Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One of the Greatest Examples

A friend of mine, Reed Anderson, passed away last Tuesday night due to injuries sustained in a car accident. He was one of the greatest examples in my life. Even though he's 11 years younger than me, I have always looked up to him. His life story is incredible. When he was in middle school, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It wasn't cancerous but was the type to spread by branching out. Eventually, it was determined that if he didn't have a very serious brain surgery, one that could kill him, the tumor would take his life. So in January of 2006, he had the surgery. They were able to remove most of the tumor. His recovery was very critical. He had strokes, even died a couple of times. Once for 5 minutes but they were able to bring him back to life. Once he was starting to recover he had some things he had to relearn, but he took it on and beat them. Reed also had major knee surgeries shortly after his brain surgery to repair a torn ACL. That wasn't the major part. He ended up with a very serious staff/mersa infection that took months to get over. He had many surgeries for this and had to have his incision left open so they could apply heavy medication inside as well to beat this. Having his brain surgery messed up his hypothalamus which controls so many things of the body... blood pressure, body temperature, how fast you recover from infections, etc.. That summer he ran a marathon despite everything he'd been through. After the first mile and a half he passed out. Once he came to, the paramedics wanted to take him to the hospital, but Reed said no and finished the race; even passing some at the finish line. He said to the paramedics and his family "I didn't come all this way to quit, I have to finish the race." That became his modo throughout his life. And this wasn't his first and last majorly physical thing he did. He climed Dark Canyon with his dad for YM's and last summer wanted to hike King's Peak with Jared and the YM but couldn't because it was the weekend before his wedding. He never let anything stop him.
I loved talking to Reed. He was always so upbeat and happy. You'd never know he woke up everyday with a migraine headache. He'd go on like he wasn't hurting every minute of his life. The only time you knew he was sick is when either the pain would get so bad that he'd pass out or his body would become so run down that he'd sleep for a couple of days. I remember when I really got to know him. We were at the Elder's basketball game. Jared was playing as well as Reed's dad. (Reed and his family live in our ward.) Reed sat by me as well as his mom, Annette. We talked the whole time. Reed was on crutches for his knee and even had an IV in his arm for medications. I was amazed at his stories he was telling me about going through his brain surgery and almost dying as well as everything with his knee and the staff infection. His whole attitude was incredible. He brushed off the dying thing as he must not be done here on earth. It was incredible to listen to him. I was drawn to how strong he was, both mentally and spiritually. I told him he needed to write a book about his life, that his faith through all this might help someone. He kind of laughed at first but then said he should. He told me I could have an autographed copy. This became our little thing over the next few years. I'd see him at church and he'd joke saying he knew he needed to get started. I even offered to buy him some notebooks.
I became good friends with his mom, too. We served in the YW's together. I talked to her a lot about Reed. She was so good to keep me up on how Reed was doing. She didn't always go into detail with everyone about him, but she would with me. She knew I loved Reed. Annette was really good with me, too, when we found out my mom had a brain tumor as well. She talked to me a lot, would call me to see how the Dr.'s appts went, and what was going on with her. One of the things Annette told me when she first heard about my mom was there are worse things in this life then death. She told me to tell my mom not to have brain surgery if they wanted to do it. Reed has been through so much because of his surgery, that sometimes it's harder to watch that then if they didn't have the surgery at all. Annette was one who gave me an idea, too, of what we might be looking at with my mom, whether it be surgery or the gamma knife radiation (which is what they did).                                                                            Reed always dreamed of serving a mission but the family was never sure if he'd be able to. I remember when he was closing in on his 19th birthday, Annette told me they were working with Dr.'s to see if he'd be able to go even on a state side mission. I got the coolest surprise in Oct. of 2008. I was sitting on the stand in sacrament meeting when they called Reed up to announce his big surprise. I looked at Annette immediately and she smiled and nodded at me. Reed announced he would serve a mission in New York. I was so excited for him. He ended up only serving there 6 weeks before he got sick with a sinus infection that he couldn't get over. That doesn't sound like much to a normal person, but to Reed, it was difficult to get over. They ended up sending him home to recover and then finish his mission locally. He served in the So. Salt Lake County Mission in West Jordan. Even though he was so close to home, he did everything he could to make it like a normal mission. When he needed his mom to bring his meds., his companion would call Annette, and then she'd deliver them to his door step, knock, and then after she left he'd go out and get them. He could have cheated and seen his mom every time she brought them, but he didn't. At times he'd be so worn out though that he'd have to come home from his mission to sleep for 2 or 3 days - almost straight - and then he'd go back out. Finally, when his body couldn't handle much more, he was given an honorable release. I remember about a few months before Reed had to come home, I had a message from a facebook friend of mine whom I went to school with. She said she had an Elder Anderson at her house and he wanted her to tell me to tell his family 'hi' for him. I have no idea how he found out we went to school together so he could send this message, but he did. At the time I had his brother Tommy in my sunday school class. He was shocked to hear that little message from Reed through me.
It wasn't long after he got home, that Reed started dating and soon became engaged to someone. He was so cute, asking me for my chinese ham fried rice to cook for her to impress her since she interned in China for 6 months. But, it wasn't meant to be and they broke up. But he soon met his future wife and they got married last Aug. They lived in our ward. It was in October of last year that Reed started having lots of problems. He would loose his mind, or have a seizure and didn't know what he was doing. In 2 days time, he staged a robbery at his own house, then the next day set fire to it. Long story short, he moved back home with his family while they tried to figure what was going on with him. His wife was here sometimes with him and sometimes with her parents. They always loved each other, just went through a hard time not knowing what was going to happen with Reed. Some Dr.'s took him off of the 30 medications he was on, which was causing major ulcers and seizures, and that helped him some. But since he caused so much trouble in those 2 days, he was having charges pressed against him. The family tried fighting it. Jared was able to go help rebuild the rooms that had burned in that fire. He spent a day working with Reed right by his side. He said Reed had so much fun working that day. He was his normal happy self. Jared said they laughed together all day as they worked, even when they were up in the attic.
On March 20, I saw Annette leaving church with Reed who, you could tell, was extremely sick and in major pain. He'd come just to take the sacrament even though he was told not to come that day. Next thing we know, his brother Tommy was running in to Jared during sacrament to come help give Reed a blessing. Reed's dad had just had knee surgery and needed help. So Jared left and went to their house. Jared was the one who gave Reed the blessing. Jared said that before the blessing, Reed was not acting like himself at all, but the minute it was over, Reed looked up, thanked them for helping, and then went immediately to sleep. Jared also said it was a very short blessing; only about 3 or 4 sentences. I trust Jared. He listens to the spirit so well. He said that the blessing just ended, he wasn't supposed to say anymore. It didn't talk at all about him recovering. It just said that through the atonement, he would soon be healed. And it was soon. 9 days later, Reed was getting back from the temple with his sister. He went to Maverick, alone, to get gas before work the next day. As he was driving home, on our road, he suffered a seizure, passed out, and hit the bangerter wall. He died almost instantly. I heard all the sirens. There were so many. I saw them fly past our house. I knew it was something bad. Jared was just coming home and followed the ambulance and cops there, but he couldn't see what happened. But 20 minutes later, Jared's dad called. He'd heard what had happened. Jared came in. I could tell by the look on his face it wasn't good. He said "It was Reed. He passed out and hit the bangerter wall. He died. They're cutting him out right now." I couldn't believe it. I was shocked. On one hand I was so going to miss him, but on the other hand, I was relieved for him. He wasn't in pain anymore. But I'm going to miss him. And as it turned out, his family found out the day before that they'd lost the case and charges were filed against him, but they didn't know if he was going to jail or not yet. But they said they all had a feeling it was going to be ok.
His funeral was yesterday. I almost bawled as I saw Annette. There's a connection between us that not many understand. It has to do with dealing with brain tumors. Unless you go through it, you can't understand it. One minute, everything can be fine, the next, your world is turned upside down. She's been such a big help to me. Just knowing I can always talk to her helps so much. I gave her a big hug. Mark, Reed's dad, gave Jared a big hug and thanked him so much for helping with the blessing that Sunday. Reed's wife wasn't there that day so Mark explained everything to her, saying how Jared came to help. Then he turned to Jared and said, "You knew, didn't you." Meaning the blessing was so short because he didn't have much time left on earth. Jared nodded and started crying. The spirit was so strong at that moment. It was cool. This family, especially Mark, knew Reed didn't have much time left. Jared felt so blessed he could be part of that blessing. He will never forget that.

