell. My favorite part was her scratching my head. We all know she was the best at that. She somehow mustered up enough strength to do it once more. And think about this, in her final few days, she managed to take a helicopter ride to Florida, and die on a holiday. That’s the grandma I knew: carefree and always on the move. She will forever be my favorite 29 year old.


11. The Chicken Runs at Midnight

Today is a very special day. What makes today special is the date. February 21st 2016 I witnessed a life changing embrace from my wife to a house. That moment stuck with me the entire year. I couldn’t gather the courage to explain it to her until one year later. On the day that I finally gathered the courage, I had no clue that it was in fact the exact day, just one year later. At the time it was just another crazy coincidence that made us laugh. It’s hard to explain how these things happen, but they happen so often. This blog was written to remember them, and to share some good with anyone that wanted to read it. This past weekend I saw a story that really embodied the message I have been trying to make you all understand. This story is going to explain it a lot better than I can. When I watched it I broke down. It was validation that we were not the only ones experiencing these things. Sometimes these things hurt, sometimes they make us laugh, often they make us cry, I am crying right now, but I hope they never stop happening. We think about Brad every single day, and that will never change. Stories like this have purpose, and tragedies may too, but I don’t know that for sure. Maybe one day we get an answer. Please watch the video in the link below. It is sad but it has purpose.


10. The Time Is Now

How can your actions, even the smallest ones, have enormous impacts? This experience showed me examples of that. Small actions that were well timed, carefully thought out, and executed, created amazing outcomes. They range from small gestures to shows of force by multiple people. Sometimes I even think that maybe this all happened so that I could see what good still existed inside of people. This will be my last post. I think it is time to shift my focus, but for those of you that read this along the way, I wanted to make sure I left you with something you could take away from it- something that could be useful to you.

This is going to sound bad at first, but we are all guilty of doing this one thing.  Something that really started to get on my nerves. I myself have been guilty of it, so I am not calling out any one person. It is something I think we can not help, but we all do. There is good in all of us, but sometimes we struggle with letting it work on its own. We get in the way of it. It is when you hear that someone has lost a loved one, and you find yourself in that person’s presence. What do you do? What do you say? You do not figure it out in time, so you tell them some awful phrase like, “let me know if you need me,” or, “I am here for you, just call me.” As if that person is really going to remember that, then actually pick up the phone and call you, and say “hey, remember that time last week at the funeral home when you said I could call you if I needed you”. Yeah, it is not going to happen. Like I said, I have too been guilty of this, but not since this experience. I am going to tell you of a few instances within this ordeal that stuck out and will forever remind me of the good inside of people. These were small gestures that delivered the longest lasting support. To this day, when I think of them, I feel something that I can not explain.

The first example really embodies this whole message I am trying to deliver. Upon learning of Brad’s passing, we were immediatley taken to a delivery room to start the process of inducing labor. We were in such a state of shock that we did not know exactly what to do next. Anyone that knows Sarah knows that she is extremely close to her mother, though her mother lives in Virginia, so she was not here at the moment that Sarah needed her the most. Upon hearing the bad news, her mom was trying to figure out how to get here as fast as possible. It was mid afternoon, how would she possibly get here any sooner than the next day? As I tried to figure out how to support Sarah as much as I could, I could only think of how bad I knew she wanted her mom present. I can not quite remember how it all went down, but my boss Robby’s wife works for Delta. They sprung into action, along with the help of my co-worker Bryan and his wife. They pulled together the funds and resources to get Sarah’s mom on the next flight to town. We did not ask them to do this. They took it upon themselves, made the decision, and executed it. They even picked her up at the airport and drove her to us. She was now there just hours after we entered that room. She got to hold Brad, an opportunity she would not have had if she arrived the next day. That meant so much to her, to me, and to Sarah. Their quick, selfless thinking still impresses me to this day. They probably had no clue that it meant so much, and I do not think they cared. They just acted, without much thought. They saw an opportunity to help in a moment where we needed help, and did it.

