Justin Robert van Brakle

        Born December 22,1982  Heaven Bound on January 18, 2003


On January 18, 2003, we all lost an angel, a brother, a son, a cousin, nephew, and friend... Justin died of meningococcal meningitis at 7:53 P.M.

Messages  to Justin

 Thinking of you Justin every day.  You are in my heart always.  Love, Grandma.

                                                                    The song playing is

One Sweet Day

Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men:
Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say.
And now it’s too late to hold you,
’Cause you’ve flown away, so far away.

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile.
Feeling, and knowing you hear me,
It keeps me alive, alive.

All: (Chorus)
And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven,
Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together
One sweet day.

Boyz II Men:
Darling, I never showed you,
Assumed you’d always be there.
I, I took your presence for granted,
But I always cared and I miss the love we shared.

All: (Chorus)
And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven,
Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together
One sweet day.

Boyz II Men:
Although the sun will never shine the same,
I’ll always look to a brighter day.

Lord, I know when I lay me down to sleep,
You will always listen as I pray.

All: (Chorus)
And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven,
Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together
One sweet day.

And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven,
Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together


Justin's Memorial Garden and Service 2003\


Justin Van Brakle

Memorial Service

Brecksville Broadview Heights High School 5/22/03

 Pam, John, Zach, colleagues, members and moderators of the Student Council, students, honored guests: I am honored, deeply honored, to have been asked to speak to you today about my student, Justin

At first, I thought I would try to find words that could help to make some sense of a young man's early death. I researched, I read, I asked, and I listened. And I did find the wise and earnest wards of good men and women who have attempted to do just that.

But ultimately, I found only words; and words don't heal a hurting heart. In truth, they only made me feel the loss more deeply, and made me feel more deeply at a loss.

Failing that, I tried to find words to comfort Pam, John, and Zach, and the rest of us that loved and miss Justin.  It didn't take me long realize the absurdity and arrogance of that plan.  (I'm pretty sure that the idea that true grief is surmountable only makes sense to those who aren't truly grieving.) Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, I forced myself to go sit in my favorite place in the Park, and vowed I wouldn't leave until I had written these words. After an hour or so, I crawled out from under a pile of crumpled wads of yellow paper. In exasperation, I told Justin that I wished he would let me know what he wanted me to say.  Well, be careful what you wish for, especially when you're talking to Justin.

I can't explain it;  I don't understand the metaphysics,  the psychology, or the theology. (Certainly, it's not that I hadn't noticed the sky getting dark or the air getting heavier. But there was no way that I anticipated the strength of that sudden thunderstorm.

The intensity of the rain, thunder, and lightning... Oh, the lightning...                I can't explain it, I won’t try to convince you, but I knew in that instant how to tell you about the Justin I knew and loved.

Lightning is  just like Justin, and Justin was so like

Lightning. This young man had moments of brilliant light-illuminating truth, revealing hypocrisy, sparkling wit,

striking bursts of outrage.  In fact, if even for just a second, he was able to illuminate the entire landscape

with blinding honesty and striking insightfulness. His brilliance came in intense, powerful bolts

That could leave you breathless, startled, and spellbound.

There was beauty, and power, and clarity in those

moments. And,  like lightning, those moments never looked the same.  They could be stealth - deceptively silent,

or they could command your every sense to undivided attention.

 Sometimes... when they, came really close to you,

They were followed by a very loud noise.  And sometimes

that noise came from me!

You know, thunderstorms, and the lightning that accompanies them, are misunderstood.  They are not an anomaly; they are a gift.  They are Nature’s way of maintaining stability in the atmosphere.

When the atmosphere is in balance, lighter, warmer air rises to the top, and the heavier, cooler air sinks to the Earth’s surface. But sometimes the atmosphere gets turned upside down. The cool and dry slides up, and the hot and humid slips down.  Nature, sensing the instability, sends a thunderstorm.  By convection, the warmth rises and cool comes down, bringing the rain.  That rain moves at such high speeds and builds such friction that an electrical charge – so powerful – 15 million volts, that it produces an enormous spark…Lightning!

Much of that power remains on the inside of the cloud –bouncing from back and forth.  But sometimes a tree, or a building, will pick-up a positive charge, and the two connect.

