I am sure that I am not touching on every miracle or step in a life. Others may say there are bigger or more important ones they saw. I have been gathering and listening and decided to write, maybe to better share at a future time. Right now I can say, some days are really hard and for no explainable reason.
I loved my brother. We were no close in the sense that we talked often or that we even saw each other frequently. We were family. We mostly got along. He was a person I admired. We had sports in common, you know the watching part and the stats part. This week has been a week where the tears are coming often. Like nerve endings are exposed. I was welcomed back to my YMCA with hugs and condolences. Such a wonderful place to work but also bittersweet because I don't know what to say to people. I am trying to find comfort in knowing things - and in the miracles I have seen, the fact that he has no pain, the hope of seeing him again if my life is in the right order.
A moment on Sunday that was exceptionally emotional was during the Sacrament song. The tears started in verse 1 but verse 3 struck me so hard that I was shaking:
As now we praise thy name with song
The blessings of this day
Will linger in our thankful hearts
And silently we pray
For courage to accept thy will
To listen and obey
We love thee Lord, our hearts are full
We'll walk the chosen way.
The part that smacked me upside the head is the praying for courage to accept His will. We have tried not to ask why, but how should we go now. I will be honest it SUCKS!!!! As much as I don't want to be negative, it really truly sucks.
So I guess I need to explain why the long preface. On June 21st, 2012, my son's 5th birthday, I got a call from my mother telling me that my only brother had been killed in a hit and run accident. The first blessing although it was small was that it was not his own daughter's birthday which was 8 short days later.
Now as the shock set in, I was fluctuating between tears and uneasy agitation. I didn't know what to do. I called my sister. I called my dad. I finally posted on Facebook because I knew others wanted to know right away. I felt helpless and raw. Buddy's company, Peter Kiewit Sons, was offering to fly over family to be with Heather, Buddy's wife, and his kids. They were making arrangements for hotel rooms and rental cars. What a blessing at a time when we had so much other turmoil. They were able to do what we were a bit too addled to accomplish.
So as with a story that has a beginning and an end, I will now jump back to the beginning. Buddy had a life where you can see an amazing alignment, even as we are still struggling to find a new normal.
Walter Garrison Hopkins IV was born May, 14, 1975. He was born with 2 clubbed feet as well as hands with an affliction known as camptodactyly, which is a permanent flex-ion or bending of fingers. He was not able to put his hands flat and so he would have to do things on his knuckles. (like crawling, or pushups, but that is in years to come.) The doctors were not sure how well he would walk or if he would walk at all. And they were fairly sure he was not going to have use of his hands. His mother stretched his hands in his early weeks of like and in doing so allowed him use of his hands. I am sure that my mother's determination to give Buddy a normal life is one of the reasons why Buddy never seemed to allow any challenge to stop him in life. He had casts on his feet to help them turn in a way that he would be able to walk.
When it came time to have surgery on Buddy's feet, we were living overseas. And we could not stay in the United States at that time to get it done. The miracle and blessing of this came when we learned that he would be able to have the surgery in Saudi Arabia. As it turned out, there was a renowned orthopedic surgeon was working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and he was able to do this surgery for him. That surgeon said he would never need surgery on his feet again when he was done. And it was so.
I am sure there are other things that happened that can be termed as miraculous. Some of these things may only be a miracle because of how he was taken so tragically. So I continue. Buddy was always the champion of the little guy. He was always willing to help those who were disabled. He had patience and understanding with them. One day these traits will be valuable in his own life as he dealt with challenges as a father to an exceptional child.
He was an Eagle Scout. His project was to build bookcases, tables, and chairs for a kids with needs hospital.
He served a mission in the New York, New York South Mission which included the island of Bermuda.
Now before his mission he attended Ricks College. He also attended Northern Arizona University. He was not known for going out with the same girl more than once. And then he met Heather. She introduced herself to Buddy when they were at Denny’s with other Institute people back in May of 1997. I met her the next day at the house. And the day after, she was at the house again. My husband, Chris, predicted that they would be married before us (and incidentally we were already engaged). By the time they had been dating for 6 weeks, she was with us on our family vacation and they were discussing marriage in the Las Vegas Temple. By August and September, pictures were taken and the official announcement was being made. On December 13th, 1997, they were married for time and all eternity in the Las Vegas Temple, just as they had planned so many months earlier.
Within that first year, they started their family. My brother was going to school full time and he was working many hours to support his family. He was working 2 jobs at a time. When he graduated, he figured that he would get a job and that would be that. His classmates had seemed to get snapped up for positions quickly. He continued with his 2 jobs. His degree was in Construction Management and the housing market was booming, so there was frustration because he seemed to be overlooked. He did receive a job offer with Peter Kiewit Sons which incidentally had him working in Road Construction and not the housing market. It was not as high paying as he had hoped. Instead of dwelling on that, he put 100% effort into his job. He worked hard and was promoted as time went on. He received a steady increase in pay and benefits. He was a cherished and respected person in his company. And when the housing bubble burst, he had steady employment while so many others were dropped as quickly as they had been hired. What had started as a disheartening and challenging time of life had turned out to be an amazing blessing. Trust me when I say……there are no coincidences.
Another challenge that arose with his job was the need for him to travel. Heather had to learn to be home alone and manage the household alone. When he was home though, they spent all their time together. Because of the locations they were assigned, they had an opportunity to become close with extended members of the family. My dad’s sisters and my own cousins were close to them as well as their kids. And what a blessing those relationships have been.His own children were such a joy and delight in his life. His oldest son is autistic. Buddy’s patience with Garrison was abounding. He exercised tenderness and love with his son and that was always apparent. How many fathers take a week off of work to go to Scout Camp so that his son can have experience? This was another amazing blessing because just a few days after returning, he was taken from this earth. He delighted in his daughters. He coached their teams. He would dance with them. He may be spoiled them a little and caved to their whims a bit, but there was never a doubt to them that their dad loved them so much.