As we woke up in the hospital the next morning, I felt drained. I think we got to sleep around 2:00-3:00am. It was now the morning that we were to get released from the hospital. We had already been contacted by phone or text from pretty much all of our closest friends and family. The president of the company that Sarah and I work for, Ralph, was one of those people. He had already called the day before and offered his condolences. I will never forget waking up that morning and checking my phone. To my surprise there was only one text message so far, it was from him. It simply read, “I’m out here praying for yall.” I was a little confused, I even looked out the window to see if he was on the sidewalk. He was not. It was just his way of letting us know that we were the first thing he thought about that morning when he woke. He would go on to be one of my biggest sources of advice. He too had experienced great loss of loved ones. He knew what I was about to experience. He told me that he was going to be available at any moment I needed to get answers. I took him up on that, and he never let me down. There were times that I called him early in the morning when I could not understand why I was crying so much. He explained to me how long it would last, and that as long as I lived, there would always be moments that caused breakdowns. He was right. A year later we would still have these quick talks. During one of them, I told him that I thought I should talk to someone else, but not a counselor or therapist. I did not know who, but I knew I needed to. He came up with the perfect idea and insisted that I do it. He followed up with me the day I was supposed to. That day was hard. The person I was supposed to meet had a schedule conflict. It was a huge blow to me. It had taken me a year to get up the confidence to go share these horrible thoughts I had, only to get there and realize this person had wrote down the wrong time and had to reschedule our talk for the following week. I took that as a sign that I should not be there. Ralph called me that afternoon to see how the talk went. I gave him the news. I told him that I did not know what I should do, maybe I should just forget that idea. He quickly spoke up, and set me straight. He informed me of just how stupid that was, and he held nothing back. I did as I was told and went back the next week. It was the best thing I could have ever done. I did get answers, I did feel better afterwards. Ralph’s persistence and guidance helped me find that. Again, this was an example of someone stepping up in a time of need and acting.

There have been many small gestures along the way. I wish I could remember them all. My mother saw an opportunity after our memorial. Sarah and I had spoke about having a plaque made with Brad’s name and placed at the church along side other memorial type plaques. It was just an idea we had, but my mom took the lead without thought. She told us what she was going to do and did it. We were not asking her to, but she saw an opportunity to act and did. One of my friends that I normally ran with showed up for one of our regularly scheduled early morning track runs. This day was different. It was only 48 hours after Brads passing. I told him the details and told him that I just needed to run. I needed something normal to happen because the past 48 hours had been nothing close to normal. He acted no different, just as I asked. We ran, I felt a short lived relief. Rob did not know he did anything special that day. He just did as I asked. He was there in person making me feel normal. I tell you of these simple gestures because they hold as much weight as the big ones.

A well timed text message, just telling someone that you are thinking of them can go a long way. Why is that. I feel that when the instinct inside of you tells you to do something, you should act right then. I once heard someone say “now is always the time to do something.” The time is always now.  When it hits you to say something to someone or the moment you think of that person, tell them. If you think too much about it, you have wasted time and I doubt you will end up doing what you originally thought of. These few stories I have told you about are clear examples. These people just acted, with little thought. No time was wasted, and long lasting results occurred because of them. These are just a few examples, there were many more. Sarah and I realized that we meant something to people. We are forever thankful to each of you, and you all know who you are.  You went out of your way to contact us, stop by the house, or just stop us in the hallway at work and give a hug. All of these little actions brought us to realize that there is so much good inside of people. In the event of a tragedy, that is all you have to offer someone. So do not think about it, it is in you! Find it and let it out! It will handle the rest.

9. Ironic Events Or Signs?

This post is one that I have looked forward to writing for quite a while. At what point do things stop being just coincidences? In other words, how many times must a set of ironic events or crazy occurrences happen before you start to believe that they are more than that: some sort of spirit or power out there pushing these things towards you. I think it puzzles me more than any other set of circumstances have, since we lost Brad. Though it sometimes puzzles me, it also makes me very optimistic.  I have tried to keep note of each time something happens, but I know I have forgotten so many. They started to happen so much that Sarah and I began to laugh at them. In the beginning we would get surprised, and sometimes cry, but as time went on they became normal. One of the most memorable coincidences was one that sparked the name of this blog, which I wrote about in the first post.

