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A few months ago I was trolling through Facebook and came across a sorority sister, Susan Ling, with whom I’d lost contact. In college, we lived in the same dorm, studied the same subject (art), our boyfriends (now husbands) were in the same fraternity. Immediately, I “friended” her. It was good to see her face and see what she’s been up to in the 15+ years since graduation.
Susan’s Facebook profile photo shows a beautiful family photo. Everyone in white shirts. Susan, her husband Tim and a son and daughter. Then, I get to the part where she talks about missing her son. She has an album titled, “my favorite photos,” has the word “cancer” popping up. She writes captions that say, “the last picture I took of Brandon.”
What am I missing?
Then I see it. To the side, Susan has a note: “I made a cookbook. All of the money goes to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at UF and Shands. In Memory of my Son, Brandon, who died in April of 07 at the age of 9 1/2. The cookbooks are $13 plus $2 shipping. Please let me know if you want one.”
All I see is:
Age 9 1/2.
After I read this I can’t stop thinking of it. All day. All night. I think of my son and what I would do if I lost him.
Of course I buy a cookbook. The day it arrives in the mail I was headed out the door with my family to run Saturday errands. I take the cookbook with me to start reading in the car. More of the story prevails in the cookbook.
Cooking for a Cause”
Dedicated to Brandon Joshua Ling
This cookbook is dedicated to my precious Brandon. He was a very special young man. He was very active in helping to raise money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at Shands Hospital. One of the greatest joys was volunteering at Shands Hospital’s Cancer Center helping and comforting other children. …
He was an inspiration to us all.”
I kept thinking, what can I do to help? I think Susan might be able to help my readers. I email her an idea to talk about Brandon and offer to give information about how people (that’s you) can buy this wonderful cookbook. She agrees to answer my questions, which I’ve posted here. It is my hope that Susan and Brandon’s story will inspire you to:
- Enjoy and love your children each and every day.
- Buy a cookbook to support this noble cause and to help other families who are going through what this beautiful little boy (and his family) went through. Every little bit helps.
BALANCING MOTHERHOOD: What do you want people to know most about Brandon?
SUSAN LING: “Brandon loved Jesus! His hero was our Pastor at North Gainesville Baptist Church. Brandon was very outgoing and loved talking to everyone. He loved working at clinic when we had to go in every week for blood work and to see the doctor.
While we waited, Brandon would go around to the rooms and the infusion room and bring the snack cart around to the kids. He would even get them a movie or a book. If a child was getting his/her port accessed, he would sometimes hold their hand and then get them a sticker and a Gatorade. He would talk to them and let them know that he gets it done and that they will be OK.
Brandon had to have seven weeks of radiation two times a day and he never was sedated. Even at the age of five he laid very still for even 20 minutes at a time. On Brandon’s very last radiation treatment, a three-year-old boy came in and was scheduled right after Brandon. The boy was sedated, but the Mom was a wreck. After Brandon was done, he saw how upset the little boy’s Mom was and he grabbed the Mother’s hand and went in the radiation room with them where they set the boy up for radiation and just told the Mom that her son would be OK and that it doesn’t hurt. Then, during the boys treatment, they had to step out of the room, but Brandon stayed with her until her son’s treatment was over. She told me that she had prayed and asked the Lord to help her get through her son’s first treatment and that Brandon had been an answer to her prayers.
When a man (Mr. Bill) in our church was diagnosed with cancer, Brandon was with him when he got his first chemo infusion. Brandon brought him a match box car. Mr. Bill kept that car and when Brandon passed away, Mr. Bill placed the car in his casket. I started to cry when he did that, like I am while I write this. I just miss him so much. My six-year-old daughter saw me crying and she knows I am missing Brandon and she went and got me a tissue and gave me a huge hug. She is a real blessing to me.
Brandon loved to dress up for every event he did. He dressed up in a different costume each day during his radiation treatments. The staff really looked forward to seeing Brandon. At home Brandon would dress like a football player and would play football outside. He loved boxing and would put on his boxer shorts and gloves and box. He was fun and full of life.
It was hard for Brandon to have a lot of friends over or go to school because his counts would get low and he was at a risk for infections. We really tried to make things at home fun for him. He had a four-wheeler to run around the yard, a fake deer in the yard for him to hunt and shoot his bow and arrows at. He swam a lot. It was amazing at all the things he could do while he had so much diseases in his brain and spine. His doctor came over to the house one day and could not believe how well Brandon could swim and how he could swim the length of the pool with one breath. She said that comparing him to his MRI’s it is just not possible. In fact, St. Jude’s would not give us a second opinion on Brandon, even though he lived another four years from that time, but that is a different story.
