A Tribute to Brodie


Madeline Martinez, Staff Writer

Published with permission from Brodie Gilbertson’s family

The past month has been harder than anyone could have ever expected. April 15th changed everything. Brodie Gilbertson was a loving, happy, selfless, loyal, caring, an inviting human being. He put the world before himself. He always made sure the ones around him felt good before he got the chance to even glimpse at the feeling. People enveloped him and loved him with every breath.

Brodie was diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on October 14th, 2021. Vanessa Gilbertson, Brodie’s mom, created a journal on the CaringBridge website/app. She says in the “Brodie’s Story” portion, “What we though would be a quick trip to the clinic soon turned into being admitted to the hospital and a diagnosis of cancer.” This was a shock to all of Brodie’s loved ones, including his newfound family, the West Fargo Police Public Safety Cadets. “I apparently have systematic inflammation. Never mind I have to go to the hospital for leukemia,” said Brodie a day before he was diagnosed.

The CaringBridge website contained numerous amounts of journal entries created by Vanessa, updating family and friends about Brodie’s current condition. This site also allows a feature where you can upload pictures. It was always so nice to see Brodie, even if it was just on a screen and even if he wasn’t at his best, he was still here. Vanessa never left anything behind. She updated us any time she could with the best amount of detail she could offer. She came with Brodie to some Cadet meetings, being strict with him when he tried to push himself. Another loveable thing about Brodie. His courage, even in that treacherous time, never faltered. He was scared, but brave. Brodie was scared, not only for himself, but for his mom too. He wanted us to take care of her, so she gained 15 more children. She shows up to Cadet meetings, and occasionally volleyball tournaments. She takes us to dinners and scolds us. We all gained another mom.

Ashton Stein, a member of West Fargo Police cadets, reminisced about his experiences with Brodie saying, “Brodie to me was a loving, caring, compassionate kid. He just wanted to spend time with me because he respected me a lot. There were days he would ask me to come see him in the hospital, and I would be there like an hour later.” Brodie did have a lot of respect for him, even if it was not verbalized. Brodie idolized him and trusted him.

Bailey Hunt, another Cadet, had also known Brodie since the beginning of the Cadet year. “Brodie was an amazing friend,” he begins, “He was extremely loyal and helpful and always looking for ways to help others. Even after he got the cancer diagnosis, he reminded us of all that a great sense of humor helps to numb the pain a bit. He was making jokes up until he passed. Brodie also reminded us that when faced with challenges, we shouldn’t give up because Brodie fought hard all the way until the very end. Brodie was a great person and should be remembered as such.”

Jacob Sell, another Cadet, had been friends with Brodie for a long time, “I’ve known Brodie for like five, four months. We had a science class at the same period, so we’d see each other in the hallway and goof off in the hallways and that was probably one of my favorites [moment]. Brodie was kind of a role model to me. Even though he was younger I still looked up to him. Like I wanted to be like him. He was always happy and just a kind person and I aspire to be like him. I went to go visit Brodie every time I could and every time I was allowed to. I also took my time to let other people visit him as well, so it just wasn’t me.”

Lastly, Olivia Mischke, one of Brodie’s close friends, expresses, “I knew Brodie since 6th grade. Now, I’m a freshman in high school. My favorite memory of him is 6th grade choir we would always find ways to be loud and obnoxious. Another one was when we were at a Bison party after West Fest, our “first” event. We were dancing in the crowd in our blue Cadet uniforms. It got me so excited. Brodie put everyone before himself. He rarely doubted anyone, always finding the good in them. He never gave up. He always wanted to be on top and worked so hard for it. He was a happy, talkative, loving, caring person, who thought to help the world. He impacted my life so much. He showed me how to care and not let others pressure me. He taught me many valuable lessons. In middle school, I saw him every day, but we drifted. We started hanging out more while we were in Cadets. I love him.”

These words were hard to repeat; everything about this hurts. There is no forgetting or forgiving. He didn’t deserve this. We didn’t deserve this. He was a joy and an inspiration. He was a teacher, a son, a friend. It’s hard to not just sit and think sometimes. Think about “what if…” This family that the Cadets created, this family that is accepting and loving, this family that stood there with Brodie till his last breath, this family that took Vanessa’s hand in a heartbeat, this family that’s not afraid to cry, this family that is not scared to talk to someone, this family that cares. We miss Brodie, but he shines in all of them. In every heart he touched.

Brodie’s visitation and funeral took place in his hometown, Burnsville, back in April, only a few days after he passed. It was a gloomy day, both days. But somehow, both days ended with smiles and reminiscing about him.

Life is short, so don’t be afraid to be brave. Time is the only cure. Time is mean and gives you an immense amount of impatience. It humbles your integrity and sense of being. Losing someone you love is a pain no one should experience. But it never stops you from questioning the beliefs you have and the philosophies you lived by.

Now it’s September 2nd, 2022. Five months have gone by since Brodie Gilbertson passed. It’s odd. The lump in your throat hurts less; it feels like it’s always being pushed down, but certain things make it re-appear. I only know what I feel now. I can’t speak for Ashton, Olivia, Bailey, Jacob, but I’ll tell you what I feel.

I spent hours in my room listening to “Over the Rainbow” while I cried. Thinking about Vanessa Gilbertson, Brodie’s mom, and her pain. How incredibly hard the weight on her back is. I felt so uncomfortable talking about how I felt. I felt like I was supposed to feel a certain way. I felt like I didn’t have the right to grieve over him because I didn’t know him as well as the others.

I failed my second semester of Algebra I. I’m retaking it online now. It has been extremely difficult, even with help. I broke down yesterday after school. My mom told me that Vanessa had liked her back to school pictures of me, and then, my mom, expressed how hard it must be for her to deal with all these pictures of parents’ kids going back to school. I also have a Brody in one of my classes. Though spelt differently, Brodie’s face still appears in my head every time I hear it.

After my summer, I had time to think about how I felt. What was right and what was wrong. I am allowed to feel sad and depressed about Brodie because of the impact he made in my life, not however long of a connection I had with him. I was allowed to feel pain for his mom. I am allowed to wear this band, orange and imprinted with his tag, on my wrist because I am part of his family. All of us in blue are allowed to feel the way we feel. It is unrealistic to push the emotions aside and act like nothing happened. Other people, peers, teachers, whoever are not entitled to tell us how we feel.

If you ever come across experiencing a depressing loss, you are entitled to feel what you feel. As long as you aren’t harming yourself or others. Grief is a funny thing. After Brodie’s funeral, I was a wreck. Then I was doing pretty okay for a couple of weeks. Then, I went to a funeral with my mom, to comfort her. No bueno. I thought I would be okay, but I started crying once the music was playing. I couldn’t help but think that the deceased person was someone’s dad. Brother. Son. Uncle. Grandfather. It made me feel weird. I was crying at a funeral for someone that I didn’t know.

In all, things have gotten better. Grief comes and goes. Sometimes it hits you like a train sobbing, tissues, watching The Notebook trying to blame it on the movie. Then, there are the waves that just give you a frown. They don’t pack a punch, but they’re kind of there to tell you, “Hey. I’m still here. You’ve got a lot built up. Just let it out.”

It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay not to be okay. Take breaks. Take time to reset. But you must keep going. You can’t stop now when you’ve already come so far.

Be #BraveLikeBrodie. You’re worth your own legacy.