As I have mentioned before, the first year was very hard. Many things occurred in the first year that hurt so bad. There are many things that I do not want to relive, but I will never forget.  Throughout the first year, we often said that we would always celebrate Brad’s birthday. No matter what was going on in our lives at that time, we would always stop on March 19th, and go to the spot on the beach where his ashes were spread. On the first year anniversary, we went there. We were kind of unsure of what to do that day. Fitting as it could be, there was also an arts and crafts festival going on at the same time. It sort of made the day easier to cope with. While driving towards the beach, I must admit, we were not really sure what we would do when we got there. There was almost a quiet mood surrounding it. We spoke on the way there, but there was an odd aura present. It is like we needed someone to tell us how to do this. Think about it, there are no books about how to celebrate the day your son died: the son you never got to meet. Speaking for myself, I had never experienced a sudden death of a close relative. I imagine, on the anniversary of their death, you get together with family and friends and relive the great memories. What do you do when there are no memories, only questions about what the memories would have been? I guess that is what hurts the most about losing Brad. So on that day, we are supposed to dig deep and celebrate his birthday, which was also his death day. It was challenging to say the least.

We arrived at the spot and just hung out there. The same way as it is in a race, or a fight; the anticipation of it is the hardest. Once you are there in the moment, you figure it out. Things begin to fall into place, you roll with the punches. I can not even remember much about that moment we spent there. It is like we were looking around for something to happen. I remember it being peaceful. It always is when we visit him. We decided to attend the festival while we were there. The atmosphere is always welcoming.  It felt like a good idea. While making our way to the festival, who do we see? None other than the man that delivered both our children, Dr. Shoemaker. What are the chances? This man was the only thing that kept us stable during Brad’s passing. He somehow managed to give Sarah and I such amazing support through out the whole ordeal. We often asked ourselves how he held it together as well as he did. We later found out from a nurse that he was affected hard by it too. Here it was one year later and we would cross paths. The encounter was brief.  He was with his wife and we did not want to take away from their time together. We spoke and went on our separate ways. Then the day felt 100% complete. That was what we were waiting on. We knew something like that would happen. We were use to these things happening. We looked up to this man so much that we considered naming our next child after him. How fitting it was that he would still be there for us when we needed him, and he had no idea. This spot on the earth holds such meaning to us.  We have so many great experiences there.

The last time we were there as a whole family, Brannon and I were throwing the football, while Sarah, Mila, and Sarah’s mom, Tess were playing around in the water. One perfectly placed pass of the football hit my wedding ring and took it right off my finger. I did not notice immediately, so I had no idea where it landed. We searched frantically for 20 minutes, and concluded it was lost. I gave up looking for it. In my mind, this was just another one of those odd instances that kept occurring since losing Brad. What were the chances of me losing my ring, for the first time in 9 years of wearing it in that very spot that Brad rested. In my mind, I was ok with it getting lost there. Sarah and Tess on the other hand kept searching. So I resumed too. In the water, as a wave broke, Sarah caught a glimmer of the ring. She found it. These things continue to happen, we just laugh. They are not coincidences, they are examples of…. I will let you decide that one, though I know how I feel.

I wish I could remember them all, but I can not possibly. There are so many. But here are a couple just so you get the idea: The day that we finally took ownership of our new home, Sarah stepped out in the front yard, only to be greeted by a cardinal. If you don’t know the significance of that, please look it up. The cardinal just sat there, looking at Sarah. He sat there long enough that she was able to take out her phone and snap of pic of him. He still makes appearances to this day. The address of this home also has something symbolic. Within the address are the numbers 1819. Mila’s birthday is the 18th and Brad’s is the 19th. One event that particularly sticks out to me involves this blog. I had purchased the domain name Housekiss soon after it occurred. Though, if you remember from post #1, I did not start the blog until months later. The day that I started writing that first post I received an email alert to my phone. While writing, I paused to see what the email was. It was a reminder that my domain subscription for Housekiss.com was nearing its one year renewal. What are the chances of that? And then, to top it off, my mother informed me that the day of that first post was the same day the her and my father had met each other for the first time. These things usually make Sarah and I laugh. We see them as little signs of communication from Brad, but also, they give us hope.  Hope that some day we will see him again.

