>Remembering Our Loved Ones

>Yesterday, May 13, 2010 marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of a dear friend of mine, Brandon Alexander Clarke. He was so very young, not even thirty when he passed. I frequently think of Brandon. I can hear his laugh and see his smile. I look at pictures of him, of us, of him with friends and associates…and I smile as I hold back the tears. Tears of sadness and tears of joy having known such a wonderfully talented, intelligent, loving, kind, humorous (and goofy at times), and giving man who I valued and respected on so many levels.

In six short years Brandon and I grew to be very close friends. When he was first diagnosed with cancer he kept the findings a secret, sharing with only close friends and family. I was honored when he asked me to come visit him in the hospital. We would sit there for hours laughing, joking and talking about everything under the sun. I even cracked jokes when he asked me to rub his feet and legs (to help with his circulation)…I tried to keep a straight face as I looked him in the eyes and said, “Brandon you would come up with anything to get me to rub your feet and treat you like royalty” and he replied that that was true and then with a sly grin he stated that he was royalty; we then cracked up laughing. I remember him teasing me the first day I visited him because I had lost even more weight since the last time he had seen me and he commented in only the way he knew how with me, “uh girl your butt has disappeared…where did it go? Hurry, go find it and quick….”

I remember years ago when we worked together at Club Wet in Brea at Bar 330, where Brandon and a few of our other friends were promoters and I was responsible for helping oversee and manage the night’s operations for another dear friend Kristian (the man behind Club Wet). One evening after I was done with my responsibilities, I walked towards the dance floor and began chatting with patrons making sure they were enjoying their evening, and Brandon walked up typing away on his Side Kick. It seemed like his Side Kick was glued to his hands and I always teased him about it (now I see the addiction since I own a Blackberry and can’t seem to put it down). So that evening I made a sassy comment about his Side Kick and somehow we got on the topic of security code breaking and whether women were truly gifted enough to break a man’s phone code. I told him that it was indeed possible and that I was confident that I could break his code in a matter of minutes. He challenged me to break his three-digit code, confident that after a few tries I would give up. Anyone that knows me knows that I love challenges and I love trash-talking. I grabbed the phone and in 30 seconds I entered his code and handed him back his phone with a huge smile on my face.

Brandon’s mouth almost hit the floor as he kept staring at his phone and back at me several times. “How did you know my code? How did you figure it out? It could have been any combination of three numbers and you knew my code,” he whined. I laughed and told him I knew it would be an area code and one that no one would ever guess, but since I was born in that area it was the first on my mind. Brandon was stunned. I teased him about that incident for years after…even his last days here with us on Earth I could not resist mentioning that evening. Brandon still had a SideKick.

I can recall birthdays, celebrations, clubbing, and long talks. I can recall the excitement in his voice when he called to tell me he was graduating from college. I can remember our last lunch together when I came for a visit and he took me and my sister to eat off the coast in south Orange County. That day he wanted to talk about everything except his battle with cancer. He wanted to talk about our friendship, about our wishes and dreams, about our love of the ocean, and about how I would keep these youngsters away from my sister (who was still at teenager at the time). I smile every time I look at pictures he sent me of his puppy Kanye. We would joke about how I would get Kanye a girlfriend.

Yesterday I returned from a beautiful mini-vacation where I had the chance to visit a place that I longed to see since I was seven years old, the very place my father promised to take me. I had waited 26-27 years for this trip and it absolutely took my breath away. While I was there I could feel my dad’s presence and at times it was overwhelming. The promise was kept. Coming home as I looked at the clouds below and surrounding the plane, and at the water and patches of land I thought of Brandon. I thought of God’s grace, mercy, and the blessings that he brings us daily. I was and am so blessed to have had and still have my father and Brandon in my life. I am blessed to keep the memory of all of my loved ones alive as I often reflect on years of moments I shared with each of them, Once home I returned to my own life’s battles and fears, and I surrendered to the peace of “dealing with that tomorrow”.

I have had regrets in my life that I have been told I should not regret and in turn should let go of those feelings. I did not get the chance to say good bye to my father before he passed in 2001. I did not get the chance to say one last time, “I love you dad”. I did not get this opportunity with my friend Tracey who fought and lost her long battle with lupus; I did not get the chance with many of my family members who suddenly passed away. With Brandon I got the chance. I saved our text messages from the days before he took his last breath. I got the chance to tell my friend that I love him and I valued our friendship. I got to tell him how hurt I was that he kept the news (that doctors had only given him a short time to live) from me because he was trying to “protect me” and to avoid feeling as though he was “burdening someone”. Those last days my friend told me he loved me too and that everything was okay. The day he passed he was surrounded by loved ones. I could not be there for his memorial service and it tore me up inside…until our other friend (also named) Brandon spoke the most comforting words to me that brought me some peace and resolve.

From that moment I knew that I was there, just as our joy-filled friend was here with me…and still is! In my heart and mind Brandon is with me and my memories of him and our friendship keeps him alive always. I share this story with everyone because I am sure that each of you have lost at least one loved one. Maybe you had the opportunity to say those last words that were on and in your heart, maybe you did not. One thing you can always know to be true is that in you they continue to live. Honor them today and every day by doing good, living well, and treating your mind and body like the special gifts that they are…that way you are here longer to share your memories of love with others.

Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Natasha L. Foreman