Matthew is the miracle child.
Amy Bratcher (Photo courtesy of the Bratcher family)
Jordyn, 14, is the chosen child.
And Jennifer is big sister to both.
Meet the Bratcher bunch, a group of siblings who lost their mother, Amy Dawn Bratcher, much too early in life.
This is a story of a brave life well-lived, but a one snuffed out too early. This is a story about a mother not living long enough to see her beloved children grow up as they follow their own trails of life.
Amy died Oct. 3, at age 43, after suffering from multiple cancerous tumors and lesions in her brain and lungs.
“But, Amy’s life is not for naught,” said lifelong, family friend Ed Garner. “We wanted to help some with their heartaches, and some of their bills. …
This is the all-American family, if there ever was one, neighbor Don Young said.
“And Amy was an all-american mom, if there ever was one,” Young added.
Young and Garner, as members of Smyrna Lions Club, have launched the Amy Bratcher Family Trust Fund at any branch of First Bank in Middle Tennessee.
“Amy’s father and mother, Gary and Betty Evans, are long-standing dedicated community civic workers as members of our very active Lions Club in Smyrna,” said Garner, who is former member of the Smyrna City Council.
“As a community support group, we wanted to help these children that Amy left behind for us to love and help support,” he said.
Surviving husband, Jeff Bratcher, a well-known firefighter and 35-year employee of the city of Murfreesboro, described Amy’s legacy and the impact on those closest to her.
“After Amy and I wed on Feb. 19, 1994, doctors told us that she could not give birth, so we adopted our ‘chosen daughter’ Jordyn one day after her own birth,” Jeff said. “A few years later, Amy called me at the fire station, crying, and I thought some tragedy had occurred. Instead, it was Amy, advising with gleeful emotions: ‘I’m pregnant!’
“Thus, Matthew, now 8, is our ‘miracle child,’” Jeff said. “And my oldest daughter, Jennifer, now age 29, is big sister to Jordyn and Matthew.”
Amy’s “stubborn determined” nature surfaced with those early doctors, Jeff said.
“After telling Amy she could not birth a child, Amy looked up and told the physicians, ‘Y’all don’t have the last say,’” Jeff said, as he became emotional.
That nature served Amy and the family in well in her courageous fight to live multiple years against diagnosed medical odds.
Her health issues began with loss of balance a few months before the cancers were found.
“When physicians diagnosed Amy with several lesions and tumors on both her brain and lungs, they advised she had only a few months to live,” Jeff recalled. “That’s when she stood up, and advised the doctors firmly: ‘Y’all don’t have the final say in this either.’”
That was Feb. 23, 2006.
More than six years later, Matthew found his mother unconscious on the morning of Oct. 3 in the bathroom.
“Being a habitual early riser, Matthew was watching cartoons when he heard a severe cough from his mother in the bathroom of our home in Murfreesboro,” Jeff said. “He asked Amy if he should call 9-1-1 … when she couldn’t respond, he called me, saying his mother would not respond to him.
“I was only five blocks away at the fire station, and we took an emergency vehicle over to our home,” Jeff said. “I felt a weak pulse and felt Amy swallow one time, but I don’t think she knew I was there. We lost her there.”
Amy shared a special relationship with Matthew and Jordyn.
“Not a day went by that our miracle boy would fail to rush up to his mother and give her a robust hug and kiss, telling his momma, ‘I love you so much,’” Jeff said.
He said Amy often sang to Jordyn as an infant.
“One of Jordyn’s huge enthusiastic interests as a ninth grader at Blackman High School is the marching band,” Gary said, adding Amy often sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to Jordyn as a little girl.”
“When Jordyn asked if she could play that song, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ at the celebration service for her mother, we all chorused ‘yes,’” Betty said.
“And Jordyn played it perfectly on her flute, not missing one note,” Jeff added. “We know Amy is so proud, as she heard her daughter play that song so lovingly and so beautifully.”
In the wake of his wife’s death, Jeff took his children to worship service at Abiding Faith Lutheran Church on a recent crisp and cool Sunday morning.
Jeff’s own words best describe what happened after church.
“Understand, no one was in the house while we were all at church,” Jeff said. “I had lost my wedding ring years before, not too long after Amy and I got married. When we stepped in the door, Matthew looked down, and declared: ‘Dad, there’s a ring on the kitchen floor.
“It was my long-lost wedding ring that mysteriously arrived on the floor of our home.”
Betty said she believes it was Amy.
“We believe it was Amy’s way of reaching back to comfort Jeff and letting us all know where she is today, an angel in heaven, by placing that wedding ring for him and the children to find,” Betty said, as tears began streaming down her face.
“It was my wife’s way of also letting us know she no longer suffers with all that pain,” Jeff said. “You see, I was married to an angel."