Tuesday, November 1, 2016

2 Years

November 1st will always be a day I hold near and dear to my heart. I know that no matter how much time passes, no matter the events that may take place, whenever the calendar reads 11/1 it will be a day that symbolizes a lot for me and my family. 

2 years ago, my little brother Britton, who at the time was 16, was on a date for a high school dance and he and his date were riding in an ATV when they lost control and it rolled. My brother was ejected and the vehicle rolled directly over him crushing his skull. Everything that happened from that point on was nothing short of miraculous. My brother was in a position where he was surely coming up on his last breaths here on this earth. His date along with some of the other kids in the group, and bypassing strangers (whom we all consider our angels on this day) played a crucial role in keeping him here with us until the life flight could arrive to their remote location. I could go on and on about everything that took place that day, and all of the tiny miracles that amounted to the saving of Britt's life. He spent 3 months in the ICU under a coma. His brain had swelled so much that had it gone a single millimeter more he wouldn't be here. For 3 months his fragile and broken body lied in a hospital bed unresponsive. I remember falling asleep next to his bed to the sound of the machine that breathed for him. I remember waking up instantly every time the monitors started beeping irregularly. The way we would all close our eyes and turn away when they would move or maneuver his body in any way. Or praying that every time they took him down for a CT scan or MRI that he would come back. I remember watching drip by drip the fluid pumping in and out of his brain, and watching his breathing tube clamp open and shut every time he took a breath. There were all these little things, hundreds of them. That consumed every bit of me. They were hard days. Going to bed at night and not knowing if we'd get a next day. My heart dropping every time I'd hear the phone ring. Scary days. Hearing the flatline on the heart monitor and dozens of nurses and doctors rushing into his room to revive him. Seeing my my mom's heart breaking from the inside out as she watched her boy hang on to his life by a thread. Listening to the way Ledger's voice would shake as he'd hold his big brothers hand tight and tell him to get better fast so they could play catch. Or the way Greyson would stand in the corner of the room, too afraid to get close becuase he didn't understand what was going on. Watching my dad try so hard to hold back his tears, but a few always slipping away. Everything was constant, it was like we were in this dream and all of our feelings and senses were being magnified. They were also good days, happy days full of blessings and love. Walking into the waiting room to find hundreds of friends and family waiting anxiously for news, and opportunities to serve us. Being there just to be there. Hundreds, everyday, for 3 months straight. The doctors and nurses that were literally sent from above to help and be with us during every second of every day. Incredible individuals who undoubtably had the skill and the spirit to save my sweet brother, and to assure and comfort my family and I in our hardest moments. 

Somedays it was as if absolute fear crept inside of my bones and shook the very core of me. Not knowing if my brother would ever wake up. Not knowing if I would ever get back the Britt I so loved and adored. Not knowing or understanding how and why this had to happen to him, or how we could go on leading a normal life without our sweet boy if it were to come to that. There were times when I would doubt, times when I would question my faith, and my God. Moments where I felt like I had never experienced such sorrow and darkness. But then, somehow the light always found its way through. It was necessary to feel all of these feelings and emotions I think. Looking back on it I'm not ashamed of the fear or the doubt, becuase it paved the way for much better, stronger and more lasting feelings to mend and fix the broken and hurt parts of me. The Lord's hand put everything that needed fixing back together. I witnessed too many miracles to doubt that God was ever so present. I saw and felt things that touched my heart in ways I cant explain through words. I felt the love he had for my family and me, as well as my sweet brother. The power of prayer moved mountains for us, I know that he was conscious of our needs as well as my brothers.  I know he heard and answered every single prayer from all over the world. I felt the love he had for my brother, so strongly. I didn't know a love like that existed. So deep and unconditional. I could feel the love he had for me and my family as we went through the high's and low's of each day, constantly having to lean on the strength of the atonement for comfort and peace. I gained a new appreciation and understanding of the atonement in a way I didn't know was applicable. Whenever the fear, anger, or sadness would creep in, the faith I had in God's plan and his power to perform and deliver miracles would immediately shut those feelings out. It was incredible, given the situation of my brothers health, that I could feel with such conviction that he was going to make it. That he was going to be okay. How lucky we are to have a merciful and loving God who is all knowing and all capable. I held tight to the testimony I had of God's plan during this time, and it always brought me the peace and clarity I needed. 

Britton eventually reached a point in which all of his vitals were stable and he could be transferred to a rehab unit. He was still in a coma, but became responsive to commands. He was in the Neuro Rehab unit for close to 3.5 months. In his time there he regained consciousness and came out of his comatose state. He began physical therapy, where he would relearn to do everything he once did so easily. I remember some of those first weeks, learning how to give a thumbs up or thumbs down and how to shake his head yes or no. I remember the first time he was able to sit up all by himself, that took him weeks and weeks to learn. Some of the hardest days were watching him struggle time after time trying to get his body to perform the most basic functions. As hard and as disappointing as it was, he continued to try and work harder. I wish i could describe the spirit he had during those days. So determined and strong. The day we left the neuro unit was the day that Britt took his first steps on his own. I had never felt so proud of someone in my life. 

When Britt was finally able to come home he was in a wheelchair and still had to be hand fed. He had to be helped in the shower, in the bathroom, getting dressed, you name it. He couldn't do anything for himself. As the days and months passed by he continued therapy every day, becoming stronger and stronger. Still facing a lot of up's and down's, he continued to progress despite the setbacks. 

