Celebrate life, even in the darkest hours…..
August 14,2012-The morning
The day started out like most of my summer days. I woke up and got dressed in my clothes I use to work in and grabbed my ipod and my dad’s ring of keys.
My mission: retrieve the mail from the Post office.
On my way to get the mail I walked passed a house that an old man lived in, My dad works with one of his youngest relatives. While I was walking I glanced several times at the open little property that he has, but I saw something strange.
The old man was laying on the ground. Now I’ve seen him lay down on the ground before, so I thought to myself if he is here when I get back from the post office I’ll go ask if he’s okay. It didn’t even take me 5 minutes to get the mail when I returned to the house. I walk over to the old man and start talking to him with all the respect I can. but what I said to him made him laugh.
“It’s a little hot to be taking a nap outside on the dry ground”. He laughed and I asked him if he needed help up and that I wouldn’t mind helping him at all. Being a heavy set woman I should have been able to get him up, but sadly I had to run next door to get his daughter to help me get him up. When she was thanking me repeatedly I thought of who I just would have made proud.
A m y j a n e N i c o l e B r a n d h a g e n .
I’ve known Amyjane since high school and many of the fond memories I have with Amy was our senior year, which was filled with indoor picnics in the hallways, tea parties & yes PINK bubble wrap popping sessions.
What you really need to know about Amy is that she was free spirited, loved everyone, could never stay mad, she had a close connection with God and the higher powers of her faith. She was one of the most innocent women that I knew and so clueless something we all worried heavily about her. She forgave people for the worst things and carried on like nothing would ever make me have less faith in people.
How odd was it that I thought of how proud Amyjane would be of me for my good citizen deed of the week. It had been a little while since I had talked to my friend, but the last time I did talk to her she had just gotten back from her mission which included going to somewhere she always wanted to go,
Amy always wanted to work with the children and educate them on the powers of the lord and how loved they all are. This followed through in her character in all aspects. She loved her mission so much should couldn’t stop talking about it. I was so happy that my friend had the chance to do what she loved even if having faith in the lord wasn’t my thing.
August 14, 2012- That night
I had received a call from one of the close friends that I had in high school, I mean we had a small group of 5 girls including myself. I wasn’t near my phone at the time but when I checked my missed call and called back her mom answered.
When someone says they have something important to tell you in a sad voice, your stomach drops right? I felt so sick to my stomach I thought I was going to lose my dinner. I talked to her mom and she said they would be out to my house when my friend came back from a run. By this time I knew which friend they were talking about and I knew the worst had happened. I cried so hard my dad looked really scared and not knowing what to do he held me as I told my mother (who was Amy’s art teacher) what my friend’s mom had told me.
When my friend reached my house we automatically reached for each other and hugged so tight and cried like never before. We knew in that moment that someone so sweet and so innocent and forgiving was gone. When it should have been one of us, so she could continue her work.
My dad walked out onto our deck where my friend, her mom and I stood. He said something that totally shocked me.
“This is the first of many and people will be talking about this, you both just became your own support group”.
As much as I knew my dad hated to show emotions, he was at a loss for his daughter so distraught and confused. When my friend was in my room and we sat there with tear soaked eyes and just thinking about the memories we had, we laughed several times and said how much we were going to miss her. We still couldn’t believe it was her of all people to be gone.
Over the next week- All events
As the grieving was running deep in the people of Pendleton Oregon, you can only imagine the rumors and gossip that ran through town. Facebook was a total trap with the awful stuff people were saying. I had people I knew reporting to me what they heard and what they felt and thought, my friend wasn’t prepared for what people were saying but I did my best to prep her. But like everyone else she eventually couldn’t stand it anymore.
I had a few people call me instead of following all the gossip. Because I couldn’t release any information I could only tell them a little. I was sick about what people were saying had happened.
My boyfriend had come down to help support me in the loss and even accompanied me to a memorial BBQ that friends of Amy had put together in a day or two. I had received hugs from people all over the place and my friend and her boyfriend, her mom and sister even showed up for a little bit. But we had arrangements to go to dinner and relax and try to feel better about our beloved friend. After telling everyone goodbye for the 10th time we finally left to go to Joe’s restaurant on Main Street in Pendleton.
We sat and talked and laughed and smiled for the first time in a day or so. It was good to have a small family dinner, but the reality was still creeping up on us all.
August 21, 2012- Amyjane Memorial 9AM-11AM
I had woken up to thunder, lightning and rain. The things Amy loved most. Everyone knew it was a sign she was here with us all.
Everyone was instructed to wear bright colors, because Amy would have hated the drab greys and blacks. Wearing a bright tie dye shirt, my owl necklace, my rainbow candies neck lace, the dog tag I made for Amy and her choker that we had traded for a long time ago (Still can’t remember the necklace she had of mine D:). My straight red hair and my kitty ears, all the things Amy loved for me to wear. I walked into the chapel with all the memorial stuff and it hit me.
This isn’t a joke. Amy is not going to pop out of the door and say we suck at playing clue. This was our reality and we had to accept it. With tears brimming in my eyes I got up and looked around for people I knew. I stood in a group of two of my guy friends and talked waiting for my friend and her family to get there. It wasn’t until I saw my other friend Nadia, that the tears finally came.
Nadia was rushed from Finland to Pendleton to attend the memorial and in those few moments I knew no matter what Amy wasn’t going to come back. Everything in me cracked and I wanted to scream with anger and depression. Everything in me wanted to calm down and smile for Amy because she would be comforting us if she could.