8. Facebook, good or bad?

As we sat in the hospital after learning the reason for Brad’s passing, the immediate feeling was that there would be no mention of this on Facebook. We are private people. We do not want this put out there. But just as I have decided to write this blog, I also decided that day to make a Facebook post. I knew my idea would not get Sarah’s approval immediately. Of the two of us, she is more private. I had my reasons though and I knew it was the only option we had.  I went to her bed side and I explained to her what I wanted to do. As suspected she was not on board at first. I told her that if we did not use the Facebook platform as a means of displaying the answer to so many people’s questions, we would end up having to explain the details of what happened to everyone. This was only being posted to save us from having to keep explaining and reliving the moment. Our phones were already seeing signs of what was to come. I would not be able to ignore the messages and phone calls. This post was a delivery method. It delivered the news that most knew, but many still had not.  I knew there were going to be multiple people who would ask, “How is the new baby?” Hopefully this post would stop some of those. What kind of response would it get? My mind could not process that.

I had no idea what was to come. I put people in a tough position. How do you comment on a post like that? One of the things I hate the most about social media is the burdens it carries. You feel like you have to comment on some things for fear of what others may think of you. This post made me realize that so many people were saddened and heartbroken for us. It made me realize that even the toughest folks were taking this hard. I learned so much about people by their words. The simplest of phrases or the shortest set of words carry such an impact. One stands out to me and has since the very day it happened.  A guy I went to high school with, who I had not spoken to in years, posted a simple two word comment, two words that broke me down: “With You”. What exactly was his intent in the message? I do not know, but it felt like he bear hugged me right through the screen. I never told him of the impact he had, but I should have. I read every comment so many times. I started feeling comfort in it. For months I would go back to it and read the post and the comments all over. I could not understand why I was doing it. There was something therapeutic about it. It made me realize that I needed to talk more about it. It changed the way I saw people and how just the smallest comment could help so much. It restored some of my  faith that there was still compassion inside of people.

I have since decided to stop using Facebook. There were good and bad things about it. Unfortunately, the bad largely out-weighed the good. I have been social media free for over six months now. I still keep an Instagram account so I can see pictures my wife post and promote the blog. I do not go any further than that. My life has less negativity in it now. Since removing myself from social media, I have had a lot of people ask me about it. Most of the ones that ask are asking because they too want to do it. They all feel the same way I did. They clearly see it as a source of negative energy, but can not let go of the few good things it gives them. I am not trying to push this on anyone. I am only telling you that it gave me peace. Technically this blog post is one big contradiction. Here I am telling you how I used social media to help me and my wife deliver news that we could not deliver ourselves. It was a huge tool for us. It made me see so much good in people through such a heartbreaking post. However, I am also telling you that it was the biggest source of negative energy in my life and I removed it. I guess it is ironic, but just know that you have the ability to make your situation better. In my situation, I have been searching for inner peace. If there is something in the way of that, it gets removed.

7. His Purpose In Life

Taken March 27th 2015, the day we released Brad’s ashes.
In a previous post I mentioned how some couples have actually separated after the loss of a child. This was something I did not know about until we lost Brad. The thought of losing a child and then separating because of it does not sit well with me. I started hearing stories of this- mostly in the form of advice from several people. People that were concerned that this could happen to us. We were so far from that. I have referenced a term many times in my past posts: “Small Win”. How could anything be a win after losing a child? I assure you that during the first year we saw no wins. Everything was the worst. Even small problems seemed to carry crushing effects. But looking back, after trying to find peace and positivity in my life, I have chose to re-think some of these instances.  If I am going to find the positive in this negative situation, I have to go back.

Believe it or not, the day we put Brad’s ashes in the water, we thanked him. It was just the three of us there. Sarah, myself, and Brad approached his forever spot. We had not discussed what we would say. We sat there speechless for a few minutes. Finally, we decided to release his ashes, but before we did, we wanted to say a few words. It had only been a few days after his death, everything was still fresh in our mind. Sarah began to tell him what he meant, how much she loved him, and how he had changed us so much. Then I realized right there, that he had in fact had more of an impact on us than anyone or anything in both of our lives, negatively and positively. I also spoke up, confirming Sarah’s words. We thanked him repeatedly. In that moment, we went on and on about how he, our son, brought us so close to each other. He had given us a new type of life, something we did not know existed until he came into the world. Sarah and I were so much closer. He had given us that. Was that his purpose? I can answer that for him, yes it was. Our son was only in this world for a brief time, but he left the largest impact. So at the time we were telling him this, we were already discovering a type of “Small Win”. But as I said earlier, we saw no wins during the first year. It is only now, by writing, that I have discovered so much. As you read this, do not forget that the purpose of writing this in general was so I would never forget a single moment. In the future I will be able to use these writings. Hopefully I will find new things along the way, even if its years from now.