Brandon’s doctor and I grew up together in Miami — we graduated from high school together. In fact, this past October, we drove down to Miami together and attended our 20th high school reunion. Brandon really touched her life and changed her views on a lot of ways she practices.”
BM: If you could have one more day on Earth with Brandon, how would you spend it?
SUSAN: “The first thing that came to my mind is that I would like to hold him and kiss him on the head and just hear his sweet voice. This is a very tough question to answer. I have thought about it many times. As much as I would love Brandon to come back, even it for only one day, I know that since he is in Heaven and walked the streets of gold, there is no way he would want to come back, he would rather us come and see him. I am ready for that moment any time!
But to answer your question, I know Brandon loved going to the beach and to Disney, or go shopping. I would love to be selfish and hold him all day long. (We took Brandon to Disney a lot, he felt so good about himself when he was there. That is why we spent so much money doing those things for him, that is why I had to go back to work, I don’t know if we will ever get out of this debt, but it was worth every $$$ and picture that I took. I took over 40,000 pictures.)”
BM: What advice do you have for busy parents today?
- “I think parents get too wrapped up in a “perfect household.” They should take a look at why they are so busy and cut out stuff that is stressing them out and/or their kids. Some parents have their kids in so many activities that it wears on the kids and the parents and they really aren’t spending quality time together, just a lot of running around.
- I think that parents should hug their kids every day and tell them how much they love them.
- I really think reading to your child at least 20 minutes a day not only helps the child with reading skills, but is a bonding time.
- Talk with you child and really get to know them.
- Keep a journal of the funny things they say and do.
- Video tape them doing crazy stuff and also interview them, ask them questions. They love to watch themselves on TV.
- Get a good digital camera and take lots of pictures! I have taken over 40,000. (picture taking is my passion).
- Also I think it is important to put Christ as the center of the family. Find a Bible believing church. I could not get through the loss of Brandon if it were not for the Lord giving us the strength daily. I know I will see Brandon in heaven with Jesus. Brandon loved Jesus and was not ashamed to tell others about Him. When Brandon relapsed, we wanted to get Brandon baptized by water emerson. Our Pastor talked with Brandon and Brandon assured him that he did ask Jesus into his heart, even at the age of five. While we were still talking with Pastor, Tim (Susan’s husband) questioned his faith and wanted to know for sure if he would see Brandon again. Brandon and I got to witness Tim asking the Lord into his heart and confirm his salvation. Our Pastor always asks us Do you KNOW that you KNOW that you KNOW you are saved! Tim and Brandon got to be baptized together.
- Just love on your kids daily!”
BM: Why a cookbook?
SUSAN: “I decided to make a cookbook because I wanted to help out the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program. This was a great way for those who knew Brandon and prayed for him to be a part of this by donating their favorite recipes. Even though this is not a huge money-making fundraiser, it’s a great way to get awareness in our communities and all over the country. All of the money goes to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program. I really would like to help the families that have to go through this. (I know the financial drain on the wallet! I don’t know if we will ever recover.)
Brandon was very excited about making a cookbook and he had fun during our photo shoot. I took over 100 pictures to get the right one. 🙂
Unfortunately Brandon got worse and I put the cookbook on hold and did not finish it until after he died. I wish he could have seen it completed. I dropped everything and laid in bed with him 24/7. I didn’t want to be a way from him for a moment.”
Why Should You Care?
It is my hope that Brandon’s story inspires you to spend quality time with your child. To enjoy the moments as they come. I also encourage you to purchase Susan’s cookbook. It’s would make a wonderful gift for a teacher, babysitter, grandmother, neighbor, or yourself. There are a few great recipes in here that you could make with your own child to create memories together. Plus, best of all, the proceeds benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at Shands Hospital.
Order “Cooking for the Cause”
Cost: $13 plus $2 shipping and handling ($15 total.)
Email: Susan Ling at: sbkling [at] mac [dot] com with your mailing address.
Upon receiving your email, Susan will give you her mailing address to send payment.
Make checks payable to: Pediatric Brain Tumor Program.
Photos courtesy Susan Ling.