2 years later and here we are. Honestly, i cant believe it has been 2 whole years. To look back on the day it happened, and to see where he is now. I didn't know if we would ever get to this point, but how incredibly blessed we are to be here. Britton has come so far from that night I walked into his room and saw him for the first time after his accident. All i could see was a lifeless boy I couldn't recognize because of the trauma. When I look at Britt today I see a handsome, healthy, fun loving, and courageous man. He truly has been through the worst of it. He has faced incredible adversity. Yet, he stands with such strength. 

The aftermath of a brain injury is something you cannot be prepared for. It is something you cannot predict, or know how to handle it when it happens. To say things have only improved and gotten better over the last couple of years wouldn't be entirely true. There are days and weeks that have been very comparable if not harder than those months in the ICU. Like i said in my last post, it is a different kind of hard. Britton's brain was very severely damaged. The effects it has had on him can sometimes be very difficult to handle and cope with. People always ask if he is the same Britt as before the accident. Absolutely not, but he also isn't a different person either. His injury makes it hard for him to always be in control of certain things and aspects of his life. But I cant help but look into his green eyes and see the Britt I've always known. He makes us laugh, so hard and smile so big. But he has his moments, as we all do, where things aren't a walk in the park. Everyday I thank the heavens for my mom and dad. Those two are truly heaven sent. The perfect examples of patience and christlike love. They have their hands more than full most of the days, and somehow continue to love and build our family up through it all. There's days i feel like our family is on the verge of falling completely a part, and days I feel like we are stronger than ever becuase of all of it. Britt knows and understands what has happened to him. He get's that things are different, and that he is different. This has proven to be the most difficult thing for him and his progression towards healing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I will never pretend like I understand his situation, what he is going through and what it must feel like. But I know that he is going to have hard days, and that is okay. We have come to agreement with that, and we handle them as best as we know how. But he has and will continue to have more good days, i know that. He is working so hard towards recovery, in all aspects. He tries his best to be positive and happy, and find the good in things. I can see his desire to succeed and i admire it so much. I'm so lucky to call such an amazing boy my brother. 

We sure have come far the last couple of years. Not a day goes by that I don't think about where we once were, where we are now and where we hope to go. I know that he will continue to grow and learn over time and that he can achieve anything and be anyone he wants to be. The love and support our family has received has completely changed our lives. I know Britt wouldn't be where he is today without all of your service and prayers. I still feel overwhelmed when I think back on the incredible amount of love, friendship and kindness that was shown to us, and continues to be to this day. Thank you for never giving up on him and thank you for always Believing for our Britt <3

XOXO Autumn

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Different Kind of Hard

I know it's been a while. Life, right? It's hard to ask others for help...especially when people have already done so much for you. And if you're anything like me and always trying to fix things for yourself, well then....you feel me on this. But sometimes the load is simply to heavy to bare by yourself, and you have no other options. Lately I feel like we've run out of options. So I am writing tonight, for the first time in 5ish months, because we can't fix this by ourselves. We need your help. I think my mom and dad would agree with me when I say, we feel like writing a giant SOS on a sandy beach in hopes to be rescued hahaha. We weren't prepared for this kind of thing. 

If you are reading this chances are you are familiar with the story, everything that happened last November with my brother Britton. So, chances are you've already helped us more than we could ever ask. Everyone who was there for us, and for him during that time, we are forever indebted to you. Your love, support and prayers are the very reason he's where he is today.  

It's strange though, because i thought the hard part was over. I mean, obviously I knew that things would never really be the same and there was going to be a very long hard road ahead...but the REALLY hard part, the part where every day was a giant question mark, yeah...that part, was supposed to be over. 

But here I am, here we are as a family...18 months later, and it's a different kind of hard. A hard that cuts a little deeper, and stings a little more. So it seems. It was supposed to get easier with time. That's what we figured at least. My brother overcame a million obstacles, saw a million miracles, and continued to progress day in and day out. Sure things were different now, but it was supposed to get easier. 

You know how every time on the movies when someone is in a coma, they just magically wake up one day and go on with their merry lives without a single problem? Well, real life's not a movie hahaha. Wish it was, right? (Someone needs to inform Nicholas Sparks) But part of me thought that with time, slowly but surely we would go on with our lives, Britt would go on with his and the problems would slowly go away and we would all live happily ever after. 

Lately I've had difficulty understanding why things have been the way they are. Why does it feel like the load is getting heavier with each day? Why does it seem that my brother is spinning in a downward spiral? Why does it feel like we are hanging on by a fragile thread?

Britton has so many admirers...he's a lucky boy to have so many people who truly care about and love him. Everyday, without fail someone asks me how my brother is. Usually dozens. And I know it is the same for my parents. It's truly humbling to know that so many genuinely want to know. I feel like the past few months I've lied to them though when i answer. It's always, "he is doing really good...things are good, just slowly progressing, etc..." I wish that were true, i really really do. But how do you tell someone the truth when it's not fun to hear. I would feel ungrateful if i did. Because here we have Britt, our giant miracle. But it's true. And I don't want to sound ungrateful for all we have been blessed with, because we are so SO undeniable thankful. Everyone always wants to talk about how well he is doing, and I just nod my head and agree...but there is so much that goes on and happens that no one knows about. Cause it's hard to talk about the failures, right? So only the good is seen. And you don't want people to know that things are hard, or not not going very well...it's just human nature. The whole putting on a face thing. We all do it. 

