Thursday, March 27, 2008
Reece – hero, friend, warrior
By SUE WATSON
There could not have been many dry eyes Friday, as friends and family said goodbye to Bradley Keith Reece with a memorial service befitting a hero.
The life of Reece, 16, a junior at Marshall Academy who lost his battle with cancer last week, was celebrated in a non-traditional farewell service. Some of his favorite songs were played, many of his friends gathered around, photos depicted his short life with loved ones and friends, and precious testimonials to his fighting spirit were said.
In opening remarks, Dr. Curtis Ferrell, pastor of First Baptist Church, laid out the theme of the service which Bradley himself is said to have planned.
“You just heard a song about heroes (prelude music - “Hero”),” Ferrell said. “There are some special people God brings into our lives. Brad is one of those. I think he would point to you and say, you are heroes, too. You’ve prayed and held up the family.”
In prayer, Ferrell said, “A lot of tears have been shed and there are going to be more.”
“Father, we’re hurting and we need one another and more than anything else we need You. So we lean on You and we trust in You today and tomorrow.”
Dr. Torrey Sandlund, oncologist and friend who drew close to Bradley during his 14-month fight with cancer at St. Jude Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., presented the eulogy.
“A quality guy, a blessing to get to know him: what can you say?” Sandlund said. “I can’t think of anyone better than Bradley Reece. When you see someone in the middle of the pressure cooker and life ratchets up, you get an opportunity to see what they are made of. Bradley went through it bravely, determined to beat that cancer.”
After a thorough treatment regimen and the ups and downs, Bradley’s cancer returned.
“What a ton of bricks to drop on anybody,” Sandlund said.
Bradley asked for and received more therapies including treatments with experimental drugs.
Sandlund said midway through the ordeal, he wanted to give Bradley a rest for some quality time because he thought chances for recovery were remote.
“He said, ‘Why quit?’ Bradley was a warrior. Fought. Fought. Fought. He had no pity parties. He was optimistic, positive and determined to beat this cancer,” Sandlund said.
The young man stood on his faith and set an example that doctors and nurses admired.
“In the middle of a chemotherapy break he took time for fun and family,” Sandlund said.
Bradley also had a soft-spoken, quiet side, the doctor said.
“He talked about death, was honest about it and unafraid to talk about it. He believed he was going to heaven if he didn’t beat the disease. No question, he is in heaven. In heaven on the basis of one thing, not deserved, but a gift from God. He talked about that.”
Sandlund pointed out that Bradley was laid to rest on Good Friday.
“Tough times test our faith,” he said. “Brad’s faith was strong. That encourages me in my faith. All I can say to Brad is, thank you for that.”
On good days, Brad was comical and everyone, including the nurses, loved to be around him, Sandlund said.
A big day for Bradley was one when Eli Manning, quarterback for the New York Giants, called.
“What an impact that had on Brad’s life,” Sandlund said. “Another way to look at that conversation; Eli Manning got to speak to Bradley Reece.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind guy. Let’s not forget what Bradley taught us. It is hard to understand...when you die at Brad’s age. We are tempted to ask why.
“The way I see it, Brad was an instrument of God that had a big impact at the hospital and elsewhere.
“Let us not forget what he taught us about living. Let’s not forget what he taught us about faith.”
Sandlund praised Keith and Wendy Reece for their role as parents and ability to hang on throughout the roller coaster ride during their son’s illness.
“People like Bradley don’t just happen,” he said. “They were unbelievable. They made sure Brad got the best. Wendy, Keith and the family, what a blessing you are.”
The video presentation of snapshots of Bradley with family or friends was prepared by Brent Adams, Hannah Cook, Nealy Jones, Missy Cook and Christy Williams.
Special music included: “Come to Jesus” by Chris Rice; “Only God Knows” by Kid Rock; and “Angel” by Sara McLachland.
Pallbearers were Moody Bailey, Tyler Cook, Taylor Dempsey, Landen Fennell, Harris Gholson, Evan Howell, Heather Tomlinson, and Tim Williams.
Reece was laid to rest at Hill Crest Cemetery.
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