I sat with my friend Jacky and her family during the memorial. There were so many people that outside chapel they had to put out seats while people were filling the halls. They had people standing up and speaking about Amy and called her free spirited = trouble, at least that’s what the YWAM LA leader had said when viewing her application. They mentioned that she N E V E R wore shoes. Which was sooooo beyond true.
The trinket I gave all my girls were stuffed owls that I had made the night before. For one, I was bored and two, I had made a small little owl to put into the Memory box that Jacky had arranged later in the day for Amy. So all the girls were connected no matter where they went. I walked around and talked to people I knew, people I didn’t know, people I’ve seen but never talked to. They almost always said the same thing.
Been better, Been worse.
After talking and seeing people I took photos of the memorial on stage for Amy’s friends and family that could not make it. Because Amy’s friends reached across the globe from the US to Finland, to France, to Moldova, India and many locations that I cannot pronounce. That is one thing Amy did, she connected people, even if they didn’t get along. Like the guy in France who went to school with us. We never got along, but Amy was our connector in our time of mourning.
Memory Box event- Aug 21
So after running around with my mama Gia, she dropped me off at my friend Chelsea’s house to wait for the Memory box event to start. When I got there a few other friends of mine were there such as Phyllis and Alan. So for once I had the chance to smile and laughed a little bit. When the time came, Chella and I went to Rice Park where Jacky and her boyfriend set up Amy’s art work and had a journal to sign in and write final memories.
Chella and I stayed to chat with Jacky and just help out whenever needed. The event was a success. We had the chance to talk with Taylor who we haven’t seen in ages and Rachelle. Chella wasn’t feeling good so I left with Rachelle and grabbed jack in the box and talked about anything, mainly Sherrilyn Kenyon. After our snack we went to a few stores and bought stuff to finally go to her house to pick up the boys. Which happen to be adorable black male pugs, Wyatt and Dalton. We went up to the park we use to go to during Senior year. This park is an upper class kind of park that has a huge spinning climbing thingy, yes I know I’m descriptive. but we laid on there and played with the boys until Rachelle’s Twin called and brought her dog Mookie down, who is also a black pug but a lot older then the boys.I had asked my boyfriend to try to come down because I needed his support through all of this.
He called to ask where to meet up, so we decided on meeting at Pioneer park where the memorial BBQ had taken place. Being able to meet us there we talked for a little bit, but Phil wanted to eat, unfortunately we didn’t have the time to eat, because the candlelight ceremony was going to start.
Candlelight Ceremony at Roy Riley park 8PM
When Phil and I arrived people were all over the place. The rock styled stage had a podium and chairs for the speakers, Jacky was going to speak, so I knew I was going to cry. The had rainbow balloons, bubble blowers and even chalk all the way in the back of the park where the ice rink floor was that people could draw on. With Phil, Rachelle, Chella, Mackenzie and even Josh beside me I told myself I wouldn’t cry.
But when Jacky had gotten up to read a poem and her voiced cracked a few times, I lost it. When any of my girls cry I do, sad fate for all of us. When all the people had gotten done speaking they slowly lit candles, Some people had to help others light their own candles. In that moment I felt the love and fear, the loss and the need of every person within the park. With the candles being lit, the wind picked up blowing several candles out.
I grabbed my ipod touch and walked around and took photos and then I decided a video. For all the people in the world Amy had touched, I did what she did, I expressed myself in Art. I had my own candle lit that never blew out once as I walked around the wide half circle of people who saw me and held their candles up or out to form. I saw faces, I saw tears, I saw sadness and worry, but I also saw a connection in which the community has never seen before. People who did not know Amyjane was here for her. For her family who has to deal with the pain and worries.
I was choked up with emotion when I realized that this didn’t just touch Pendleton Oregon, it reached across the globe. A candle was lit in France and Prospect Oregon & I’m sure all over the place for Amy.
I asked internally if she was happy that everyone was here, as my candle started to flicker it stopped and I laughed slightly at what I asked of her. I continued to ask questions and my candle flickered non stop but didn’t go out.
When the ceremony was over and everyone started to leave Phil looked up and said look at the moon. The golden harvest moon was hung low that night and it reminded me of Amy. How beautiful and vibrant she was. All the things she loved happened that night and it was a good close to the services and mourning of our beloved
Amyjane Nicole Brandhagen.
This is written in my voice and thoughts of the dreadful week. I talked to many people from all over the world and shared in the mourning and loss of someone so innocent and so kind. The fact that she couldn’t finish her work is a great loss to everyone she has touched in her 19 years. I for one will never forget her in any shape, way or form. I know my mother is watching over her and thinking what did you leave me to watch over.
I loved Amy for her purity and the fact that she tried to right every wrong she thought she had done. When she set her mind to something she would figure it out and do it. She is someone I look up to and regret not being able to connect with her after graduation but I know she does not blame me at all.
I’ve had people tell me time heals all wounds and I guess eventually it will, but right now the wounds are so fresh and ache that I will dwell on the loss for sometime, but in turn it will help me guild me choices in life.
In the end I can be furious with whoever did this to Amy, but I know she would tell me to forgive and forget. Being who I am and being so out there that people look at me weird is one thing, but this is another. There is nothing more that I wanted then to have Amy safe.
So being an DJ for Eastern Oregon Universities 91.7 KEOL radio station I vowed to play a song every time I am on air. The song I chose was Taylor Swift feat. the Civil war- Safe & sound.
With that I want to remind you to even in grieving remember the good about a person, when they are gone, they are always with us. You’re never along.
Thank you for reading and I’m always open to writing about any topic.
questions or comments can be sent to my email: Versaivex@gmail.com