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  • Writer's pictureMelinda Eye Cooper

If They Die

In March 2011, my nephew, Brandon Bourbon came to visit me in Tennessee with his girlfriend, Nicole. I was so excited because I don’t get visitors from home often and he wanted to go to church with me. I’ll never forget proudly introducing him to fellow church members at Temple Baptist Church in White House, Tennessee where we were members at the time. I introduced him to the Pastor, the Youth Pastor and anybody else who noticed my tall, good-looking, football playing nephew!

I don’t remember the sermon that day but I’ll NEVER forget how happy I was to have him with me in the service. 

After church, we took Brandon and Nicole to eat at our favorite Chinese buffet. Then we went home, played soccer in the back yard (where I realized I’m getting too old to play soccer with college kids!) and hung out until evening.  

I’m glad I snapped a picture of him (and Nicole) in our front yard that day. After which, he climbed up the tree next to us, giving everyone a good laugh!

When I was very young, a friend once asked me, “How do you know if you love somebody?” I remember thinking about it a second and then I replied, “If they die and you cry…then you loved them.”  She thought that made pretty good sense and I’ve never forgotten that conversation from my childhood. I guess because it is true.

Since I was a kid, I’ve lost some relatives along the way but nothing hit me as hard as hearing my sister tell me that my nephew, Brandon, had taken his own life. We were all in shock. Brandon was not depressed that any of us were aware of. What is this about? We had tons of questions and nothing made sense.    

We went home for the funeral and I must say how proud I was of our little town of Potosi, Missouri. Brandon was a bit of a home town hero because of his football successes and they wanted to turn on the football field lights for him - one more time. 

The funeral was on the high school football field and it was packed. There were three buses of football players from Kansas University and Washburn University where he played college football. First, his high school teammates went through the line and left jerseys on the casket.

Then Kansas University football players went through then Washburn University. I’ve never seen so many big guys with tears streaking down their cheeks.

It was evident that those who spoke, truly loved Brandon. The most touching part of the funeral was at the end when the Superintendent of schools said, “Something isn’t right about this whole thing. Brandon was never on the 50 yard line. He was always at the in-zone.” 

Brandon K. Bourbon, Kansas University Jayhawk

Then Brandon's blockers came up and carried his casket to the in-zone one last time for one final touchdown. There was silence until he reached the in-zone and then cheers erupted in the crowd along with complete breakdowns of tears by some. The whole service completely honored his life.

Brandon was just a really great kid who made everyone proud of him. He was in love with God. His life reflects that and God was all he could talk about according to his best friend, Dylan who spoke at his funeral. I can only imagine the impact he would have had if he would have become a youth pastor or ministered to youth in some way because kids loved Brandon! 

He was the type to play outside with the little kids throwing a football when everyone else was inside talking.  My son, Joseph, came out of his room shortly after Brandon’s death carrying a football with a KU logo on it and showed it to me. He said that he and Brandon were playing catch outside one day and Brandon gave it to him. Now, it is a treasure to Joseph.

There is NO question that Brandon was deeply loved and is already dearly missed.  He was beloved to those of us lucky enough to know him.  

My childhood logic about love stands true, “If they die and you cry…then you loved them.” 

I’ve never seen so many tears.

Love one another deeply, from the heart.  1st Peter 1:22

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