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Monday, June 27, 2016

Brooke-Town


 



My B-Town.

Fierce. That’s how I describe Brooke. I think the hardest thing right now is switching my description of her to the past tense. Because to me, Brooke always IS. Not WAS. She moved with a ferocity through life that had nothing to do with her crazy sugar highs of Dr. Pepper and chocolate cake. 
For breakfast.

She’s not a past tense girl. She’s a right now girl.

Brooke wanted to become a rocket scientist. So she did. She wanted to become a pilot. So she did. Brooke wanted to fill a barge with supplies for Africa. So she did.
Teaching the kids at the orphanage the importance of sound effects
Brooke worked for the government writing and approving finances and proposals for space, but she wanted to write slam poetry and become a deejay. So she did. Oh, and did I mention how she went to India for a month to worship school because she wanted to learn to play the... wait for it... sitar. Why? Who the hell knows?
         
Brooke wanted to change the world. Literally. Not just as a cliche platitude. So she did. She changed everyone she came in contact with. She blew in like a force 12 on the Beaufort scale and you never were the same. You were winded and exhilarated. And hungry for more. She made you think. She made you laugh. She made you feel loved.  
  
And her eloquence. Her word choice. How the words that came forth from her mouth in spontaneity felt like a choreographed dance:
"Dear October" written and performed by Brooke after her first bout with breast cancer.

She was so tender. But so fierce. This world wasn’t meant to stay the same if you lived in it. That was her mindset. Let’s make a plan. Let’s go. Let’s shift things and get uncomfortable. She was so rich in thought, and so antsy to make things better, more efficient, more thriving.

Brooke was a macro thinker.

I think that’s why she had such a problem with God’s plan for her life. Our trip to Uganda is the perfect example. 


The city of Gulu was a mess. Chaotic. Hundreds of sick children waiting outside of the hospital. Villages ravaged by Kony and his rebel army. I, unlike Brooke, am a very micro thinker. Give me a kid to love that day and I’m golden. I can pour into that kid and feel I did what I’m wired to do. But Brooke wasn’t wired that way. Isn’t wired that way. I went home after the trip, and it didn’t take me long to decompress and adjust back to American life. Gulu was too big of a problem for my mind to solve. I knew I did what I could. I had peace with that. 
 
But Brooke. Brooke was a wreck. For weeks. She wanted to solve Gulu’s problem. Unbeknownst to me, while my mind was occupied jumping rope with the Gulu neighborhood kids, her mind was thinking of infrastructure. Of fixing the whole city of Gulu. 
 
And she felt she was intelligent enough to come up with a solution, so she was dashed against the rocks when she couldn’t design one. Couldn’t wrap her head around how to solve the suffering. The problem was too overwhelming, too much even for Brooke’s brilliant mind, and she wrestled and fought against that truth. 

In Africa: "Oh, Americans...Worst Clothes Donation Award goes to Lion King Eskimo Outfit"
2nd Place: Thermal Underwear. For those chilly below 118 degree nights.




In the same way, when the cancer came back terminal, Brooke couldn’t accept it. God, you are the designer of everything, you know the inner workings of my body, we are co-workers here on earth, you’ve said so yourself, so let’s work together to fix this. It isn’t a city. It’s just a person. It’s me. Your beloved. And I’m damn smart. So let’s solve this. And when she finally realized she couldn’t, she surrendered it to Him in full hope that He would. Because Brooke was a fixer. A solver. A healer. And He, by definition, had to be better at all those things than her. 
"Take THAT, chemo!"

So totally 80s
"Who am I?"
The Don King


Ladies Night






Done! Celebrating the first time she kicked cancer's ass.

 

But here is where the world often goes awry in their understanding of God. People shake their fists and shout, “Why her? Why not someone who wasted life? Someone who didn’t try to make this world better? Why Brooke? Why so soon? Her thirties?”

Brooke believes God's words, so I will share a few of them: "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

The truth is this: Our worth in God’s eyes is not deemed by length of days. God has numbered our days before we are born. Given us each a different amount. Each a different lot. June 24, 2016 had been marked before she was born. It gives me peace to know it was decided, and it’s not a failure on someone’s part — a doctor, an earlier checkup, a different choice of meds — He had given her these days, the beautiful ones to the ones at the wretched end, and he trusted her enough to believe that she would hold on to Him through this all. And she did. A short while ago, she wrote this in a piece on bravery: 

"I’m not sure how to encourage you when I’m so deeply in the midst of figuring my own business out, but I will say this: Life is beautiful. Every sunny day running the dog, or crummy day in the bathroom. The ones that take five pain pills and the ones that only need two. I think we are meant to know that it’s ok to feel it all – the hurt and fear and joy and love and even anger. Because we are loved by a complete God. And He gets it. All of it. We get to be brave by being true to what’s actually happening and living in daily moments of resurrection.” Here is her whole article if you want to read her thoughts on bravery.