Now in spite of his club feet, he ran. He wanted to be healthy for his family. He wanted to maintain a healthy weight and he like the endorphins that running gave him. He was appreciating this because only the year before he had a heart repair surgery and he was making the most of his life. Now to accomplish this task, he had to walk. And not just a short bit. He had to walk about 10 minutes to loosen up the tendons and joints of his ankles. He ran daily in spite of the effort and pain. One of his biggest accomplishments was running the Dallas Rock n Roll Half Marathon. He even finished in the top half of those running. And this was just 6 months after the heart repair surgery.
So when I think about my brother and his desire to run. He is a perfect example of enduring to the end, don’t you think? No excuses, no complaining. He just plowed on and did what needed to be done. And I think of the excuses I use to not exercise and I realize that I have to get over myself. He is an example to his family, even now.
Just 2 weeks before he passed, he had made a changed his car insurance. We surmise it was because of the upcoming vacation. The planned vacation was going to be an opportunity for all 21 of our family members to be together. We had planned a family picture. We had planned time together. But I digress. The change to the insurance was somehow a financial blessing again.
So now it is June 21st again. I have received the phone call. And now as I pace and wonder, I reflect. I remember that I have only been in touch by text or facebook. It has been so long since I have seen him. And I have lost opportunities to have time with him. His company that he has been loyal to for all these years has stepped up in a way that is unheard of and given me the chance to go and be where I am needed. As the news was discovered that he was the hit and run victim, there was an outpouring of support from her church ward friends and their neighbors. She was immediately surrounded with a wall of support and love which in itself was astounding and overwhelming.
As I reflect on the day, the miracles were truly boundless. Heather’s brother, Richard, got the news as he was getting ready to leave on a flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. The airline returned to the gate, allowed him to deplane, and even held another flight for him so he could get to Dallas within about 3 hours of getting the news. My Aunt Susie, who lives in San Antonio, was there very fast too. She had spent a goodly amount of quality time with Buddy’s family so the kids were comfortable with her and she knew them well. This allowed her to bring great peace with her because of this.
Throughout the day, flights were arranged seemingly easily. They were timed and coordinated in a way that seemed there was some help from other sources. We all seemed to arrive as we were most needed. My sister and I arrived at the airport, seemingly too early. But we were there just a few moments before my parents arrived with their flight from Flagstaff and allowing us to be able to greet one another. The strength in numbers was needed at this moment.
Some of the things that I saw were seemingly small when individually described, but as you put them together, it makes a miracle beyond measure. Or maybe it was just a miracle to me. I, for example, had thought that we needed a slide show tribute of some sort. I wanted to include songs and music. I had a masterpiece pictured in my mind. As I scanned photos and tried to work with them, I feared that it was just not going to work. I feared that I didn’t have enough time. I feared that it wouldn’t get done and I would be disappointed and others would be to. My aunt overheard a lady talking about recording and photographing various aspects of the service. The topic of the slide show came up. She said that her husband was a friend of Buddy’s and really wanted to do something for us. He had the tools and knowledge of making a presentation as I had envisioned. I scanned the pictures, I gave him the song titles, and he made the presentation. I was able to focus on what I could do and he took care of the rest. This spared me disappointment and anxiety and Jared was able to honor his friend.
As the afternoon progressed, I had desired a special photo. It had not been in any of the boxes I had searched in. As I thought about the impact of this photo in my mind, Heather was asked to find a financial document. She was shuffling through these pages, she turned and handed me a photo. It was of course the photo I wanted. She exclaimed that she had no idea why there would be a picture in those papers. So that may not be a miracle to anyone else, but at that moment, it was.
We were blessed to have people with expertise be available whenever a problem arose. If there were papers that needed to be filed for benefits, there was a person who knew how to get it done, and fast. There was more food than I have ever seen in my life!!! Yard work was done without a second thought or second phone call. There was fundraising and Candlelight Vigils. Every person who came into the house was a blessing. The responders came to check on her. The kids he coached honored him. Banners were made. Foundations, funds and trusts were created. And the news crews reported about him every night on the news. There were more moments. I need to write them all and keep the shiny silver parts of this ordeal alive.
His funeral in Texas was a massive event. Again Kiewit stepped up and provided food so that there would not be that burden to the others who had served so often and well in the past days. I don’t know how many people were there but it was several hundred people in attendance. I can’t even fathom it still. These were family members, friends, coworkers, and even strangers who were impressed and touched in some way by his story. To live a life that allows you to be such an example and to touch people.
Some people have asked if they found the person responsible. That is another tragic set of circumstances. The truck had been located in a body shop. The car had been dropped off very early in the morning and there was very little thought after that, until the person returned and had tried to clean the evidence of the accident off the vehicle. They reported that to the police and they were able to find out who they believed it to be. This person though, seemingly overcome with guilt, ended up taking his own life instead of being able to face what was to come. We felt so terrible for the other family. They were innocent in this and he was their only child. They requested donations be given to Heather and the kids through the Buddy Hopkins Fund. Two families changed forever.
I feel like I have skipped too much yet right now this is all I can share. It is what has stuck out the biggest. I am reminded every day to tell the people I love them. I remember that the little moments may really be the big ones. And pictures are a blessing so take lots of pictures. And if you can, shoot some movies too. And remember also…there is no such thing as coincidences.