Remembering Kyle | Grieving The Loss of A Hero
S U N D A Y
February 4, 2018
Not many of us can remember what we were doing on a specific Super Bowl Sunday. Unless, perhaps a significant event took place that day- for most it’d be having their team play in the game. For my family, the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department, and those close to Kyle Brayer, we’ll never forget the tragedy that forever imprinted that day into our memories. On Sunday, February 4, 2018 at about 2:30 in the morning Tempe Fire Medical Captain, and USMC Iraq war veteran, Kyle Brayer, was taken away from us and senselessly murdered.
M O N D A Y
February 4, 2018
I woke up this morning and where typically this’d result in one’s nightmare to end, today would be different. My nightmare continued to replay, looping back all of the pieces from the horrific events which played out yesterday. Before I even attempted to open my eyes, I commenced a cry so intense, one would think I had just heard the news of his passing for the first time. Sobbing uncontrollably, the only thing I could think of is “Kyle is dead.” The sounds of my heartache echoed the same sounds of pain I heard coming from the other room as my husband, Ben, attempted to drift off to sleep last night. We lost someone incredibly special to both of us. You see, Kyle wasn’t just a friend of my husband or just a friend of mine. He was a member of our family. He was “Uncle Kyle”.
I laid there in bed, wearing a sweater that used to belong to Kyle- prior to him passing it along to Ben a few years back. I opened my eyes to find Ben walking towards me with a wad of tissue in his hand as he kissed my forehead. I noticed how swollen his eyes were from grieving and simply stated “It wasn’t a nightmare” to which he responded with a familiar “I know”.
We did our best to play strong and prepare our son for school. By “we” I mean, Ben. He really took the lead on showing how much strength he truly has by carrying on with the day-to-day activities, despite his pain. The boys made their way to the car when our son insisted on running back to ‘give Mama one more hug and kiss.’ He leaped towards me with his arms wide open, wrapped them around my neck and softly whispered in my ear “Mama, don’t be sad. Uncle Kyle will be back. Just wait."
I then prepared myself as I ventured into social media, checking for any updates when there it was. Reminders that the horrific information running through a loop in my head were not the details of any subconscious makings. They’re facts and reminders that no one in this world will ever be blessed with Kyle’s grace again.
I scrolled through my phone to look at all of the photos of us, memories of the many happy times we spent together. Memories which included my wedding day, him meeting our son for the first time - awkwardly trying to figure out how to hold and support an infant, the countless charity events we both attended, conversations we had, and our final time together. Marked forever in time with a photo of him playing trucks with my son while waiting for Santa to arrive on the fire truck.
This caused me to smile for a brief moment, as if time had paused just long enough to lift the heaviness from my heart. These photos reflect happiness, some of our many crazy antics between the two of us, and quite simply, love. My favorites being a stream of ‘live’ photos we took in attempt to mark that day’s events. Only to conclude that we were not serious enough to take a respectable picture, but not out of a lack of effort. Continuing down memory lane and reflecting back through our text thread, I read the last words we ever texted to each other, “Love you”.
O U R F I R S T H E A R T - T O - H E A R T
I met Kyle back in the summer of 2011. Ben and I were still in the beginning of our journey together and had only been dating for about a year. We were looking for someone to rent our second bedroom to since it had recently become vacant. Kyle was going through a divorce and came across our ad on Craigslist. I remember him texting my husband saying “Yo Dubes, this you?” after discovering our roommate ad. Marking the beginning of a very special dynamic for the three of us.
Kyle and I initially bonded during our long conversations about our shared endeavors. Specifically, in piecing together our life after both waking away from nearly 10-year relationships. Him only six months after I. I recall one particular conversation we had. A conversation which we carried on throughout our many years of friendship.
Kyle: “Do you think I’ll ever find someone I’d want to settle down with again?”
Me: “Kyle, you are a good man, a handsome man, who wears many uniforms in which many women find attractive. Trust me, I’ve heard all about your ‘wow-factor’ from a flock of my girlfriends. You’ve been off the market your entire adult life. For now, live it up and have fun. The right woman will snag you up when you’re ready and least expect it… ask Ben”.
He smiled and laughed.
Kyle: “Oh yeah, when do you think that’ll happen?
Me: “I say you’ll live it up for a few years. When your 34, you’ll settle down. I just know it”
Kyle: Still laughing, “OK, I’ll hold ya to that, 34 will be my time”
O U R L A S T H E A R T - T O - H E A R T
November 5, 2017
Since our initial conversation, nearly 6 yrs ago, he’s had a couple of relationships which ended for one reason or another. When we’d talk about them, we’d simply umbrella their endings under the fact that he wasn’t yet 34 years-old so it wasn’t “his time”.
Little did we know how all too serious those words would be one day.
Fast forward to November of 2017. Kyle, now 34 years old, we unknowingly concluded the last of our ongoing conversation. Ben and I were with many others who, too, were supporting a charity event put on by the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department. In fact, Kyle attended and supported every charity event I’ve ever attended and then some. I texted Kyle that afternoon to see when he’d be arriving. How grateful I am today to have done so as this would mark the last of our many cherished heart-to-hearts.