I don't know if i'm making sense, you are probably wondering what the heck i am even talking about. I don't want to go into a lot of detail because I don't want to take away from the incredible person my brother is, but he is struggling in more ways than i can say and needs prayers. There have been a lot of difficult/scary days, nights and events that have taken place over the past few months, that have really tested our faith and our foundation as a family. The anger, and frustration, along with all the damage to his brain just adds up to be something that is tearing Britt a part, piece by piece. Time after time, episode after episode, and it just starts to weigh on you. It is really hard to watch my brother go through these things. I know my parents are handling it as best as they can, and my younger brothers too...i thank the heavens for such Christlike parents with an endless supply of patience and love. They are strong people, the strongest I know, actually. But I can see them breaking. I can see my little brothers slowly starting to break too. Watching their older brother go through these things cant be easy, especially when they look up to him so much. I'm thankful we have each other to hold when things get out of hand or tough. 

But we are at a point where there is nothing we can really do or say to help Britt. We've exhausted every possible solution it seems. But if there is one thing i know to be true, it is that when you think you are out of options or places to turn...you aren't. Because the only way through something like this...is through our loving Heavenly father and his Son Jesus Christ. I'm certain he needs your prayers to help him overcome the struggle that he is currently facing. I mean, it worked once right? It can surely work again. I know many of you haven't stopped praying for him, even for a second. But trust me when i say he truly needs all of the prayers and love he can get. He is weary, and lost right now. And as his older sister, I am asking you with a humble heart to please help us get him back on track. 

If you are wondering what exactly he needs help with, I have been specifically praying for him, that he will rely on his testimony and put his trust and faith in God and his savior, to help him overcome difficulties. That his heart can be softened so that he may be patient, kind, loving and treat my mom, dad and brothers with respect. That whatever is going on in his brain and making him this way can be resolved or get better; maybe even find some answers from doctors on what we can do or give him to help. And last but definitely not least, for him to be happy. To learn to accept his circumstances, as hard as that may be, and decide to move forward in positivity. OH, and for him to realize and understand the importance of physical therapy and continuing to work on the little things to get better. (That's a whole other giant) I know that's a lot, but they are all very important and a part of the problems we have been dealing with lately. 

Thank you for sticking with us. Through the good times and the bad. We couldn't do it without you. I realized recently that the whole 'Believe for Britton' thing was never temporary. It is something that we will always have to do...now more than ever. but believing for him and in him, will be a forever thing, an ongoing thing that will always take work, love and faith. 

I need my brother to believe in himself. 

I need him to believe in himself the way we all believe in him. 

XOXO, Autumn

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

Before you read, here is a video of our Christmas! You are about to get a real taste of what it's like to live a day in the life of the Shipp fam hahahha, prepare yourself. 


It's been a minute. (and I wrote this on Christmas, and am now just getting around to posting it, so let's just still pretend its the 25th) Merry Christmas everyone! What a perfect day. Christmas is always so special, and obviously always the favorite (next to April Fools day if you ask me or Britton haha), no, but really, today was special. One for the books.

I have been reflecting back on last Christmas season and the overwhelming amount of love and support we received. I'll never forget all the kind and selfless acts of service that our family was shown. I just want to say thank you again, we could never express how truly grateful we are. 

What a difference a year can make, right? Last year during christmas, our Britt was still fast asleep in a coma at the hospital. It was easily one of the harder days. I got a polaroid camera from my grandma, and i remember asking my mom to take a picture of me, and my other two brothers by the tree. We waited for the picture to develop. I looked at it for a second and walked over to the trash to throw it away. I couldn't help but feel really sad, and a little bit upset that our 4th man wasn't in the picture with us, right where he should've been like all 16 years before. It might have been silly of me to do, but I didn't want the picture, because I didn't want to remember a christmas without Britt. Not if he was still with us.

We didn't want to open any of our presents, because it just wasn't the same. Even though he was the only one missing, it felt like the entire house was empty. We all opened a few, and then sat around the living room for a little bit in silence. I can remember my mom and dad trying to be tough for us, trying to be cheerful and happy, but it was pretty clear that we were all hurting. I'll never forget how we all just held each other close and cried. My dad gave a prayer, that i'll always remember, because the spirit was so strong. Instantly there was a calmness and relief that we all felt very near to our hearts .

I've always thought I understood the meaning behind it all, Christmas and the birth of our Savior. But I realized, in that moment, that I never fully had until then. The presents didn't matter. The decorations, weren't important. The ham in the oven, and the fancy silverware and plates at the table. None of it mattered. It's all nice, sure...but none of it matters if you cant share it with the people you love. None of it's important if you don't know the meaning behind why you are actually doing it. Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Shepherd, our Strength. He was sent to earth by the Father, to lead and guide us through His perfect example and His teachings. He was and is the light and life of the world. I can't imagine what it might have been like to witness the birth of Christ. How incredible it must have been, to have been there on that holy night. Because of his birth, and his life-his sacrifice and his atonement for all mankind, we can be healed, strengthened, comforted, and so much more. All of which my family and I have seen and felt firsthand the last year or so. I remember the bittersweet feeling of last christmas, feeling of the Saviors love for us, and for my brother. Knowing that he was in the best of hands. Grateful that we had each other, and that Britt still had a chance. In a time where I felt as if this burden might be too hard to bare-came an overwhelming sense of peace and love from the Savior. I couldn't help but feel so thankful that day, that we had the opportunity to race over to the hospital to be with my brother on Christmas day, even if it wasn't quite like the other years. We kept basically all of the presents under the tree, the Christmas lights up on the house, and the decorated tree lit for almost 5 months. Nothing was coming down until Britt got home and was able to see it. I still laugh sometimes when I think about how we had Christmas lights on our house until like...May haha. You couldn't miss us, thats for sure. 

