As a child, every year for Christmas Brock Johnson and his family would have their Christmas trees up for several months.
As a tradition, they’d keep ornaments which represented important events in their lives. Each year was an opportunity to reflect on those moments and recount their many blessings.
“Every time we pulled out an ornament we’d think about it. So I open up the box and I look in there and it’s this little white angel…It just had a date on it,” said Johnson.
I just remember asking my mother:
‘What are these? Why are there dates on these?’
‘Those are your brothers.’
‘Where are they?’
‘They’re in heaven.’
‘When will I get to meet them?’
‘They’re looking out over you.’
“I just remember going to my room that night and crying. And I just wanted to meet them,” said Johnson.
The gift of love, a troubled beginning
The reason that my mom and I were so close was because… I was a gift to her… and she was a gift to me.
“She was just there for literally everything in my life. She would make sure I got to school; she would make sure I got to basketball; she would make sure I got to choir. She’s been that rock. She’s always been there,” said Johnson.
I know that regardless of what I do that she’ll be there to love me.
But that love came with a price. With two occurrences of infant mortality, losing Brandon’s brothers gave his mother a harsh and unforgiving view of the world.
“It gave her a view of the world that no matter what you do and how hard you try that you don’t have any say over what happens in life,” said Johnson. “Even if you do right and you care so much that you can’t change the outcome.”
Life is largely a series of adversities. It’s these challenges which serve as opportunities for you to find happiness by appreciating the moments given to you.
And it’s the joint challenge which Brock and his mother would each face next that would pave the way for their own happiness.
The fight of their life
Now a young man in college, Johnson’s health began to quickly decline.
“I remember laying in my bed and being so sick, my left hand was way weaker than my right hand…My limbs are starting to go numb,” recalled Johnson.
Figuring all he needed was to get his circulation going, he decided to step outside and go for a quick run.
I started to run and all of a sudden I would get really, really light headed. I stood up, took a deep breath, took my inhaler…and when I breathe out, whoom. It’s like someone hit me in the back of the head with a baseball bat.
“What happened was I ended up falling down the stairs and lost consciousness. I just remember screaming and nobody was home,” said Johnson.
After the incident, Brock went to a doctor and discovered that part of his heart was failing due to a rare pectoral condition. The condition deformed the bones in his chest and placed pressure on his heart, causing it to fail.
But things became much more serious when his mother’s health was also placed in jeopardy. “My mother got diagnosed with breast cancer right at the same time that my health condition was deteriorating,” said Johnson.
His mother would have to receive a mastectomy while he would have to have surgery on his chest, where doctors break both the bones in his chest and split his pectoral muscles to reform his chest entirely.
“And that was when it really, really sunk in,” said Johnson. “My mom was scared. But I think she was more scared for me because of what had happened. She had lost both of her baby boys and she was afraid of losing me.”
Johnson’s mother was there for him in the operating room on the day of his surgery, offering her love and support and continuing to be his rock. “She was there to just…hold my hand and tell me that it was okay.”
That’s the biggest thing I learned from her… Even if there’s no sign of hope, you never know. There might be something in there that you can’t see.
A new dawn
“I woke up…and I had no problems. Never had a head rush again, had all the control of my limbs,” said Johnson.
Soon after, his mother’s surgery was also completed. “She had just gotten her surgery. Everything turned out fine,” said Johnson.
What had once appeared to be impending darkness had opened up to reveal a bright light, the light of hope. Both he and his mother had beaten their surgery and came out healthy and strong and ready to live their life, to the best of their ability, and cherishing every moment together.
“I’m twenty-six years old but I feel like I’ve only truly been alive for four…” said Johnson. “I’ve had more memorable moments in the past four years than I have in the first twenty-two years of my life.”
“We’ll be with them this year for Christmas,” says Johnson. “My family collected memories in the form of ornaments and every year we get one for the years that she’s freed breast cancer.”
Your life is just a series of moments and we all have a limited amount of moments left. But we take for granted how many we have left.
But when you get closer and you realize there might not be that many [moments] left… now it’s different. And you say, well god, I gotta spend those really good.