She wrestled with God like Jacob did. Argued with Him like King David did. Even yelled at Him for his sadistic plan of giving up his only Son to a life and death of suffering. She understood suffering. And out of her suffering, she was raw and scathingly honest. But she believed. She believed He did what He did. Didn’t like it, but didn’t deny it. And God was not thwarted by her volume. He loved her through it. Adored her. Understood her pain. Grieved with her. Remained by her side. And welcomed her, His sweet feisty world-shoving beloved, by holding her and wiping every tear from her eyes.  
B's FB status: Beach View? Check. Huevos Rancheros? Check. Great Company? Check.
Cancer doesn't take you softly. There were texts when she would describe what was happening to her body, and I would sob as I texted her back what I knew were weightless stupid words. So, why? Why her thirties? Why a world changer? Why cancer - the pain ripping demon that is relentless and so unfair in how it steals your life so savagely? 

I don’t know.  

But somehow in the eye of the chaotic storm of heartbreak choking me on all sides, I know that God remains good. I know it like I know I have breath. 
In London in a bathroom not made for short people

Believe me, I have not committed intellectual suicide to have my faith. It is so much easier not to believe. I do not know how those two can simultaneously be truths — her suffering and God’s goodness. Maybe it’s my simple-minded micro thinking. But I don’t think so. I didn’t solve Gulu the day I jump roped with the neighborhood children. But my jump roping was part of the plan. Necessary. Beautiful. Perfect in the eyes of the kids that day. God used me in that. I was working the way I was wired. And right now, I think Brooke is so grateful for my relentless and stubborn faith. Because she’d want you all to know that she is whole right now. Healed. Alive. Wreaking havoc in heaven, no less, but alive. 
She IS. Not WAS.



The missing doesn’t go away. That’s the most heart-wrenching part of death. If Brooke had lived 80 years, and left before me, it would not have felt like enough time. Our hearts were not built for death and separation. Everything in the very core of us rebels against it. I want her with me. Now. In this moment. As she would say...

I know it’s hardly been enough time yet for me to miss her. But I miss what is yet to come because now I know that it won’t anymore. I don’t get more memories with her.


And she’s a damn good memory maker. From sailing to trapezing to Paris to Mammoth to Vegas. And it was never just dinner. It was dinner in the rain in a DC outdoor cafe under our umbrellas. 

It wasn’t just an African safari. It was a safari where we sat on a luggage rack atop of a soccer mom van offroading towards a lion with Brooke and Paul bantering and joking that, to the lion, we looked like we were on a dinner plate being presented to him. 

If there were $3 machetes being sold at the Quicky Picky, then hands down we were buying them with our grape sodas. 
 
And as we hiked in utter darkness, it was her crying wolf at every snap of twig that it was a “Cobra!” until she jumped on me screaming and I blew her off laughing… and it really was a cobra. 

I am SO grateful to God for the gift of these memories. She made my world better.

There’s a beautiful art piece called “Ancient of Days” by William Blake. In it, God is holding out a compass into this dark void below Him, mapping out the world and life and time all from above. 
He sees it all. There is no way from our perspective, below the base of His compass in the picture, inside of time, that we can see what He sees. And yet we try, don’t we? We scream and holler and shout that we could do a better job, or when things don’t make sense, that He must not be up there; the truth is, we don’t want to hate Him. We just want to understand. And when we don’t, we get frustrated and angry. We long to climb up on His shoulders and look for one moment so we can get it — make sense of it all. We hate the confusion. The darkness. But His promise is that the clarity will come. "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known." (1 Cor. 13:12)

God created the earth in a finite time period. And yes, it’s beautiful. But it’s also broken. He says He is preparing a place in heaven for us. Still. If this world, which we love and never want to leave, is so great, then it is but a shadow of what heaven is. Heaven is not boring. We will not sit on clouds and play harps. It will be better than here. And I will see her again. There. And He will wipe every tear from our eyes when we are reunited. And we will know fully, even as we are fully known. But for now, we must be good to her and ask, “What would she want of us?” What would she want of you? And then make a plan. And do it. She always did.


Miss u too, B-town. Miss u too.





8 comments:

  1. Beautiful, Heather, thanks for sharing. I never met Brooke but feel like I have through your words. Thankful for your boldness in sharing everything you did!

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  2. Beautiful, Heather, thanks for sharing. I never met Brooke but feel like I have through your words. Thankful for your boldness in sharing everything you did!

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  3. Thank you Heather - for this very beautiful message. I am taking it to heart and am planning to start an internship program in her name: Brooke also Dawn Air and Space Sisters BADASS (working title). I plan to ask everyone who she inspired in our communities to provide internships for college-age women. I'll need volunteers to help spread the message - we'll want to reach a broad spectrum of colleges and universities to tell her story and offer the opportunity. The goal is to open Brooke's fields of passion (aviation and space) to a whole new generation of women. Imagine ten, 20, 50 or 100 each year, hearing Brooke's story and being inspired to set goals audacious goals for themselves. Just in early stages of planning - but have to do something to channel my sadness into a a positive outcome. Her spirit is so big that even death shouldn't end her accomplishment... she was right - she did change the world.

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  4. Thank you for sharing, brought tears to my eyes....so blessed to having a true friend like Brooke!

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  5. Beautiful tribute Heather! I knew Brooke in college and I loved that adventurous spirit about her! She would be so honored by your words here and it consoles us to know she is wrapped in the arms of God sharing all the crazy adventures she had with you (and so many of us) down here on earth...healthy and healed! Brooke will be missed! But see you soon again, Brooke!

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  6. Thank you Heather. Explains why she feels near. She is.

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  7. This is beautiful! She was wonderful, and I am heartbroken along side you with this news. She will certainly be missed.

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