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Good-bye Brian

We moved to North Platte a little over two years ago and the first time I met Brian he asked if we were one of the new Mormon families, maybe it was the four kids that made him think that, I don’t know.  I believe the correct term is Latter Day Saints, by the way.  I always appreciate the somewhat socially awkward individual, I feel that way so often myself.  Upon first meeting Brian how could anyone not see how sweet, laid back and likable he was.

Those impressions of Brian were soon confirmed when about a month later we all hung out at a big 4th of July party and he was the only adult in the swimming pool playing with about 30 kids, in fact, he sort of floated along and the kids all trailed after him in one big clump, and of course, he had that big, sweet smile on his face.

Over time Mark and I got to spend a lot of time with Brian, Letty, Nick and Isabella.  I came to love their family and Brian and Letty became two friends that I adored.  I was captivated by Brian’s sweet, charming ways and what sealed the deal was that he wouldn’t stop praising my Pistachio Pesto and my Chicken Enchilada Casserole.  We traded my pesto for Letty’s amazing salsa but I am pretty sure we got more salsa.

I remember one night hanging out where there was a jukebox and as I struggled to choose a few favorite songs to play, all Brian could say was, “See if it has Michael Jackson, Thriller!”  There he stayed, swaying by the jukebox by himself, in his jean jacket, rockin’ out with his air guitar, big smile on his face.  One of the first times I went to their house I got lost in the sandhills, called Brian and he tore down the dirt roads to come meet me, and he was wearing his Bad Manuel costume.  I remember the time he started a huge water fight at my son’s birthday party and he was so soaked that he went home wearing one of my tank tops.

As families and as couples we enjoyed many meals and parties together, played kayak water polo on Sundays, Brian was not the fastest rower.  Mark and Brian started brewing beer together and I used my graphic design skills to make inappropriate beer labels and naughty t-shirts for Brian that he would dream up.

Out of these fun times together came my own friendship with Letty, one of the most beautiful people I know.  She is fun, loyal, generous and gentle.  And there aren’t enough words to describe how constant, steady, reliable and strong she is, more than she knows.  But strong people have to fall apart, too, and rely on the loving support of others, which is why I want to thank all of you who have reached out and mobilized around Letty, Nick and Isabella to help them in practical and emotional ways already.

I am not sure what is more devastating for me right now, the tragedy, loneliness and manner of his death………or the fun, endearing, pleasant thoughts and memories that I encounter about Brian’s life at every turn.  I think it has been more painful to entertain the endearing and still vivid loving memories of who Brian is, all the little things that made Brian who he is as a friend, a dad, a husband, a son, a brother, a colleague.

In addition I think every one of us this week has thought back to the last time we each saw or talked to Brian, and then probably analyzed to death that interaction, searching for some indication of where his head and heart were at, which only God knew.  The “what ifs” are paralyzing but the sad truth is that this is no one’s fault.

On the other hand, I have been painfully reminded that it couldn’t hurt for me to listen more, be gentler and kinder in my thoughts and words, slow to anger, quick to love, withhold judgments and gossip, That in so many ways I can seek to encourage more, serve more and build others up.

In these rawest moments I can’t take for granted the people I love and my heart is grateful for each day, each a gift.  We will all miss Brian and I hope with all my heart that God will show us how to best support Leticia and Nick and Isabella because their journey without Brian has only begun.