Last night, once everyone was supposedly "asleep",  I was helping my mom wrap all of the presents in my room, and we had a few out for Britt that we were about to start on. My dad was calling us so we went to go see what he needed...then all of a sudden we hear someone coming down the hallway and my parents started freaking out cause they didn't want to blow their cover...we got back into my room where all the presents were to find Britton sitting there on my bed with this confused look on his face. Maybe you just had to be there, but it was freakin hilarious...the kid had come all the way up the stairs and tried sneaking into my room cause he wanted to sleep with me. So me and my mom scrambled to hide his stuff while trying to chauffeur him out. There is a running joke in our family that he comes in like a bulldozer wherever he is, or a wrecking ball...take your pick. It's like, you better hope you don't have anything valuable or breakable lying around because if its in his path, it will be destroyed. 

Let's just say when it came to the present count..........he was one spoiled rotten kid. I was joking with him today, and telling him how he was the favorite child cause he got so much stuff, and he just said "hey, someone's gotta make up for last year." 

He was also the first one up this morning....5:30am in the bathroom brushing his teeth ready to get the show on the road. But that is pretty typical these days, up at the crack of dawn...everyday. 

It was just one of those days that I'll always cherish. My heart has been so full of gratitude towards Heavenly Father and his son, for hearing and answering our millions of prayers and for the countless miracles and blessings that we have received. I couldn't ask for a better gift, than having my 3 boys and my mom and dad all together, cozy in our home this Christmas. It's crazy to think that a year ago today I was on my knees in my room praying with everything in me that by this time next year things would be better. And here we are, so extremely lucky and so blessed. 

He got to help out Cooper Camp with his hot chocolate stand this year. If you remember, last year...Copper donated all the money he earned to Britt for his medical bills. It meant so much to us. Each year Cooper does a christmas service project and donates all the money he makes from his yummy hot chocolate stand to the project/person. He is such a little stud, and has the greatest family around. Next year you need to go check out their Hot Cocoa stand if you haven't before. It's really yummy, and goes to a great cause! 

You guys wouldn't believe how well Britt is doing. Physically he has come such a long way. His walking is improving everyday, he hardly needs anyone to help him at all. He goes up and down the stairs by himself, showers by himself, gets dressed and brushed his teeth...all by himself. He still has a hard time with his vision, the nerves in his eyelids are still damaged so he cant see very well, but he makes do with what he's got. He still doesn't have a lot of feeling with his mouth, so eating can be a struggle but it seems like it is slowly getting a little bit better. He is going to be getting surgery on his nose soon, to align it, in hopes that it will help his breathing. He still goes to therapy a few times a week, and works on his speech too! He is adding another class this next quarter in school. The next school dance is Junior Prom, and he is going with Aspen Hickman, which he is pumped about, obviously. My dad still takes him driving a few times a week, and he just keeps getting better and better at it. Or maybe just more confident, sometimes a little too confident, so you might wanna steer clear of the 4-runner if you see it hahah. Don't say I didnt warn ya. 

He still has his hard days. Lots of them. I'm usually up at school, so I don't see a lot of what goes on. But just being home for the break I've gotten a good taste of it. He's still a teenage boy, who wants to be able to do teenage boy things. He gets really discouraged sometimes, and down about it all. Wishing he had his old life back, and that is something we all wish, so it's hard to explain to him that it wont ever be that same way again. I have a really hard time knowing how to help him in these situations, because it's not like I can say I understand how he is feeling, or know what he is going through.  When he goes through these frustration moods, it can be pretty hard on all of us. Not knowing how to handle it, or how to comfort him, what to say or what to do to make it better, or help him understand. This has definitely been the hardest thing to deal with since we've been home. Constantly trying to keep his spirits up and keep him motivated and believing in himself. I cant imagine how often he must want to give up, but I'm so proud of him for continuing to work at things, whether it be his attitude/mentality, or his physical strength/abilities. Whenever i struggle for words I'm always quickly reminded that through Christ, and ONLY through christ, can we endure the trails and challenges we are faced with in life. I know that he relies heavily on his Father in heaven, and on his son Jesus Christ. I don't think he would be able to get through the days with that big grin on his face if he didn't. Im constantly trying to stress to him the importance of those relationships. I have been thinking of ways I can help him recently and I came across this talk from the October 2015 General Conference, it's called "Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. One of my favorite parts read:

"Our Savior experienced and suffered the fulness of all mortal challenges “according to the flesh” so He could know “according to the flesh” how to “succor [which means to give relief or aid to] his people according to their infirmities.” He therefore knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, and our suffering, for He willingly experienced them all as an essential part of His Atonement. And because of this, His Atonement empowers Him to succor us—to give us the strength to bear it all."


It is such a great talk and explanation of all the many ways we can apply the atonement to our lives. Especially for Britt, when he feels like no one could possibly understand what he is going through...Jesus Christ does. But it applies to a lot of the challenges and problems we face day to day, big or small. The atonement of Christ is all encompassing. 

The other day we got to go visit the hospital and all of Britt's nurses/doctors/therapists. It was really such a cool day. Especially at the ICU, a lot of the nurses who took care of him those first couple of months, only knew him at his absolute worst. So for them to see him now, happy and walking, talking, dropping down and giving them 20 pushups...was very touching. It was crazy being back in there, and seeing the room where we spent so many sleepless nights and long scary days. When I was walking through the waiting room, all the memories just came flooding back. Seeing some of the people in there, with the look of grief and defeat on their faces, broke my heart. I know how it feels to be sitting in there. It's not a good feeling. Lot's of nights were spent on those makeshift couches, hoping that there would be a next morning. So many hours spent, talking and hugging and crying with all of the family friends, and visitors who were constantly filling the room. Me and my mom would take our lunch break everyday out there, when someone would offer to bring us food. And we would scarf it all down so we could get back in the room with Britt. And then walking through the doors and seeing all of the faces who had been there through it all for us, who had stayed up late into the night to keep us company, or offer us reassurance when we were awaiting important news. Those guys were our family for sure, and they still are...always will be. As I walked past the room where my brother stayed I quickly remembered the incredible spirit that was within those walls. I remember how we would walk in and it would hit you like ton of bricks. You couldn't deny it, no one could. It was weird seeing the walls so bare, when every inch used to be covered with pictures, posters, cards, jerseys, etc. Everyone who worked with Britt couldn't wait for the day that he'd be able to walk through the door and see them all again. There were a lot of times when I thought that day might never come, but here we are. Once again, so incredible blessed. He was even taking laps around the hallways, and showing them all of his new tricks. We also got to stop by the rehab where we spent about 4-5 months. The ICU was only stuck with us for two, so the rehab got the bad end of the stick hahaha. But oh how I missed all of them so much. Britton just lit up when he saw his favorite nurses and therapists. It was weird being back in there, cause like I said...it was just a place where so much of who we are now came from. So many failures and so many success. A lot of tears, and a lot of smiles. So much of my heart, is there in that place, and the ICU...with all of the amazing people who helped save his life and get him to where he is today. 

On christmas eve, Britt's neurosurgeons and their families came and surprised us with some christmas carols. It was so awesome, they are just incredible people. I mean what doctors do you know, that do that? I could never say enough about them, or how much we love them. Britt was so excited to see them, and it was so fun to meet their families. They are amazing doctors, the best actually, but even better people....and I don't know how we got so lucky to have them with us throughout this journey of ours. 

He also got to resume his roll as the lead wise man in our family Christmas eve nativity. Absolutely nailed his performance;) My aunt said something about how she felt like she was in a food coma after eating dinner and Britton said..."Hey, that was me last year."

OH. Here is a little 30 second take on our version of Feliz Navidad. 

If you are reading this, man you are a faithful follower. I commend you for sticking with us;) Thank you for still caring about my sweet brother. Thanks for never giving up on him and continuing to keep him in your prayers. He still needs them very much. We love you, and are so thankful for your love and support towards our family and our Britt. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas!
XOXO, Autumn

Monday, November 2, 2015

One Year Later

It seems like it was just yesterday, but then it also feels like it has been such a long time coming.  I remember one of the first things the doctor said, “if he makes it, it will be hard. It will be difficult. It will be scary. And it will be a very ,very long road until things are better. And then, they may never be truly better.” Boy, has it been a long road. He wasn’t lying. A long road, but a long road worthwhile. A road that I would go back down a million times over to have our sweet boy with us.

I remember that Saturday so clearly. Just a normal Saturday, that turned into a nightmare with one phone call.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect today. On all of it. It has without a doubt been the most difficult year of my families’ lives. I have been in the darkest of places, and felt the lowest of lows. But I have seen a light that eliminates the darkness, and I have felt a happiness that exceeds all heights.

He went to the Sadie Hawkins dance this year, and I know it was bittersweet for him, it was for all of us. He somehow got really lucky and the cutest girl in the world asked him to it. Kam and Britton have been friends ever since they were little, really close friends. I remember when Britt had the biggest crush on her through middle school (and I doubt it ever stopped) , he had a bunch of notes from her all over the house and she was one of the only girls he would ever actually talk to me about. So I knew she was special. She has been there for Britt through out the past year, and has helped him through a lot of hard days and nights, I know that because I see how his face lights up when they are texting or talking on the phone.  It’s people like Kam who truly make my heart smile. It might be so simple for her to care and love him the way she does, but it is such a big deal to us and she will never know how thankful we are for her and her friendship with Britt.

I will never truly understand why this had to happen to my brother, until the day we can meet face to face with our God and loving Savior, then will it all be clear. But I do know that it happened with great purpose and for good reason. The blessings we have seen come from this help make it all a little bit more clear. I know my brother has touched so many lives with his strength, courage, and heart. And all the while lying in the hospital, not saying a word, or moving a muscle.

Three months he lied in a coma. So weak, so fragile, so lifeless. So hurt. Machines breathing for him. Tubes running in and out of his body. Wires and IV’s wherever covering  what seemed like every inch. His brain swelling nearly to the point of hemorrhaging. Watching the numbers on the machines beep and sound uncontrollably. A waiting game. For 3 months. Not knowing if he would ever wake  up. Not knowing if I’d ever get my brother back. Watching him cling to what little life he had in him, watching as he fought with what little strength he had left. I know the savior was embracing him, holding him tight in his loving arms, during those very hard 3 months. I know that he was protecting him and loving him. So many miracles. So many blessings. So much love, and an incredible amount of faith. Selfless service form millions. And a whole lot of belief in our boy Britt. I remember the day he wiggled his toes for the first time, the time he responded to a command  for the first time, the first time he ever sat up with a room full of nurses holding every part of him. I remember the day he stopped breathing. The day they took him down for an MRI with the possibility  of him not coming back. The day his brain had reached the maximum cranial pressure before he’d go braindead. I remember when they tried to stand him up for the first time, and when he contracted a deadly virus that attacked his brain and heart. The day he was able to begin breathing on his own. I remember the day they were able to put his skull back on. The day opened and closed his hand, and the day he raised his right leg. I remember the day he opened his left eye about ¼ of the way.I remember the first time he held his head up on his own. And when he learned to put his thumb up for “yes” and kick his leg for “no”. I remember the day he sat up all by himself.  And when he finally got to take a real bath. The day he took his first bite of real food. The day he raised his arm all by himself, and shook his head. The day we got to put real clothes on him. When we finally got to give him a decent haricut. The day he got the tubes taken out of his thoat. The day he tried to make his first noise. His first laugh. The day he got to have a sip of mountain dew. The day he smiled when we played his favorite song for him. The first time we got to take him outside. The first time he tried to crawl. The day he got kidneystones. The day he learned to drive his wheelchair by himself. And when he learned to grip a ball, and pedal on a bike. The day he learned to balance while standing. When he learned to crawl down stairs. And roll over all by himself. The day he started learning
 to walk again. The day he threw a ball, and the day he caught one. The first time he got to go home. The day he fed himself, and the day he dressed himself. I remember the day he took his first steps by himself.  The day we got to bring him home, after 6 long months. And I remember all the days since then.

