Reflections of Brooke
This page is dedicated for people to send us memories, stories, letters, or anything you find relevant about Brooke. I was inspired by Kelly McKeown’s (one of Brooke’s camp counselors) letter we recently received and thought of adding this page.
February 9, 2013
Hi Healey Family, Stef, Steve, Ashton, Bryn, and New Baby on the Way!
I hope this letter finds you well. I just wanted to reach out to you all as a friend and lover of your sweet Brooke. As I think you know, I was Brooke’s head camp counselor (Miss Kelly) at The Connection the summer of 2012. Brooke and I just had this incredible bond as she was an incredible little girl. I know I’m not going to tell you all anything that you didn’t already know, but I want to express how much Brooke meant to me and to share with you some more memories that you can hold on to. The first day she walked in my classroom she had the absolute biggest smile on her face and I will quite literally never forget it. By morning meeting she was already sitting in my lap and making me laugh. Though she was only with me for one week of camp, we somehow formed some amazing, unbreakable bond. She stayed by my side throughout the day with no actual need for me to be at her side, since she was such a social butterfly in the Guppy classroom. She was friends with every other child and would laugh, play with, and smile at any child on any day. She just had this way about her that made everyone fall in love with her. Well, I did for sure; she absolutely stole my heart. We matched both wearing green shirts at camp one day and she said “Miss Kelly we have to take a picture!” because she knew how much I loved taking pictures every day. She also loved learning sign language with me which I started last summer and will forever keep teaching it to my young ones in memory of Brooke. Brooke would ask as soon as she got in the room to do sign language and was one of the best in the class at taking in all the signs and memorizing them. I have plenty of pictures of her at camp smiling away while learning some sign language (I think you have most of these on a CD from this summer, but I have found new ones since then). Anyway, I fell in love with the happiest child I had ever seen, and as a teacher, that says a lot.
When I first heard about Brooke’s diagnosis, I couldn’t hold it together. I was absolutely heartbroken that this horrible, disgusting, terrible thing had to happen to the sweetest child I had ever known. I followed your journey, as did many, and I’m still in disbelief that she’s gone. While she was fighting as hard as ever this summer, we as a Guppy classroom for this year, wanted to do something special for her which is when we started making those cards for your sweet girl. My Guppies would ask every day how Brooke was and if she was smiling and it was the most beautiful and heart-wrenching thing I had ever had to deal with as a young teacher. When I came over with Cindy this summer to visit, I had so much I wanted to say, but I don’t think I got a word out. I knew I wanted to do anything possible to keep Brooke with me, and everyone, forever so I went and got Faith, Hope, Love tattooed on my wrist. Every day I look down at it and think about not only Brooke, but your entire family and how strong you all are to have endured so much in such a short time. Stef and Steve you are both my absolute role models and I’m so impressed with how insanely strong you’ve been through this entire journey. When someone says the word strong, now, I immediately think of you two and of course, Brookie.
I know that whatever I say can’t even compare in the slightest to what you have felt over this heart-wrenching year and will continue to feel, but I just want you to take some comfort in the fact that Brooke has changed so many peoples’ lives and she will absolutely never be forgotten. God had a plan for her and she was the strongest little warrior he could find. If you ever need anything in the future, whatever that may be, helping at events, talking about Brooke, spreading the word about anything at all, know that I am here and more than 100% willing to do whatever it takes to keep Brooke’s legacy alive. Never hesitate to contact me about anything, but of course I will still follow Brooke’s pages and fundraisers for the rest of my life. God took her from this world absurdly too soon, but she has changed so many lives and will continue to do so as an angel in heaven. I know she’s watching over you all because she certainly has visited me. Thanks for your time and I hope that I haven’t caused a disturbance in your every day life.
With all the love in the world,
My love and thoughts are with you today and every day. You are my special and most precious Valentine.
I close my eyes and can see you working hard on your Valentines. I can see you sitting at the table with your scissors, glue, glitter, doillies and paper. I see you have put a special sticker on my card and I love it. I made my card for you with love and hugs and kisses. I know you got it too. I can feel it. I love that we can talk with our hearts and minds and never lose touch with each other.
I do miss you so very much. I miss your smile, the twinkle in your eye, your sweet little voice and your wonderful giggle. Bryn sounds so much like you. Even her expressions and gestures are so like you. I wish the two of you could have grown up together and been as close as your Mom and your Aunt Michele are today.
Ashton and Bryn miss you and love you so much. They are so lucky to have had such a wonderful sister, and to carry such great memories of you with them forever.
I know you will love baby Seamus. We will make sure he knows all about his big sister, Brooke. Having never to have met you, he will love you. And I know you will love him and be watching over him forever..
I can see you dancing and hear you singing. I loved when you put on a show for us. I loved the way you would put your hands on your hips and tap your foot. I loved the way you would flip your head and spin on your toe. I loved your determination and your spunk.
