Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Rest In Peace, Brantly Steve Kirkham
Boy, is life hard sometimes. This past weekend was one of the saddest I have experienced. Thursday we recieved the terrible news that my 18 year old cousin, Brantly, had taken his own life. It really came as a complete shock to everyone. He was such a nice, smart, good kid. How could this happen?
Depression is a running biological/emotional "trend" in the Kirkham family. Apparently over the last 7 months or so, Brantly has suffered from it so severely that it quickly spiraled into this tragedy. His parents got him help and loved him all along the way and they did all they could.
Brantly was one of the nicest, brightest kids you could ever meet. He was the first born of my dad's youngest brother, Steve. When I first hugged Steve sobbing, he said to me(paraphrasing) "Chris, Brantly never did anything to shame us. He never swore, he was always respectful, he was full of love for everyone. Up to his last weeks he was studying his scriptures and going to missionary prep classes. He was the one we never had to worry about. He was the perfect child. In that I can be at peace. But this depression got to him like a cancer and destroyed him." Steve said Brantly was everything they hoped for in a child.
It completely breaks my heart to know that Brantly was hurting so much inside, enough to take his own life. There is no way Brantly would do this in his right mind. Whatever it was had to be so severe that, like my uncle said, it took him like cancer. I wish so bad I could have been there for him somehow! Only God knows what was in Brantly's heart, and I know that whatever burden he had, that same God is freeing him from it right now.
My heart breaks even more when I think of Steve and Valon and the rest of their family. My only desire these past few days has been to help them in every way I could, which frustratingly isn't much else than being here for them.
Because our family is so incredibly close, it has made this so very hard. I have never seen this family so unglued before, and it was nearly unbearable. Still, through this tragedy, I witnessed and felt such a great love this weekend. In typical Kirkham fashion, there was as much laughing and irreverent joking as there was crying. The running joke was "Some shitty reunion this turned out to be..." and Grandpa kept saying "When do we eat?" Steve even mentioned that Brant had nice Dolby surround sound speakers equipped in the casket (sp?). We all came together and will keep moving together through this. Steve said "these last few days, ironically, will probably be the easiest. Its when the family starts trickling back to their homes that its going to hit hard." I pray so much that they can be comforted. We're here for you guys! Always!
Sorrow aside, it was such a good funeral. Such a strong spirit of love for Brantly. My Grandpa (who gave a beautiful talk) said it is the biggest funeral he has ever seen.
Well, I actually don't want this to be completely depressing. I'd like to pay tribute to Brant with some stories and memories of the lil guy.So many fond memories of the kid.
- When he was just a baby his family moved out to St Louis while my family lived across the Mississippi in Illinois. I was about 7 or 8 at the time. I can remember his family staying out our house and Brantly used to sleep in my room on the floor. I would look down at him to make sure he was doing ok, but when morning came, he wasn't there! I quickly looked around my room, and the lil chub was sitting in the corner just staring at me with the classic Brantly grin. I can also remember going to their house to swim, as their appartment complex had a pool.
- Brantly was quite the whiner as a youngin. He sounded astoundingly similar to Pee Wee Herman. His dad would always say "Quit milkin' it, Brant!" and we would all make "milking the cow" hand gestures.
- This story has turned into somewhat of a legend since nobody remembers it. But I have an old cassette tape of me and another cousin talking to each other in which he says "Did you hear how Brantly got out of the bath and put a lip balm cap right on his unit? It fit perfectly like a little hat!" Whether it happened or not, it sounds like Brantly to me. : )
- When he was about 4 years old, my family was living in Japan, and we came to Idaho for the summer. Lil Brant was my sidekick that summer. I had a good 7 years on him, but he was the cutest kid and I didn't mind him following me around! I remember after that summer Valon telling me he would sometimes ask "When is Chris coming to visit?" That always made me feel good : )
- One Thanksgiving as all the grandkids were chillin' at a table downstairs, Brantly exclaimed "Sometimes my dad does the 'Ass Dance' and shakes his ass like this." He proceeded to shake it as we all laughed. Did he just say "Ass Dance?" Later, I went upstairs and said to his dad "What are you teachin your kid? He told us all about your Ass Dance!" Steve (claimed) he had no clue what that was about. His mom called him upstairs and said "Brantly, a little bird came by and told me you were saying some naughty words" He started Pee Wee Hermanizing: "Aw...but...meh... a bird?" So I guess the claim that he never swore doesn't hold TOO much water ; )
We all got older, and of course when that happens you don't see as much of your family as you once did. I'd always see him at family reunions and get togethers, and through the years, despite being 7 years or so older, I always had a special place for Brant in my heart because of the many fond memories I had. The last time I saw him was a few months ago as I sat next to him at the table for a card game with some other cousins and grandma and grandpa. We talked about him getting ready to go on a mission and how he wanted to go to Japan (which is where two of our uncles, my dad, my cousin, and I all went). I know he's serving a good mission elsewhere right now.
Apparently, at Shelley High School where Brant attended, a tradition went around for some holiday (I can't remember that detail) where guys would give girls a can of Orange Crush. His senior year, Brantly bought one for every girl in his senior class. That's what kind of kid he was. He was a Christ-like example if there ever was one. Which makes this all so much harder to comprehend.
Its been very hard for me these past few days. At work I kept hearing music that I know he liked, and when Cass called me I couldn't hold it anymore. I had to go in the back room and just let it out.
Life is too short, people! Let those around you know you love them. Help those around you, and let those around you help. Steve and Valon said the last few weeks they have just been having a great time and being together as a family. They couldn't have planned a better last few weeks even if they knew what would happen. That makes me so happy to hear.
We know you are watching over us, buddy. We love and miss you so much.
I dedicate a few songs to my cousin and the ones that loved him. Take a listen and read the lyrics too:
SWITCHFOOT - DARE YOU TO MOVE (I know Brantly liked these guys)
311 - BEYOND THE GRAY SKY
COLDPLAY - EVERYTHING'S NOT LOST
SUFJAN STEVENS - COME THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING
SIMON & GARFUNKEL - BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER