If you weren’t able to attend the Celebration of Brandon’s life on the one year anniversary of his death, here is the speech Brandon’s cousin Katie gave at his grave site:
It’s hard to believe that exactly one year ago, we lost our beloved Brandon. I know I speak for everyone who knew Brandon, whether it be family members, close friends or even just acquaintances, when I say this has truly been one of the, if not THE hardest years of our lives. It’s hard waking up each day, knowing that we won’t be seeing Brandon’s bright smile or receiving his goofy text messages. And it’s hard knowing that the only time we’ll ever hear him play violin again is on YouTube or on one of the various recital recordings some of us have.
But as we all stand here today, know that Brandon is always looking down on us. I am fairly certain that he is enjoying watching all of the great things we’ve all accomplished together. Many people say that you learn who your true friends and family are in time of tragedy, and Brandon’s death was no different. He is probably beaming with pride, because even though his death was the most heart wrenching event of many of our lives, we came together and did what Brandon asked in his last request: we made his story known. We made bullying in this community known. And although we’ve experienced many roadblocks, we’ve kept Brandon alive through all of our efforts.
Last year at Brandon’s funeral, I said that Brandon would want us “to celebrate his life and carry on his legacy. I said that we must be ourselves and we must let the world know that tolerance is vital. We must encourage ourselves and our loved ones to follow our dreams. We must carry on Brandon’s passion and love. It’s what he would want.” And I am so unbelievably proud of my family and friends, especially Tammy, Brandon’s mother, for doing just that. Whether it has been through public speaking engagements regarding bullying and suicide, communicating with school leadership, posting on Brandon’s memorial website, raising money for his scholarship at Susquehanna University or simply lending support to those in need… family, friends and strangers alike have reached out and made a difference.
Our success in this mission will never be truly measurable, and that’s okay. Brandon’s story has reached thousands upon thousands of people all over the entire world, thanks to the power of the internet. Hundreds of people have reached out to us, whether it be to offer their condolences or to relate to Brandon’s bullying story. I just know that we’ve done some extraordinary things and maybe, if we’re lucky, even saved at least one person from bullying or suicide. And without all of you, this wouldn’t be possible. Thank you for all of your love, care & support.
I want to leave you with one of the major lessons I learned from my cousin’s death. As I look around, many of the most important people in my life are here today. And unless it happens to you, you never think that someone you are so close to could die so tragically. I know we’ve all asked ourselves, “what could I have done differently?” or “what if I would have said this to Brandon,” or “why didn’t I see this coming?” But I’ve come to realize that Brandon doesn’t blame any of us for what he thought he had to do. What he wants is for us to treat those we care about with unconditional love and pay special attention to the way we talk to our friends and family, and even strangers, because you never know what could be going on behind a happy facade. Only we can stop the cycle of hurt and pain, and I think so far, we’ve done a pretty good job. Once again, thank you for your unwavering support.