Kait Brazel is still overwhelmed at how her children have handled their father’s death.
As ABC News reports, Army Staff Sgt. Fred Brazel had only five months to say goodbye after getting a diagnosis of stage four rectal cancer. He died on July 31 at only 37 years of age, leaving behind his wife, Kait, and two sons — Mason, who’s 8, and Mylan, who’s 5.
Kait says she and her husband never tried to hide his illness from their children. The Colorado mom told People that Fred, “died on top of a mountain in my arms and he could hear my children playing.”
One of the things Kait loved best about her husband was what a dedicated father he was. And she is careful to teach their sons that their dad’s influence continues. She told ABC News:
“I tell them, ‘We are here as tools for God. God knew that Daddy was a really strong person, and there were some people God couldn’t reach unless he used Daddy as a tool.’ That’s how we went with it and how we justified it. That’s what we believe.”
About four months after saying goodbye to him, Kait and her sons took the trip from their home in Colorado to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to see Fred’s headstone for the first time. For Kait, it was an emotional trip, and she told ABC News that she cried the entire way because until she saw his headstone, “It felt like he could still come home.”
However, her children handled the drive there much differently. She told People:
“On the drive there, they were drawing pictures to show him and in the pictures he’s an angel. He’s in heaven watching down on them playing outside and doing all the normal stuff they would be doing if he were still here.”
Kait says the boys never cried after their father died. And there in the cemetery, they didn’t break down, but just told him what he’d missed. She told ABC News:
“Mylan shared with him how he had earned his uniform and belt in his fight class, and how he went to a Halloween party and won a cake. Mason told him how he got a trophy for his breaststroke in his swim competition. They updated him on their lives.”
The boys were so comfortable speaking with their father that it was almost like he was there with him. Kait told People:
“Then Mylan said that he could feel him and that he wanted to take a nap with him.”
And that’s exactly what her 5-year-old did. The boys brought a blanket from the truck and lay down next to the headstone. Kait took a photo, as one son took a nap and the other quietly prayed.
Kait says that Mylan had always enjoyed taking naps with his father.
Then, as they were leaving the cemetery, Mylan made them stop so that he could go back one last time. Kait told ABC News, “He said, ‘Wait, I have to go back and give Daddy a hug,'” then ran back and hugged the headstone.
After seeing how her sons handled the visit to Arlington, Kait told ABC News:
“As a military family, we’ve spent so much time apart that a part of me felt like he would still come home from this deployment. But I felt better leaving because now we know what to expect. I have spoken to a bunch of other Gold Star families and they say these visits don’t get easier, but they’ll be different each time.”
Kait says she has no doubts that her sons will remember their dad. Already, she can see Mason telling his younger brother how their dad would do things. She says that the children have repeatedly surprised her since Fred first became ill. The strength they’ve displayed have let her draw inspiration from them. She told People:
“They’re a lot stronger than me. They’re just really remarkable kids.”