WHITTLE: The ring of life

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Jordyn is the chosen child.

And Jennifer is big sister to both.

Meet the "Bratcher Bunch" children, who lost their mother, Amy Dawn Evans Bratcher, much too early in life.

This is a story of a brave life well-lived…but a life snuffed out way too early in terms of a mother not living long enough to see her beloved children grown and on their own trails of life.

Amy Dawn 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," verified lifelong family friend Ed Garner. "And we wanted to help some with their heart aches, and some of their bills…

"This is the All-American family, if there ever was one," added neighbor Don Young. "And Amy was an 'All-American Mom!,' if there ever was one."

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, (residents of Smyrna) are long-standing dedicated community civic workers as members of our very active Lions Club in Smyrna," noted former Smyrna Councilman Garner. "As a community support group, we wanted to help these children that Amy left behind for us to love and help support…"

Surviving husband Jeff Bratcher, well-known firefighter and 35-year employee of Murfreesboro City Government, describes wife Amy's legacy and impact on lives of those closest to her.

"After Amy and I wed Feb. 19, 1994, doctors diagnosed that Amy could not give birth, so we adopted our 'chosen daughter' Jordyn (age 14) one day after her own birth," the father shared. "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 age 8, is our 'miracle child,'" Jeff noted. "And my oldest daughter, Jennifer (Bratcher), now age 29, is big sister to Jordyn and Matthew."

The mother's stubborn determined nature surfaced with those early doctors.

"After telling Amy she could not birth a child, Amy looked up and told the physicians, 'Ya'll don't have the last say,'" Jeff shared with obvious emotion.

That nature served Amy and the family 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 accounted. "That's when she stood up, and advised the doctors firmly: 'Ya'll don't have the final say in this either…'"

That was Feb. 23, 2006.

Matthew found his mother unconscious the morning of Oct. 3, 2012, in the family 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," the Murfreesboro firefighter recalled. "He asked Amy if he should call 911…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," the husband detailed. "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…"

Some special moments: "The night before Amy passed, we got to dine at Demos Steakhouse, Amy's favorite restaurant…and Matthew has his Mom's picture from Demos pasted on his head-board, from when she celebrated her last birthday back in February.

"Not a day went by that miracle boy would fail to rush up to his mother, and give her a robust hug and kiss, telling his 'Momma, I love you soooo much,'" the father shared.

Amy often sang to chosen child Jordyn as an infant.

"One of Jordyn's huge enthusiastic interests as a ninth grader at Blackman School, is the marching band," noted Grandfather Gary Evans. "Our daughter often sang the song, 'You Are My Sunshine' to our beloved 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,'" added Amy's mother, Grandmother Betty.

"And Jordyn played it perfectly on her flute, not missing one note," beamed the father proudly. "We know Amy is so proud, as she heard her daughter play that song so lovingly and so beautifully…"

In 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 attendance.

"Understand, no one was in the house while we were all at church," the husband explained. "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," Jeff confirmed.

"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 Jeff and the children to find…" Grandmother Betty shared with emotions streaming down her face.

"It was my wife's way of also letting us know she no longer suffers with all that pain," Jeff concluded. "You see, I was married to an angel…"


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Dan Whittle
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