Reed's funeral was awesome! It wasn't the normal funeral when all you do is talk about the person. It was all centered around Jesus Christ. He had one of the strongest testimonies! Their whole family does. Reed's two sisters spoke, and they both read some of Reed's letters from his mission that bore his testimony or that told of how he felt about Jesus Christ. And his dad read an essay that Reed had written about some of his trials in life and never giving up. All week I've been thinking about how Reed didn't get his book written, but hearing that essay really helped me. He got his writings in, just in another form. Through his essays and letters from his mission, it's there. It may never be published, but it's there for his family to read. One of the coolest things at his funeral by the program was copies of The Living Christ for everyone to take. Reed was one of the best examples of Christ I've ever met, so this was fitting to give at his funeral.

On the back of the program was a picture of a horse struggling to pull a heavy load. His family looked at this picture a lot like their son. Reed gave his best at all times despite his chronic high pain levels and a weak body. Reed love service and was always so dependable and happy to help. He never gave up. He is one of the best examples of enduring to the end. I'll miss you Reed. Thanks for everything you've taught me in this life. I'll never forget it. I am a better person because of you.

This picture was taken around 1917 of a working horse in a mine shaft. This horse was completely blind from working in constant darkness, yet he never gave up.

I wanted to throw this quote in as well. It's so fitting for this. One of my friends put this on facebook along with a picture of her and Reed together.

"To the righteous person, birth into the world of spirits is a glorious privilege and blessing. The greatest spirits in the family of the Father have not usually been permitted to tarry longer in the flesh than to perform a certain mission; then they are called to the world of spirits where the field is greater and the workers fewer."                                         -President Heber Q. Hale

1 comment:

  1. Wow Jenn. This was so touching. I hope you know how great you and Jared are and how your testimonies are strengthening so many. Thanks for sharing his story and the sadness. Lisa