My thoughts are with you everyday. I can see you happy and dancing. I know you are a beautiful angel with white fluffy wings and a glowing halo.
I know you are safe and in God’s arms until I see you again. We will sing and dance and plant pretty flowers. We will catch butterflies and bake cookies. We will laugh and giggle and I will hold you in my arms again.
Happy Valentines Day to my precious Brookie. All my love to you today and everyday.
I Love You Forever,
Grandma (Stephanie Colangelo – Steve’s Mom)
I miss you a lot. I think about you every day and wonder what you are up to. Some days are good for me and some days are bad. But I know you are up there smiling down on me. I know you are giggling, playing with Parlay and probably eating chocolate chip cookies. I wish I could have said bye to you, I think about that a lot. We had such an amazing bond together and I will never forget all the memories we shared. I loved taking care of you and making sure everything was perfect so you could have a great day-by the way I cut your food or even if you didn’t want me to cut it at all, to make sure you took tiny tiny bites.
Do you remember that time we had hot chocolate with marshmallows in 100 degree weather in the middle of summer? I still giggle about that. Or when I would wheel you around the kitchen to check out what mom got from the grocery store or what was in the pantry. You liked to see what you were going to eat or the yummy food that people brought to you. Another memory that sticks in my head is making your birthday goodie bags for your cousins, Ashton and Bryn. You were so excited for your Princess party. Everything that mom pulled out of the many boxes we got from FedEx you had a glow on your face. You were the best, doodlebug.
Recently I have been looking at old pictures and videos of you, Ashton and Bryn. It brings a smile to my face and some tears. The “sit down” video is my favorite. I remember like it was yesterday you were standing on the edge of the couch and it looked like you were about to fall. I shouted in a silly voice “sit down” and you laughed so hard. We had so many funny times together. I loved when I would pick up Ashton and you from Sundance. You would run into my arms and give me a big hug. I always made sure I had snacks and juice in my car, for Ashton and you so I didn’t have any cranky Healey kids in my back seat.
I have been watching Bryn every Tuesday. And every Tuesday that I am with her, I feel like I am with you too. Bryn is so much like you. The way she laughs, how she bosses me around (A LOT hah) or even when we are driving in the car “Sammy put on frozen!!” you always used to ask to turn up the music. I wish it was us three on Tuesdays. Bryn and Ashton talk about you so much, we love to talk about memories that we had with you. Ashton has been practicing coloring in the lines. I told him to make me a picture, he wanted to surprise me. After about ten minutes and a few “Sammy don’t peek”, finally he showed me the drawing. It was you, mom and I sitting in the kitchen. Mom was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for you and we were coloring together.
Every time I make or eat chocolate chip cookies I think of you. We used to have one every morning for breakfast! “Brooke what would you like for breakfast?” It would take you awhile to answer but at the end you would smile and I knew the smile was a chocolate chip cookie. I miss your smile, your giggles, all the crafts we did.
I can’t wait to see you again, please visit me in my dreams, I like when you do. Heaven is probably sparkling with all different colors and has so many yummy treats because you are there. Baby Seamus will be here soon, I can’t wait to see what he looks like and how much of you will be in him.
I will love you forever and you will always be my Doodlebug!
I miss Brooke. Just yesterday I was going through some of Rose’s old clothes, some of which I hadn’t seen in years, and I found myself equating certain outfits to memories of Brooke: “That was the purple dress Rose wore the day we went to the zoo with Ashton and Brooke; that’s the bathing suit Rose wore the day they went in the sprinkler together; that’s the blue dress that Rose and Brooke wore to match at the same party…” Even though it makes me sad, I still feel so blessed to have known such an adorable, loving, smart girl. Just the other day Bryn said something quite smart and the first thing I thought was,“that is something Brooke would have said.” I know we all say how much Bryn reminds us of Brooke, and I think that is such an honor for Bryn. Seeing Bryn’s similar mannerisms and attitude truly puts a smile to my face.
Rose was born 8 months after Ashton, and 8 months before Brooke, and I always loved how she was right exactly in the middle of her two cousins. I remember the first few years after Brooke was born. Ashton and Rose used to play together all the time, and sometimes I would feel badly that Brooke wasn’t always included, even though it was simply just because she was still too young to relate to them yet. That obviously changed as time went by, and I actually remember the first time that Brooke came over our house to play with Rose without Ashton or Stefani and Steve being there. I remember the games that Rose and Brooke played. I remember they danced together in the front entryway of my house. I remember thinking that Brooke was such a big girl now.
Last Easter at my house Brooke had to use the bathroom. She already needed help by that point, and when she was done and I carried her back down the stairs to the dinner table, I hugged her and kissed her and told her I loved her (how could I not?). And she giggled and said, “my mommy and daddy always do that to me, too.” Sweet little girl. She knew she was loved.
