Remembering Brian

I remember very clearly reading over a draft of Brian’s letter, currently posted under “Brittany’s story” before adding it onto the website. We wanted to paint of picture of Brittany and her life for those who knew and loved her as well as those who never got the chance to meet her.  How do you possibly fit all the love and light of one little girl’s life onto a sheet of paper? You really can’t. Yet Brian managed to compose a beautiful testament to his goddaughter and give insight into the amazing person she was.

 Never in a million years did I think I’d be faced with the same impossible task just a few short years later.  While words could never do justice, I want to do my best to try and explain the impact Brian had on the lives of so many, including mine.

When Brian brought up the idea of creating a non-profit foundation in memory of Brittany shortly after she passed away,  it was consistent with the giving and big hearted personality he has had since I’ve known him.  Always willing to help others, the first people Brian helped through BFB were the very people he enlisted to get the organization off the ground. The first Breathe for Britt “meeting” consisted of Brian, Bekah and I sitting in a Starbucks with our laptops and notebooks, tossing out ideas. We didn’t yet have a name for the foundation, a specific mission or a game plan.  But during a time of overwhelming sadness, Brian gave Bekah and I a sense of hope and purpose through his vision for the foundation. He helped us take the loss we were feeling and do something meaningful with it.  For me, that was an invaluable gift and something I will never forget.  

As the foundation began to take shape, Brian was a source of encouragement every step of the way. When preparing for our first car wash, Brian solicited donations for supplies and scored some free car wash, buckets and sponges.  I was impressed that strangers were so willing to help our cause so Brian told me next time, you can do it. He stuck to it. I wasn’t thrilled. A few weeks later, prior to car wash number two, I found myself walking into Lowes equipped with  letterhead, sweaty palms and Brian’s voice in my head telling me, just ask for what you want and remember Brittany is with you.

Fast forward a few years and “You want me to do WHAT??” had given way to “ Brian, let’s meet with so and so and see how they can help BFB.” Brian had a way of gently pushing me to extend outside my comfort zone and his influence allowed me to grow in so many ways. His support, guidance and confidence in me has helped shape who I am today. Brian’s approach to the foundation and his outlook on lifehas taught me about persistence, teamwork, commitment and to always, always keep hoping. You never know what may come next. Brian led by example and his dedication to BFB was an inspiration to those around him.

Brian’s work with the Breathe for Britt foundation was a continuation of the giving nature he has demonstrated throughout his life.  As a volunteer on the pediatric floor at Stony Brook University  Medical Center, he was adored by patients and their families and a favorite of staff and other volunteers. He had a gift for connecting with children and was a true support and friend to parents dealing with the stresses of hospitalization of a child. He possessed a natural ability to be a source of  positive energy to even the most seriously ill children. Brian far exceeded his volunteer duties each time he stepped onto the 11th floor pediatric unit and his contribution was formally recognized when he was named Volunteer of the Year.

No one could attest to Brian’s big heart more than his family. Brian was a beloved son, a brother, uncle and godfather to several children. The major role he played in the lives of his family, especially his nieces and nephews, was a reflection of his caring and nurturing spirit. He was also a true friend, the kind of friend that I think people only come across few times in their lives, if at all.  He was the type of person who truly listened when you spoke and genuinely cared and wanted what was best for the people in his life. He was the best advice giver, the best cheerleader, the best joke-cracker, the best chef.  To know Brian was to know that someone was looking out for you and had your back. Most of all, Brian was someone you could count on.  He was there when you needed him. Maybe slightly late, maybe getting a little detoured along the way (perhaps due to others difficulties in giving directions) but Brain ALWAYS showed up.  

I think one of the greatest examples of Brian’s character and heart was his relationship with Brittany. His reliable presence in Britt’s life, his investment in her wellbeing and willingness to drop everything to be there for her was awe inspiring. Brian cared for her as his own and Brittany loved him dearly. The two of them shared a special bond that extended beyond words. After Brittany passed away, the extraordinary strength and determination Brian demonstrated in his mission to honor her life and spirit will always be remembered.        

Through his work with the Breathe for Britt Foundation, Brian left behind a legacy of giving that is a testimony to his character. He touched the lives of so many and was loved more than he could possibly know. Brian will be forever missed and his absence will always be felt, but his good work will carry on. The foundation will continue with Brian’s mission, now with the challenge of honoring two angels.  I feel blessed to have had both of these special people in my life who have each had a profound impact on who I am. I hope the future of Breathe for Britt Foundation will make them both proud.

                                                                             As Brian would say, Peace,   Laura