Never ever will I forget the failures and the moments of defeat, or the little victories, and the huge milestones. They will be with me forever. They remind me of how far he has come. From where he started at nearly the very bottom, to where he is now. Little tender mercies, and blessings that add up to be one miraculous story.  I’ve never seen someone with so much determination, or strength. I know he doesn’t do it on his own, because no one could. I know the lord is with him every small step of the way. And I know he will continue to be.

Today, one year later. My brother is a walking miracle. Yep , I SAID WALKING. He walks all by himself. He goes to school 2 periods a day. He goes driving on the weekends with my dad, hunting, hangs out with his buddies, goes on dates. He still goes to therapy a couple times a week. He eats on his own, and his speech has come so far! He can read and write and is better at math than my mom;) He hates it when we help him with anything, because he knows he can do it by himself. Always so determined, or hard headed…you choose haha. He still has his moments, and dark times. Some days he really struggles, and some nights he feels so defeated. He wants to quit, and give up. But he picks himself back up. Always. He cracks jokes, and has more charisma than he ever did before hahah. Sometimes he doesn’t have a filter but that’s okay, we will take it.  He loves to look good, clothes, shoes, hair, so nothing has changed there! He still has a lot of problems with his vision, and probably always will, the feeling in his face hasn’t come back, and the nerves that were damaged aren’t likely to heal. But those are things that are so small compared to what “should” be, and what could be. He wants more than anything to be normal again, and he is getting there, a little bit at a time.

Today, one year later. I watched my brother kneel, and listened to him bless the sacrament. Never have I heard him speak so clearly, or powerfully. It was perfect. He didn’t skip or miss a word. Of course I was all tears. I remember sitting in the back of the church with my mom this same time last year just bawling, watching the young men bless and pass the sacrament, praying that someday my sweet brother would be able to do that again. What a miracle. And then I watched him bare his testimony. Walk up the to the pulpit by himself, and talk about gratitude.  Elder Holland was in our sacrament and it was such a tender mercy. His words got our family through a lot of hard days. One quote in particular from him, I read every day to Britt, probably 10 times a day since the day it all happened. It was kind of our motto, and when it all seemed impossible, or we wanted to give up, we found comfort in his words:

“Don’t you give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.  It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” –Jeffrey R. Holland

I’m so incredibly proud of him. For who he is. For who has become. His example, his strength and his faith are something to behold. Never in my life could I amount to half of what he is. How lucky am I to call him by brother. My hero, forever and ever.

God has given my family so much. More than we could ever ask for or deserve. I don’t know why, but I will forever by so grateful. So thankful for a loving heavenly father, who is so merciful and understanding. Who wants nothing but the best for us. Who knows us better than we know ourselves, and who wants for us to succeed and be happy more than anything. I’m thankful that he hears us, that he listens, and that he answers. His plan is perfect, whether we understand it or not. He knows what we are capable of and who we have the potential to become if we follow him. He knows what we can endure and what we can overcome. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. And he is here for us, always. I’m thankful for a perfect Savior. For someone who knows my deepest heartaches and my purest joys. For someone who suffered for me, who loves me so much that he gave his life. He strengthens me when I am weak, picks me up when I fall, and he stands beside me when I’m strong. He has felt my lowest of lows and highest of highs, so I would have someone to turn to.

The same applies to my brother, my mom, my dad, my little brother, and to you.

Today could’ve been a hard day, and a sad day. But it wasn’t, it was everything but that. Today was a day of celebration, and for every reason. Today I’ve got my brother. And he still has a long road ahead of him, but at least we have a road to continue down. I know he will continue to beat the odds, and that through the continued power of prayer and unshakable faith we all have in him, that he is no where near as good as he’ll get.  All I know is that a year ago today, I didn’t imagine that we would be here. And he is so much more. How incredibly blessed we are.

I could never thank you enough for all you have done for my brother and family this past year.. Thank you for being there for us, and serving us.  Thank you for loving him. Thank you for believing in him.