There are so many things that we will never get to know about Brad, but at least we know his purpose in life.

6. A Hand Written Letter

In my first post “She Kissed the House”, I explained that the first time I decided to write, it was a letter to Brad. To this day it remains the only thing pertaining to this blog that I have physically written on paper. There is something captivating about a hand-written letter. Written words carry emotions with them. Try this: think about your child or your partner even, sending you a text message that says, “I Love You”. Now, think about finding a post-it note with the same, “I Love You”, but hand-written and signed by that person.

Which one would be more meaningful to you? The note would. Moreover, you would take that note and place it in a special spot. A hand-written note moves you so much that you want to encounter it as often as possible.  I am confident that as you read this you are already envisioning a moment in the past where this has happened to you. This is not some groundbreaking discovery. We all know this.

It was finally time. I had summoned enough courage to pick up the pen. As I started to write, I immediately felt like he was over my shoulder reading every word. Here is where my mind was at that time: if I could speak with Brad, but I only had 5 minutes, what would the conversation be about. He obviously knows how much we miss him. He knows of his brother Brannon and his sister Mila. What could I tell him that he did not know? Something that would impress him, or even make him smile. It did not take long to figure it out. I would explain to him how we chose his name.

At some point in life, every child questions their parents about where their name derived from. Since this was one of the many parent/child moments taken from Sarah and I, it felt like a perfect start. When we chose his name, it felt so right. I had envisioned often the conversations we would have about it. The same conversations I have had with Brannon and even 4-year-old Mila.

My letter to him was simple, it read,

“I can not remember how long it took us to decide your name, but I do know that once we did, we were 100% sure that it would not change. When we started thinking about it we had only one goal in mind, we wanted it to be a very strong name. As I remember it, the first name that came to your mom’s head was her grand father, William Miller. In my mind William was a very strong name, I liked it. I also thought it was pretty cool that my mom’s father was named William as well. It seemed as if it was meant to be! Though it was easy to say that would be your first name, we thought hard about your middle name. Your sister Milas’ name came from a well respected actress. We just thought her name sounded great and was a little different, your mom and I are a little different ourselves, so it just felt right. Naturally it made me think about my favorite actor when thinking of your name, Brad Pitt. So I looked him up on the internet. Guess what? His first name is William. William Bradley Pitt. Again it seemed as if it was meant to be. Also, I found that Brad Pitt was born on a very distinct day, Mila’s birthday. This was now a very easy decision for us. We liked the name so much that we decided to let you go by Brad but keep William as the first name, William Bradley White. Not long after we found out you were a boy we started referring to you as Brad. There was no question, it just seemed right. You were going to go through life as Brad White, which I also thought sounded similar to your brother’s name Brannon White. All these similarities were not coincidence, they were what I saw as signs.”

That is how the letter ended too. I did not want it to end, just in case I left something off, or wanted to pick it back up. The relief I had from that short letter was enormous. It lifted so much weight off me. It made me feel close to him. I am sharing this with you because I feel like it can help you too. Not everything in life comes gift wrapped. Unexpected death of a loved one is the greatest example of that. You wish you could have said goodbye. You think about the last time you saw them. You wish you could communicate to them one last time. The pain is unreal. This short letter relieved some of that pain- not all, but some. Again, I do not think this is a ground breaking discovery, but like anything in life, sometimes you need a little validation. Sometimes you need to know that someone has done something before you yourself will try it. You may have doubts, but hopefully my story helps you push aside some of those doubts.

I have to find something positive within every negative situation, that has become my life goal. That all started the day I picked up the pen and started writing to Brad. You should try it too, you never know where it may lead you.