December 1, 2014: Brad Lane...Gone, but not Forgotten

Brad Lane...Gone, but not Forgotten

Brad died on December 1, 2007.  Although it has been seven years, many details from the days following his death feel like yesterday. This is especially true each year as we reflect on the anniversary of his passing.  Somehow that fateful time becomes a raw memory imbedded in the mind with a void that grows bigger in the heart as this day passes.  I see it in the eyes of his family and in their words of encouragement to each other as they cope to get through and rally as a family.  That is the Lane way…cope, love, persevere together.  As this anniversary is now behind us, the memories burn bright again.  And we all know that memories come in many shapes and sizes.  For the Lane’s, memories are carried in the good; that of a lovable brother, uncle, son and in the bad; the painful memories of losing Brad.
What began as a very ordinary Saturday in Nebraska, one that most of us have experienced a hundred times over, turned into a day that changed our lives forever.  A rain hit the ground that early morning and turned into a mild ice storm.  With resolve under the cloudy skies and slippery roads, I ventured out to follow my Saturday gym routine.  My family stayed back at home in different stages of sleep and sleepiness with the beginnings of our seemingly Saturday normalcy.  But this day quickly turned into all but normal.  In between workout reps, I picked up my phone and noticed several missed calls from home.   “Probably the boys wanting me to pick up donuts on my way home,” I thought.  Scott answered my call back with a statement that was so surreal at the time that I couldn’t even comprehend who he was referring to.  “Brad is dead”. After a very confusing conversation that followed, I was aware that the 'Brad' Scott was referring to was his younger brother.  Brad Lane had died that morning; just four days shy of his fortieth birthday.
I actually knew Brad before I knew Scott as I was introduced to most of the Lane
family in 1986 while a pregnant Robbie’s loyal sidekick and trusted friend.  I remember my first introduction to this crew was a framed family picture that Robbie proudly had on display in her dorm room.  This treasure had the Lane kids sitting stacked one after another up a playground slide with heads peaking out either side.  The parents sat proudly at the top of their brood.  Robbie would recite their names to me and point out their individual differences and similarities.  I was intrigued by these smiling toe heads from the get go and before I had even met them.  The Lane clan was a cross between the “Brady Bunch” and “Eight is Enough” (but with nine kids instead of eight). And Brad was the fun loving brother.  He was always the one to get the first laugh and a charmer with his boyish grin.  He had a sense of genuineness to him that made you instantly feel at ease.  I personally experienced this unconditional acceptance as he immediately received me as “one of them”.  I felt like a Lane girl from day one.  For Brad, being Lane and being Otis (Brad’s family nickname) meant acceptance and putting others before himself.  Brad never knew a stranger.

Brad and I with Jason and Jennifer...visiting my Aunt Joan & friends :)
We buried Brad on a Wednesday.  It was a cold day with overcast skies.  As we were still trying to make sense out of the unthinkable, there was a general feeling among family similar to that of a dull ache.  We didn’t know the answers and couldn’t even begin to put our arms around the reality of this loss.  But the family pulled together as we cared for the many grandchildren, made funeral arrangements, and made many trips to the airport with arms open to mourning out-of-state family.  Just as this large crew came together for the multitude of celebrations over the years, they were now preparing to bury their son and brother as a unified family.
People came to the wake and the funeral in masses.  Devotion and love toward the Lane’s was evidenced by the number of people who had come to pay their respects to a family that had always continuously given of themselves.  As Cookie and Russ unselfishly shared their love of life with those they encountered, these same people were now overwhelmingly supporting them.  All who know the Lane’s know that they are a family who would give you the shirt off their back.  And they would do this knowing there was no spare shirt in their drawer to replace it.  I have had the benefit of being a part of this family for over half of my life and being “raised” Lane during my young adult years.   Through this blessing, I have learned many great lessons of the heart and the value of being a part of a family that continually gives.
 There is a saying that people don’t always remember exact words or actions, but they always remember how they felt.  This best describes Brad’s funeral.  I don’t remember the exact readings nor do I remember who I sat beside, but I do remember holding on to each other as we sobbed with tears that never stopped flowing.  I remember feeling a huge sense of sadness and loss, but also a sense of complete family unity.  I remember all of us watching closely over grandchildren and reaching out to hold them as we saw them struggling during the service.  I remember watching my sons cry not only for a lost uncle they adored, but for their broken father and bereaved grandparents.  There was a hole that was left in the heart of a family that can never be replaced.
Fr. Don left a mark on this mourning family with the most amazing sermon from the heart; a true gift to the Lane’s.  As a long-time family friend, Fr. Don Shane watched the Lane children grow up.  He celebrated mass with the Lane Family filling an entire row at church.  He spent time in their home, baptized their grandchildren, and shared many laughs with this family full of an abundance of family humor.  He spoke from the heart with no focus on the “whys” of Brad’s death.   Although I may not remember the exact words, I can tell you that what he said moved me and brought comfort to a family who knew the words he spoke to be true.  “Many families are wealthy.  Most would think this to be a monetary assessment.  I am here to tell you that the Lane’s are a family of wealth.  Their wealth is in kindness and love.  They have richness in a deep and unconditional love for each other and all who are privileged to be part of their circle. Brad was a part of this love and knew this love.  This family grieving in front of me is the wealthiest family I know.”

