The Child Left Behind….

How blessed we have been to have Natalie in our lives. She was only 17 mos.old when we first met. Brandon had been dating her mother off and on the last two years of high school. During those times that they were not dating, M. managed to get pregnant by another boy. They never married. Meanwhile, along comes goodhearted, Brandon to the rescue. I remember him telling me about her, (she lived in another city about an hour away) ..that his “best friend,” Jeremy (with him when he died) introduced them through his girlfriend, M’s “best friend.”  I remember feeling that it was a safe romance at a distance…that it would not be too serious because the miles would dilute any new found passion. I was wrong. He was able to date her because she would come to our town where her friend K. was living and would stay with her on the weekends. Convenient. This was after Brandon had gone through a couple of serious love interests already and he was ready to have a relationship with that “special someone.” By this time he had graduated and was working steadily for his dad while he contemplated the future. We so wanted him to be a part of the family business as a land surveyor and mapper, perhaps one day taking it on as his career, but that was never going to happen. He was creative and ambitious and did not want that kind of job for the rest of his life.

I met Natalie one weekend when I went to M.’s to help her move her things to an apartment right before she and Brandon married. She was a chubby, smiley-faced cherub in a denim overall, her brown hair was in two short, wispy pig tails. Her eyes were so big and bright and she took right to me as if she had known me all of her little life. She took my hand and she and I went outside while M. and Brandon began packing boxes.

Natalie was our first granddaughter…we have never referred to her as “step.” 

289Brandon felt odd about Natalie calling him “Daddy” to begin with but I told him how I thought it was only fitting because she was being raised by Brandon and not the natural father. It didn’t take long before the name stuck…and “Brandon” became “Daddy” to a little girl who won our hearts. 006Natalie was just one month shy of her 10th birthday when Brandon died. For a while, I did not think we would ever see her again but I guess her mother decided that already her “Daddy” had been taken out of her life…she needed us because we were the next best thing to having her “Daddy.”  It was a miracle that we ever heard from her again after we had confronted M. for moving in with Brandon’s so called best friend right after the memorial. But one day, right in the middle of a prayer, asking God to please let us hear from Natalie…the phone rang. I could tell from my husband’s voice, as he answered the phone, that it had to be Natalie. I was overjoyed and just crying out of grief/gladness….a conflicted mass of emotions…and the gratitude that God had just answered my desperate plea to see Natalie again. Thankfully, she has been in our lives the past five years and hopefully, forever.

I have had so many miraculous answers to prayer and questions since our tragedy. One day I will list them. It may seem coincidental to those who have no faith but I can vouch for answered prayers in the face of this loss. I have had to guess as to why the prayers that were always prayed about the safety and well-being of my family over a lifetime went unanswered as I would like them. At the same time, God has given me comfort with making the most impossible things happen as I have been in this grief. I was looking for God in all of this and He answered in His good time.

Brandon, Natalie is 15 yrs. old and becoming a we always predicted. You always thought she would grow up to be a model. And jokingly said that she would enter the convent (although not Catholic) so that boys would be out of the picture. LOL. She battles all the emotions of her age group, peer pressure and acne. She has anger about what her life has been like without you. I sometimes fear for her future. After all, she still has the mother she has always had. Your love could never “fix” everything. There have been two victims of the woman you and Natalie. I just pray that her future will be a miracle. IMG_6638



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