Leave it him to arrive fashionably late that day. When Kyle arrived, we immediately headed towards the bar. The crowd was large so the bartenders, understandably, had a hard time keeping up. This particular bartender happened to be male, so I offered Kyle my feminine assistance to get his attention. I recall him laughing at my humorous approach to the topic. I chuckled back to him and shrugged my shoulders saying some quick-wit comment about him likely to dehydrate due to the wait. 20 minutes later, no lie, 20 minutes went by and Kyle was still patiently waiting for the bartender to notice him. Anyone who knew Kyle would attest to the amount of patience he continuously carried.
My cocktail had since concluded when I, again, suggested for Kyle to take me up on my offer of getting the bartender’s attention. Being stubborn, he said “there’s no way you can get his attention, he’s slammed”. Knowing that Kyle wouldn’t just willingly allow an opportunity to be handed to him, I offered him a bribe; that if I got the bartender’s attention, he’d have to buy my drinks. Drinks as in plural, because I was ordering two as a preemptive tactic to avoid another long wait.
I smiled at him with a sibling-like “watch this” mannerism. We waited for the bartender to look in our general vicinity and when he did, I bounced in the air, stood up as tall as I could possibly get, eagerly threw my hand in the air, as if we were in a classroom and I knew the answer to the teacher’s question, and with the sweetest and most polite expression I could express, yelled “oh, call on me! Call on me!”. The bartender laughed and then asked for my drink order. That’s when I turned around to Kyle and in my very best ‘told-ya-so’ voice said, “my friend here would like to order a few drinks”. Haha, remembering the look on Kyle's face makes me laugh as I type this. With a combination of utter disbelief, ‘you’ve gotta be freaking kidding me’, and a sprinkle of ‘smart-ass’, Kyle handed over our drink order along with his credit card to the bartender.
We moved our location outside where the sun’s rays felt blinding in comparison to the darkly dimmed bar inside. Kyle and I began to catch up on his love life -a frequented topic of ours. This is where we had, unbeknownst to us at the time, the conclusion of a conversation we’ve held for nearly 7 years.
I’ve continuously carried such honor in regards to the deep and personal conversations Kyle and I would have. Knowing that Kyle wasn’t a person who was open about his romantic qualms or concerns with many people, I proudly took on this honor. Little did Kyle know, he wasn’t fooling me. He had a heart that was made of pure gold - A point I hope to prove today.
On November 5, 2017, Kyle and I had our final conversation on the topic of his love life. While standing outside on the bar’s patio, with the sun’s rays beaming on his Ray-Ban sunglasses, Kyle opened up the conversation stating “Hey Jess, It’s my time. I’m 34”. Words that will forever play in my head. He then went on to inform both Ben and myself of his elaborate and wildly creative plan to find “Mrs. Brayer”. I’ll spare the details here, let’s just say that his plans were one for the books! He then went on to confess to us that he wanted what we had -A loving marriage and family. He shocked both of us when he said “I want children, I want to be a Dad like my Dad”. Following that statement with a “Why do I always tell you these things?” – words he frequently said to me and words which have always melted my heart. While jumping for joy, I simply responded the way I always did to that question - because we're family and that’s what family does.
I write these words today in hopes of sharing with the world the Kyle that I knew. The side that many didn't know, but in my opinion was the best! The gentle, softhearted, closet cat-loving, of a person he was. Yes, he was a warrior. He was also a beautiful soul, through-and-through. This was and will always be my favorite side of him. The part of him which houses the best of our memories together.
I T ' S N O T F A I R
Kyle was only 34 years young. He was ready to settle down and get married. More than anything, he wanted to be a father. A statement which was evident every time “Uncle Kyle” spent time around our son. All those who knew him would agree that he would have been a remarkable father. Moreover, he deserved to be that remarkable father. Any child would have been incredibly lucky to call him “Dad”. Unfortunately, that opportunity was robbed from him on the morning of Super Bowl LII. That opportunity was also robbed from the future Mrs. Brayer and from future baby Brayers. Furthermore, Kyle’s presence was robbed from the world.
It’s not fair. Losing him the way we did has caused such an intense pain within my family that I’m not sure how we’re going to recover. This should have been the year he expanded his imprint on the world. The year he began searching for that lucky lady he’d give his last name to. The year he looked forward to passing along his name and his legacy to his children. Instead, a senseless act of violence cut his life short and prevented him from continuing to fulfill his dreams. Instead of his loved ones attending the wedding he had hoped for, we will be attending his funeral.
Today, the words he first spoke of 7 yrs ago of “It’s my time, I’m 34” has a whole new meaning associated to them. A meaning which now causes so much anger and heaviness on my heart. A criminal not only took the life of a very special person in this world, but also took the life of all the beautiful things he was planning to create.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful soul with us. Thank you for all of the incredible things you’ve done in this world during the very short amount of time you were with us. Thank you for trusting me with your softer, more delicate side. Thank you for taking me under your wing and always looking out for me in such a loving and brotherly manner. Except for that one time you locked me out of the house for a few hours when it was 100 degrees outside and I was wearing sweats. Like I said, I’ll never let you off the hook for that!
I am unbelievably grateful and blessed to have had you so close to not only my heart, but the hearts of each and every person in our family. I hope you are resting peacefully before you begin to embark on your next journey. Feel free to come back at any time. I hope you know that our lives are richer because you were a part of it. Our hearts are fuller because of your love. We all are better people because of your influence.
You made a remarkable imprint on this world- that can never be taken away.
I love you, my beautiful firefighter brother.