Last Sunday Rose sang in church with a group of kids in her Sunday school class. I cried the whole time. Once in a while I actually allow myself to think, Brooke should have been here, too. I can’t do it all the time, because it is too painful. But the truth is, she should have been there. And my feeling is, she is still there- just not in the same way. She is still with our family in everything we do.
At night, when Rose and I light our candle and say our prayer, we ask God to bless our angel Brooke. I can guarantee one thing- we will never forget her.
While I know this is about reflections of Brooke, I would be remiss not to start by explaining the dynamics of why Brooke is so important to me. Steve was my neighbor growing up. I believe he was 4 or 5 when I first met him. His smile was bigger than he was and his hair was fire engine red. You wouldn’t know it looking at him today but he was one of the cutest little kids. Devilish but cute. An Angel with a dirty face you could say. So he has always been like a little brother to me. Stef is my first cousin. Since her and Michele were little I have always loved them. As we grew older and they were in high school and what not I would seek them out and have them over. They would babysit Nick and Kaity for me. There was always a special bond between us. Hard to explain, I mean yes, we are cousins but Stef and Meesh to me are more like little sisters. Stef’s dad asked me last year at the Bikers event why I was always looking out for them, what made them so special to me? I said “I knew I would need babysitters”. Obviously that was not the reason, or at least the main reason. I just love them and anyone who knows me knows how much my family means to me. I would kill or be killed for them. After we started working on the Bikers for Brooke event, Stef said to me, “I always knew you would be there for me when I really needed you”. This is why Brooke is and always will be so special to me.
OK, reflection: Having lived in Florida for over 10 years, my only way of “seeing” Brooke and her siblings was via Facebook and pictures Stef would text me. (like the infamous middle finger picture that was actually a boo boo). I would post comments about the kids and about the fact that Brooke looked to me like Stef and Bryn looked more like Steve. Stef would disagree but I held fast. We moved to upstae NY in December 2011 and while Lisa was out running errands with her mom, Kaity and I decided we would visit the Healey’s and say hello to Steve, Stef and the kids. So as we enter the house, Brooke comes down with Stef. Stef says “Do you remember your cousins Donny and Kaity?” Brooke cocks her head sideways, looks me in the eye with zero expression, turns to her mom then back to me and with her crooked little smile, grabs our hands and says “come with me” and drags us, I means DRAGS us upstairs to the kitchen. As we approach the table, filled with clay and other arts and crafty things, she proudly announces to us “this is my brother Ashton and my sister Bryn”. She then assigned our seats and didn’t move until we were seated per her instructions. That was all it took, I was from that moment on, one of Brooke’s biggest fans. I still continued to call her Mini-Stef but this kid was ALL BROOKE. Spunk, Lightness, Smiles, Giggles and all, this child was like no other person I have ever met.
When Brooke was diagnosed, Lisa and I still lived in Upstate NY. We made every effort to visit on weekends, to not just give our support but to see and spend time with my family. I would tease Brooke and she would snort and giggle. Stef would ask if she wanted a popsicle, to which I would say “A Poopsicle?”, she would crack up. But after a few minutes, she would be bored with me and my jokes and turn her head as if to say “you’ve entertained me enough, you may go now”. I teased her about me going to her Princess Party, that I would wear a purple dress with green shoes and a blue wig. She would say to me “NOOOOO, YOU CAN’T GO” and then she would giggle. I even texted Stef a picture of me wearing a purple dress (long story). Stef said Brooke was cracking up when she saw it. I would make sure whenever I was there, to show her that photo. She would look at me like I had 4 heads then start giggling. As time passed, whenever I would drop by, as uncomfortable as she was, never did that little girl complain about anything. She wanted her food when she wanted it and how she wanted it, she wanted me to sit where she wanted me to sit, if she felt like it, she would grace me with a glance or a word. I would kiss her hello and goodbye and she would scrunch her face because of my beard. THAT is when I started calling her Scrapper. All the things she was going through and she was still little Miss Larger Than Life Personality.
One of our last talks, Lisa was telling Stef what I had cooked for dinner the night before. I figured Scrapper was ignoring me as usual as I kept looking to her and she would turn her head away from me as if to say “really? You’re still talking?” Then she said to Stef “Mommy, when is Donny going to cook ME dinner?” We all started laughing…
I find myself thinking more and more about Scrapper, her smile, that twinkle in her eye, her giggle. Whenever I visit The Healey’s, I love the fact that everyone talks about her. I love that Bryn is sounding more and more like her sister yet she has her own precious personality. I love that Ashton is so funny and when he hears Brooke’s name, he lights up. I already love Seamus and haven’t met him yet, but he is Steve and Stef’s son, so it’s a no brainer. I love Stef with all of my heart and I love the fact that she knows, no matter what, I will always be there when she needs me.