XOXO, Autumn

Here is a video of clips from the year. Eventually I'll put together a nice little documentary on it all:)

Also here is a video the Spectrum did today on him! (he's the cutest thing)

Friday, September 25, 2015

HC 2015

Here is a video of the weekend! Word on the street is, he was busting some serious moves on the dance floor. (I taught him everything he knows)

Hey Hey!! I have a lot of good stuff to write about! I went home this past weekend, because Britt was going to homecoming...and like, I wouldn't miss that for the world. I hadn't seen him for a whole 3 weeks! That is the longest I've been away from him since his accident, so you can imagine how excited I was to be reunited with my main squeeze. And of course I missed the other two little punks but they don't show me the love i deserve when i walk through that door...haha, just kidding. First of all, I could not believe how much progress Britt has made walking. It was so awesome to see how much he had progressed since the last time i was with him. Obviously it still isnt perfect, but his balance was a million times better and he just seemed a lot more stable, hobblin all around the house like he does. My mom said she has to keep an extra close eye on him lately because he is getting too confident, which can be a bad thing, if she weren't around and he fell. He tries to be all sneaky and stuff she said, so she has him on lock down 24/7 hahahah. But even his cute face looked better, it just looked more normal, more like Britt i guess. He still has a lot of numbness and nerve damage thought parts of his face, but it seemed like to me that it has improved. His pearly whites are looking so good and straight, hopefully when he gets his braces off it will help him with his speech and being able to chew his food better. As far as food goes, he still cant have solids, we still have to make sure its grinded up pretty good so he can get it down. But he has slowly started eating little snack foods, practicing chewing with his speech therapist. Britt has been going to each session of therapy about 2 or 3 times a week now, so his visits are about up for the year.....again. dang it. so they are going to space them out, to maybe once a week. I've noticed, especially lately, that he has been having a lot of memory problems. Lot's of short-term memory loss i think, he forgets really easily things he has previously said or done. But, they told us that is expected, especially with his brain injury. He has a really hard time recalling what he did throughout the day, or where he puts things, just little stuff like that. Britt is doing really good, he is...but he still has hard days, and even harder moments. It is so hard for me not to be there when he is down and out about things, especially when i get calls from my mom not knowing how to handle it. I feel bad for her, that she has to deal with all of that, especially because I could usually calm Britt down and talk him through whatever it was he was crying about. Some nights I just feel like I have run out of options as to how I can help him, and be there for him, when I'm not there. His heart is struggling with so much, and he wont admit it, but i know he is. It is so hard to know what to say or do, when you feel like you've already said and done everything you can. And my mom asks me all the time, what should I say to him, I don't know how to help him or what to do....and most of the time i feel the same way. I feel like I've run out of ideas. That nothing I say or do is going to help him because it's something he has heard a million times. And I cant relate to him because i have not the slightest idea of how he might feel and what he is going through. Telling him it's all going to be alright, and that things are going to be okay...get's old for him, it would get old for me too if i were in his shoes. And when i feel like i've ran out of options, out of ways to lift his spirits and help him find happiness in the little things,I'm quickly reminded that we are never out of options, because we are never alone in any battle or hardship we face. I'm thankful to have a loving Heavenly Father and compassionate Savior, Jesus Christ, who will always listen, and always help. There arms are stretched forth, always, Willing to give us a hand in anything and everything we do, if we just reach, and ask in faith. So when i feel like I've exhausted all possible methods of helping my sweet brother through this time in his life, and when my mom asks me what more she can do to be there for him, all I can think to say is pray. I think sometimes i try to do things on my own, try to fix it all, on my own. We all probably do, at times. But we eventually realize and remember that IT AINT HAPPENIN. It just doesn't work like that, ya know? We weren't put here to fall, time and time again, and try to figure it out by ourselves. We were put here to stumble, yes, but to also succeed and with the help of Heavenly Father and his Son. So as helpless as i feel sometimes when it comes to what i can do or say for my brother, I'm so thankful that the power of prayer and everlasting love of God, which is always our best option, right?

Britt got to be the honorary team captain at the homecoming game. Watching him walk out onto the field with his teammates, wearing that jersey, #7 on his back, was a real tear jerker. You know me, the big baby. I watched him as he walked up and down the sidelines all night, my dads arms around him. He would get so excited on a big play, and jump up and down, losing his balance with my dad there to catch him. Or trying to chase down a player coming off the field to tell them good job and give them a chest bump. It was so good to see him down there. In his element. But i couldn't help but feel so sad at the same time. All Britt has ever known, is being an athlete and being a part of a team. I know it's just high school sports, and I know in the big picture they are very insignificant. But to my family, and especially me, they have and always will mean so much. I feel like a lot of who I am, came from those long hours in the gym, those early mornings on the field, and the moments of defeat and success that come a long with it. the bonds and friendships you make with your teammates and coaches. The countless hours of practice and preperation, the tears and the sweat. The adrenaline rush, the pressure moments and situations that really test you, the sound of the crowd cheering your name. The lessons you learn, and the amount you grow, not only as an athlete but as a person. It's all a part of it. Some of the greatest memories of my life were made on a field or on a court. As I watched my brother down there, my heart hurt for him. All these years I've looked forward to watching him out there, under the lights. I've looked forward to seeing him grow into the athlete I've always known he would become. I've been so excited for him to feel and experience all those things that come with high school sports. Everything I said above. And it kills me to think that he probably isn't going to get that. I know it is hard for him, i know he was looking forward to it more than anyone, so seeing him out there was so special but also hard and bittersweet. It might not have been in the way I had always imagined or hoped for, but it was close enough, and I'll take it, gratefully.

Britt got to go the hunt of a lifetime with my dad in Kansas for whitetail, a couple weeks ago. I'm going to have him write about it because I wasn't there for all the fun to do it justice, but let's just say there are some pretty amazing people out there, especially Young Guns Outdoors, and Wildbone Youth for making the hunt possible. I know Britton had such a good time, and made memories he will never forget. But even more so, I think he realized and learned a lot about himself that trip. They hiked miles and miles, and it was a lot of hard work. Hunting has always been something britt has loved, he grew up in the mountains scouting with my dad, or out back shooting targets. It's almost second nature for him.  I'm pretty sure he knew how to drive a 4-wheeler before he learned how to walk. I remember talking to him a little bit before he left for the hunt, and he was worried that he wouldn't be capable of getting around, or even shooting a buck. And to be honest, I was a little worried too. I didnt want him to be disappointed if it didn't work out. But he proved himself wrong, and he did it. Just like the old days. We laughed and laughed about a comment he made. He said something about being a sharp shooter and having a "dead" eye....literally. hahaha I mean, that is pretty impressive, only being able to see out of a tiny slit in your left eye and shooting a buck dead on. I'm so proud of him. 

