A column by John Anderson
Just when we think we know how life works, how the highs are so high and the lows can really kick you when you are down, things happen that test your will, test your faith and make it difficult to sit and work on a Monday.
That is happening to me today, a few hours removed from one cancer benefit (for Tony B at WCC), while looking forward to supporting the fight Matt Stuck is going through this Saturday at the Wellsville VFW.
Over the weekend as we broke away from stories of doctor visits to share laughs and celebrated friends fighting cancer, the subject of other benefits came up. One was the upcoming spaghetti dinner benefit at the Greenwood Fire Hall for Brandy Ford. I mentioned I was looking forward to it and that I heard arrangements were being made so she could possibly attend.
Then I was told she might not make the next 48 hours.
Suddenly, word spread that Brandy passed away at the age of 44.
This bubbly individual who put others first, who always ran to give you a hug or tell you how much you mean to her through your work or just being yourself, was dealt the news about cancer in October. Then, she had a stroke. Through it all, she smiled. She posed for photos in her hospital bed. Through the pain she told her friends, nurses and doctors how much she appreciated them.
In Brandy’s darkest physical moments, she was still a shining light trying to make others feel better.
It’s no wonder. When you saw her at the grocery store, a charity event or even a village pub, she was trying to make others feel good about themselves. What you might not have realized is, she had already spent an entire week advocating for those who have developmental disabilities. She wanted their lives to be better. She wanted to see them treated with the respect they deserve and employment they needed.
There were only three times Brandy ever asked me for a favor.
And all three were for me to help her do something for others.
The first was for the Allegany Arc employees who were feeling pressure from an outside faction to change the way they did things. She wanted to make sure they could advocate for those in need and wanted to know how to fight the good fight for all employees.
However, she said she was a nobody and wouldn’t make a difference. She mentioned she wasn’t management or the CEO and wanted me to reach out to them. I didn’t have to. Her words were strong, the employees followed her lead and she was successful.
The second time was in 2011 when her mom, Darlene, was burdened by $11,000 in medical bills. With her sister, Wendy, they held a benefit and got her the care she needed despite not having health insurance. Darlene lived another 10 years and fought illnesses, but her family had her for another decade.
Finally, her last request from me was a simple one. Her child was in the newspaper. She was proud and wanted a copy. Once again, always happy for someone else. Just when I felt I did something for her, she brought up a column I wrote when Dylon Mitchell passed away. She said, “You have a way with words. I never even met Dylon and you had me in tears.” She repaid me once again.
I don’t understand how someone who was so healthy and happy could be taken from this earth so fast, almost moments after a diagnosis.
As I drove home last night, my music was set to my taste, which could be anything from country to rap, metal to jazz. For some reason, the band Looking Glass came on and the song, ‘Brandy.”
I usually hum along and belt out the chorus and move on to humming the music. However, this time I listened to the lyrics, ‘Brandy could feel the ocean fall and rise … she saw its ragin’ glory.”
That’s so true, despite our flaws and imperfections, she saw the glory in all of us.
The bridge before the final chorus of the song says, “And Brandy does her best to understand,” referring to the fact she could see the truth and honesty in all.
Brandy Ford did so much to make us all feel good. It’s why she deserved one last tattoo, one last concert.
In her final hours, family held her hand. But in reality, she was giving out one last hug to us all.
John Anderson is a contributing writer to the Sun. You can reach him at email@example.com