The Lane Clan...sometime in the 80's
Brad was buried on his fortieth birthday.  We had finished the funeral luncheon and had invited family to gather at our house.  No one was really ready to part and the Lane way is to be together and share time together…pictures, memories, conversation, and always a lot of great food.  So that is what we did.  We packed up cakes and food that had been dropped off by many friends and traveled to West Omaha as we opened our home to anyone who wanted to join us.
As we sat in unity at our house, strange events were unfolding in Omaha.  There was a random mass shooting by a lone gunman at the Omaha Von Maur department store. There were many dead and wounded with many more questions as to the whys and hows.  We were glued to the television set at my home trying to piece together yet another tragedy in our community after an already emotion-filled day.  The following day when the details on the timeline of shooter entry and killings were depicted in the paper, I was quickly aware of a blessing bestowed on me.
The weekend before Brad died I had purchase a little black Christmas dress at Von Maur.  The day before Brad died I noticed the length of the hanging dress in my closet, tags intact, and deemed it too long for my taste.  I had placed the dress in the back of my vehicle making a mental note that I would return it the next week on my way to an out of town client meeting.  You see, as the forever planner, I had mapped my route to my future client meeting and knew a stop by Von Maur in route would both be multi-tasking at its best and an avoidance of the weekend mall crowds.
The day after the funeral and shootings, I noticed the forgotten bag in the back of my car.  The timeline of my aborted plan quickly surged through me as I compared it to the actual series events that transpired over the previous 24 hours.  My client meeting was canceled as it was on the same day as Brad’s funeral.  Based on my scheduled meeting time, if it wasn’t for Brad’s funeral, I would have been at the customer service counter of Von Maur at the exact time that several people were killed and critically wounded by the young gunman.   Although I haven’t shared this Godwink story with many people, I have always felt in my heart that Brad somehow saved my life on that fateful day.  And although this is a far-fetched thought, it is something that I will always hold in my heart to be true.  Brad was a Lane, tried and true, and that’s what Lane’s do; they give you the shirt off of their back and put their family first.
The reality is that the void of Brad’s loss will never be filled and the hole in the heart of the Lane Family never replaced.  Regardless of his journey; a child, brother, son, uncle was taken from this family.  He was a kind heart that we all so desperately wish would have had one more chance at life.  But that is not a decision of man, but of our God. Our blessing stays with us in our memories and in the smiling loving faces of the many nieces and nephews who each carry on a piece of Uncle Brad in their heart.  I can picture him now with his boyish grin looking down at all of us from heaven.   The innocent reality in Brad was that he never judged others and gave of himself with all that he could offer.  And we all know that the heart and the love of a family is the most valuable asset of any individual.  It is this wealth that makes us whole.  Although Brad’s life was short and his accomplishments few by the naked eye, his sharing of kindness and love was a big contribution to a great family legacy.  And the Lane family legacy will continue to make a difference in this world one person at a time.

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