Britt has been loving school, he still goes for a couple hours a day, in the mornings, and then he usually goes to lunch with one of his friends. He cant really eat anything when they go so he usually gets milkshakes to suffice hahaha.

He has still been practicing driving with my dad, a couple times a week. For some reason, being able to drive again is a HUGE deal to him. like, he would rather drive before walk hahaha. I think he feels like, if he could drive, he would feel a lot more normal, and have a lot more freedom. But he doesn't understand that there is a lot that goes with driving. He has to be able to process thinks quickly and think clearly all the time, he has to be able to see good enough out of his eyes, and he has to be able to walk and have quick enough reflexes. I see how much he wants those things, and I just pray pray pray they will come, and that someday he will be pulled up next to me at the stop light asking to race hahaha. 

So, let's get to the important stuff. HE WENT TO HOMECOMING. And just with the cutest girl in the world, so no big deal or anything. Britt asked his best friend, Ally Akins to go with him. I'm going to go on a little spill about Ally real quick. This girl is the definition of an angel. And she has been Britton's since day one, she's been our whole families. Ally and Britton grew up together, from preschool to jr year of high school they've always been there for each other, through thick and thin. There is this cutest picture of them together on the first day of preschool hanging in his room. I remember the day it happened, running into the ICU to see my mom and dad so broken. As I held them tight, I saw ally across the hall in the waiting room. As hard it was to see my mom and dad like that, it was just as hard seeing sweet Ally. I remember the look on her face, her eyes so swollen and red, I could see how heavy her heart was. For 3 whole months Ally sat in the ICU waiting room, everyday, without fail. She would write pages in his journal that we had out in the waiting room for his friends to write in, and she would tell him all about her day, all about their memories and inside jokes, and then how badly she missed him and wanted him to wake up and get better. I know this probably isn't ethical or whatever, but I would read it everyday. They'd make me smile, and laugh, and cry all at the same time. I'd read them to him, every night, even though he was unconscious, I had a good feeling he could hear them. And then, when people were cleared to see him, she was there every day for 3 more months, she would sit by his bed, hold his hand and tell him stories. And I'm not kidding you, sometimes she would show up at 10 o clock pm, because she was so busy, but she would come, always. And if for some reason she was out of town, she would call, and have someone write in the journal for her. It blew my mind how loyal she was to him. How much she cared about him. I couldn't help but feel so thankful to my heavenly father for putting her in his life. We could always count on her, always. When Britton was finally able to come home, there she was. Again, every day. She would come over and play games with him, or just sit on the couch and watch tv. She would text him and call him, you name it. Constantly, there for him. She has talked him through a lot of hard days and nights. He trusts her, he confides in her, he goes to her when he needs advice or a shoulder to cry on. And she protects him, and looks out for him, in whatever it might be. Watching her with him this past weekend really made my sister heart smile. She has a way of making him feel like nothing ever happened, like nothing has changed. He got home from their day date in pine valley, and I couldn't wipe that smile off of his face for nothing. It was so cute, he was so happy. Just beaming happiness, and nothing in this whole wide world makes me happier than seeing him that way. Because truthfully, those smiles, those real, genuine, radiant smiles of his, are hard to come by these days. But she does it to him. I watched as she held onto him, walking him out to the truck after he picked her up, and i couldn't help but get a little emotional. Friends like that are one in a million. And i'm so happy they have each other. Because I know for a fact, Britt couldn't get through a single day without her. 

I remember last year's homecoming dance. I came home from school to see Britt off to his first date and first dance, with one of my favorite girls in history of time (and Britt's too) Aspen Hickman. Who is Ally's best friend, they've always been like the 3 musketeers! They looked like a freakin couple out of a magazine. I couldn't believe my baby brother was that old, and that he scored a babe of a girl like Aspy. I remember how handsome he looked that night, how grown up and mature, and how happy he was. It was all so weird for me, to see him that way. It was like overnight he grew up. I took their group pictures and told him that if he doesn't kiss her, to not bother coming home. hahahahah. So of course I waited up all night long for him to get home.......

So this past weekend was a little emotional for me. I guess, because so much had changed in a single year. The last time my brother went to homecoming he was this perfectly, healthy, strong, charismatic, teenage boy. And this time around things are a little different. When the sadness and longing for that same Britt from a year ago sinks in, I just remember that what I have now, the Britt I have today, is just as great if not better. I'm thankful for Gods plan, the individual one he has for each of us. I feel lucky to have a brother that was so courageous and brave in the life before, that he decided he would take this challenge on. As I watched him all night with his friends, my heart became so full of gratitude and love for each of them. They will never understand or begin to realize what they mean to not only Britton, but to my whole family. The way they treat him and accept him, work with him, and care for him, is unreal. And i don't know what he did to deserve so many amazing boys and girls in his life but I'm dang happy about it. If it weren't for them, and the love they show him, things would be much different, much harder. They lift his spirits when he is down, and mend his heart when it is broken. 

Keep those prayers coming, he still needs them, every minute of every day! They are truly felt and seen, and we are so thankful for your love and support always....

XOXO, Autumn