The odds of a person being struck by lightning are about 1/65,000.  The odds of a teacher being struck by a student like Justin are 1/1,000,000.  Because light travels so quickly and sound travels at about 1,000 ft per second, the full impact of what you’ve seen is sometimes delayed.  But lightning leaves its mark; it startles, it illuminates, it fascinates, and it lights up the night sky.

Justin, darling boy, someone much wiser than I knew that your stay was to be a brief one, so He gave you beauty,  unpredictability, the power to illuminate, and to make us grow.  In a flash, you helped to put our world into balance, and I am forever grateful to have known your light.



Living Each Moment:

A Reflection on the Life of Justin Van Brakle

We gather here today to reflect on our losses and to celebrate our blessings. All of us experience the death of a dear loved one as painful, especially when that person is so young, so full of energy, so full of possibility.  Each of us who knew Justin Van Brakle feels a very real sense of loss, a loss of a relationship that we cherished. For you, Pam and John, his parents, and you, Zach, his brother, and all of us who are family members and friends, the loss can seem unbearable and the explanations inadequate.  As we gather today, sadness naturally fills our hearts, a sadness which shows how much we love Justin.

But a smile comes naturally to my face when I think about Justin because he was a joy to know.  I will never forget his intensity.  I spoke with Justin many times during his four years at our high school.  Those of you who knew Justin well will know what I mean when I say that I often only listened to Justin as he passionately described the events of his life.  Justin's visits were never boring, and I was truly amazed at his original use of the English language. He always came to my office, as he said, to "torture" me, and he described school as "a nightmare from which I can't wake up."  He said these things, and many others, with the wicked humor that we all came to expect from him.

He was intensely protective and dedicated to his family.  He sometimes complained about the way other kids treated you, Zach.  It was clear by the easy way he spoke to you, Pam, in meetings at school that he loved and trusted you and saw you as his advocate, as someone who wanted the best for him.  John, Justin showed his love for you by helping you with daily routines as your injury made them much more difficult to perform.  I know Justin's moods and decisions often worried all of you, but he was a good son and a good brother and he loved his family very much.

Justin was extremely loyal to his friends.  He invited them into his home and valued his time with them.  But he was sometimes bitterly disappointed with the way his friends took advantage of his trust, whether by stealing his CDs or treating his friendship carelessly.  And Justin was very creative and sometimes graphic in explaining the ways he would get revenge against those who had wronged him.  One time, he told me,    "I'm gonna strangle him 'til his eyes pop like grapes."  But Justin was not a real threat.  His anger showed his sensitivity and vulnerability, his desire and need for true friends.

 Justin was not only intense; he was creative.  When he came to school with blue hair one day we saw a young man setting himself apart from the ordinary, freeing himself

from the usual.  He talked about a career in video game design, and his very active and visual imagination was well­suited to this goal.  When I listened to Justin speak about his experiences, I sometimes felt that he looked at the world with the eyes of a young man making his way through an exciting but often dangerous landscape, a landscape like those he encountered in video games.

  He was very alert to all of the people and events around him, and we can take comfort in the fact that, although he died a young man, he was a person who lived fully every moment of his life.  As Mrs. Thornton has shown so well, Justin had the energy and illumination of a lightning bolt and often the noise and explosiveness of a thunderclap.  He was not one who sat back to observe life; he jumped into each new experience with both feet, with all of his energy and with strong emotion.

      One way we can honor and celebrate his life is to rededicate ourselves to living fully, the way Justin did, to making the best use of each day we have, to this day.  His life inspires each of us to appreciate life as a great gift.  Today we celebrate how blessed we are to have known Justin.  His early death shows us how precious and how sweet and how fragile our lives are.  He reminds us, even in our sadness, to make the best use we can of each moment we have been given and, as he did, to express our love and gratitude freely to those who support us.

        I am grateful that our school district has dedicated this site, a garden, to remember and to honor young people who have left us too soon.  A garden is a place of beauty, a place of growth and death and rebirth.  It reminds us of the cycle of human life, and at the same time, it raises our spirit to a permanence which never dies.  Justin Van Brakle was taken from us in the beautiful and sometimes painful summer of his youth, but he will remain forever in our hearts in every season.

Dave Whitehurst-Guidance Counselor BBHHS


Attached is the link to the website my son Zachary made in memory of his brother…


Contact Pam, Justin's mom @ pvanbrak@adelphia.net

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