Tresa Brady’s sister, Myra, was supposed to come to Selma, Ala., because their mother who adopted them was dying of esophageal cancer.
The doctors had told the family to see their terminally beloved now because it wouldn’t be long. Myra was to come that weekend. Tresa said she and Myra had talked throughout the day. Myra wasn’t feeling well. The last phone call Tresa got from Myra was at 9:30 p.m. Myra told Tresa she loved her. Tresa urged her sister to stay home since she felt sick, but Myra had plans to meet friends and had taken her 9-year-old son, Tommy, to spend the night with a friend. She was to pick him up before heading to Selma.
She never made it. Myra was killed in a head on collision with a transfer truck. She died on Mother’s Day in 1992. Their mother passed away four months later followed by their father (eight months later), who died from gastrointestinal bleeding. The impact of this string of deaths left the family reeling.
“I lost my whole family in a short amount of time,” Tresa said. “Tommy went through a hard time. He missed his mom so. When his grandparents — my adopted parents — died, he lost everything as well. We all did. Myra and I had always talked about if something happened to one of us what the other would do. Her wish was for me to take Tommy.”
Tresa fulfilled her sister’s wish. Devastated from one family tragedy after another, Tresa and her husband, Bob, set out to raise Tommy along with their own two sons.
“I love Myra very much and miss her every day. We were so very close like most sisters,” Tresa said. “I was used to taking care of her even as a little girl. She wouldn’t let anyone else do that for her. We were kept together when we were adopted because our biological father made sure of that. I think that strengthened the bond we had.”
Regarding her raising her sister’s son as her own, Tresa said, “There was never a question or doubt in our minds. Bob took on a big role as well. He didn’t mind one bit. He loved Tommy just as much.”
Because Myra and Tresa wanted children the same age, their sons were born only months apart. Tresa was told she couldn’t have any more children, which broke her heart.
“But God blessed me with Clayton who is six years difference in age from his brother Brian,” Tresa said. In 2001, tragedy struck again when Tresa discovered she had a large aneurysm (2 centimeters) at the base of her brain. It was inoperable.
“My children and Bob were scared and devastated,” Tresa admits. “So was I. We were told of the risk involved, especially with it being in a location they couldn’t get to.”
With her husband and sons by her side, Tresa, who had been a nurse for 13 years, prepared herself for the worst and hoped for the best. Her doctors came up with a new procedure to save her life. In short, they put a clamp on the left carotid artery which provides the main blood supply to the brain. It was a success.
“Not many like this have been done in the U.S. — only nine that we knew of at that time,” said Tresa, who suffers from occasional headaches as a result of the aneurysm. “By the grace of God I survived. Every day was a struggle to try and regain my life. But we did it as a family. This disease taught us life is so short and to be grateful for every day. I am grateful to be here.”
Looking back on how she and her husband of 32 years raised three sons, the sacrifices they made and the love they still share, Tresa said she would gladly do it all over again if given the chance.
“I kept my promise to my sister to love Tommy, to take care of him and to make sure he would be safe as all mothers want for their children. The one thing Myra and I both wanted was for our children not to have to go through what we did as children,” Tresa said.
“We wanted them to know they were loved. We broke the cycle of what we dealt with as kids. I think everyone has a choice. You can either let things destroy you or choose to make things better and become stronger. We chose the positive.”
According to Bob and Tresa, both 51, love is one of the greatest things to be given to families and to care for a loved one’s child is a privilege and a blessing.
“I am honored to do this for her and to keep her memory alive by talking about her. We never tiptoed around the subject of her. We always kept her alive in our home with Tommy and my other boys,” Tresa said.
“I am the one blessed to have had her in my life. She was an amazing sister and my very best friend. Myra will always remain forever in our hearts and minds. I always told Tommy no one could ever replace his precious mom’s place. I told him he could call me whatever he wanted too. We loved him no matter what.”
Clayton moved to Tennessee with his parents and went to Chattanooga State Technical Community College to become an EMT. Currently, he is living and working in Alabama while going to paramedic and firefighter college. Brian is a newlywed, living with his wife in her hometown of Alpine, Ala. Tommy is in Gulf Shores, Ala., raising his family. They all remain very close to each other — a victory of love overcoming loss.
A job offer from Bowater brought the Alabama couple to Tennessee three years ago, according to Tresa, who said, “Bob and I are glad we came to Tennessee. We had said when the boys grew up and left home we’d move here. Then he got a job offer. We are very happy here.
“However, I miss my children a lot. I love them very much. Family is still very precious to me. But now my life has taken me down a different path and journey.”
Wherever that journey takes her, Tresa said she will always carry the memory of her beloved sister and the satisfaction of knowing how she and Bob turned tragedy into victory by allowing faith and love to conquer all.