This post was written by Amanda Steele, someone whose words will touch your heart.
On April 14, Heaven received a valiant spirit. My brother, Shane, passed away due to blood clots in his brain. The news of the clots came as a surprise. Nothing led up to them, and the doctors had no answers for what caused them. My brother was healthy as healthy could be, a runner, a road biker, a true athlete. In fact, the night prior he had gone running with his son 10 miles in preparation for a half marathon this upcoming May. He had developed a passion for running about three years prior when he and his wife signed up for a random 5k. He loved talking running, sharing tips on how to develop your gate, breathing techniques, taping methods, you name it. He was passionate, yet humble.
My first running experience with him was in June of 2010. I had recently had my first child, and like many new moms, was struggling to get my body back into shape. Let’s be honest, at the time eating Oreo’s and watching Glee sounded a heck of a lot more fun than going out for a jog. I maintained this mentality until a weekend spent at my mother’s, and Shane stopped by. He invited me to join him in a 5k the next morning. He said that it was a local run for cancer research, a smaller race, with a fairly easy route, and not too expensive to enter. Remembering back to my high school cross country days, I thought “Sure, this will be a piece of cake. A 5k? What is that, 3 miles? That will be easy peasy, right?” Ha ha ha! Oh, if I only knew what I was getting into.
The next morning came faster than anticipated. I remember feeling a brisk chill in the air at the starting line, and an unusual sensation of queasiness as I glanced around at the hundreds of people preparing to run. “THIS is a SMALL race?” I thought. Wow, I couldn’t even imagine what a large one would be like! I scanned the crowd and sized up my competition. There were mothers with strollers, teenagers who looked like they had been born to run, older people who looked like they had never stopped running, and many average Joes like me. And then I saw him. My competition (although, little did I know that he was my competition at the time). He was probably 5’8, 270lbs, wearing camouflage-shorts and dingy t-shirt that looked like it could use a trip to the cleaners. He was sporting a pot-belly that looked like it belonged on Santa Claus and had a massive brown beard. “As long as I cross the finish-line before HIM,” I thought “I will be alright.” I knew that Shane could sense my uneasiness, because he leaned over and whispered “You’ve got this, Amanda!”
Right then, the gun sounded and we were off! Shane took off quickly and darted ahead of me (which I had anticipated). For the first mile I held my own. Well, at least I didn’t feel like I was going to die. And then it happened. “Camo-man” (as I chose to call him) passed me. We had reached a downhill stretch and he blasted by as if he was on roller-skates. When we reached a flat section, I passed him. It almost became a game of tag, with him passing me, and vice-versa, until I think he got sick of playing and took off. “If I just keep him in within eye-sight“, I thought. But that only lasted minutes before he was long-gone. By mile two I thought my legs were going to fall off of my body. By mile three, I was convinced that my lungs would explode and I was already starting to dry-heave. I about gave up until I heard a familiar voice. “You’ve got it, Amanda! You are almost done! Keep pushing!!” There he was. Shane. He had long finished, and was pushing his newly born daughter in a stroller down the sidewalk right next to me. He cut across the lawn to meet me at the finish-line. My legs literally gave out just shy of crossing and Shane grabbed me around my waist to prop me up, just in time for me to throw up everywhere.
After that I was determined to get back into shape. I entered a few 5k’s and later accepted the challenge (with my Brother’s encouragement of course) to run in the Moab Red Rock Relay: A 70 mile relay race. I had never run more than 5 miles before, and was signed up to run 4 in my first leg and 8 in the second. Needless to say, I was TERRIFIED. Shane was running on a different team for that race but made sure to catch up with me the night prior to give me encouragement. Our teams passed each other a couple of times during the relay. It just so happened that right before I took off on my first leg his team drove by. Just then, I heard “You’ve got this Amanda”. I glanced over just in time to see my brother leaning out of his team’s vehicle, waving and cheering me on with a thumbs-up!
Since my brother’s passing, I have realized a few things:
#1 – Family is everything. For almost a week, the hospital waiting room was packed with family. We united together to build each other up and help each other through. We cried on each other’s shoulders, then laughed to break the tension, and then cried again. I know with a surety that Heavenly Father sent us to Earth to be in a family for a reason, and for a purpose. We need each other. We depend on each other. We are here to be each other’s support group. The bonds that we form here on this earth life with our family are indeed eternal. I know that if we live up to the promises made in the Sealing rooms of the Lord’s temple, we can live together as a family throughout all eternity.
#2 - Heavenly Father answers prayers. Even though our prayers were not answered the way that we initially wanted, our prayers were still answered. We sat hour after hour, and prayed for a miracle. I can attest that my family and I witnessed miracle after miracle after miracle while in the hospital. I know that the doctors were led by the Holy Spirit and that they acted by inspiration through every operation. I know that every time that I prayed, I felt Heavenly Fathers arms around me, comforting me, letting me know that he was there, watching over me, listening. I prayed that Shane would be healed, and I know without a doubt that he is. I know that he is continuing to carry out his calling in Heaven, and that he is now free from the pains and sorrows of this World.
#3- The Priesthood is real. Many Priesthood blessings were administered while in the hospital, both to Shane and to various family members. Regardless of who administered the blessing, each blessing was unique to the individual and personal to his/her needs. The Priesthood power was strong, and binding. I felt as though with every blessing, our family bond became stronger and stronger. The power of the Priesthood became apparent as the Priesthood holders laid their hands upon my head, and I felt the calming reassurance from my Heavenly Father pass through me.
#4- Our Elder Brother, Jesus died for us so that we may live. If I have learned anything, it is that Jesus, my Savior, loves me. Before Shane passed, he chose to be an organ donor. Knowing my brother and his willingness to help those in need, it felt very appropriate that his organs were donated. Shane passed away the day before his 35th Birthday, which meant that his organs were given to six blessed families on the day of his Birthday. What a beautiful gift that my Brother gave to those families, and how amazing that he gave them the gift of many Birthdays to come on his own special day. As I reflect on this gift, I can’t help but remember the gift that my older brother Jesus gave to all of us in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus also gave us the gift to live; to live free from the bonds of Satan’s grasp. His gift is an eternal gift. It is through His sacrifice that we may be healed, purified, and be able to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. I am eternally grateful to him for this opportunity, and hope and pray every day that I will live up to the promises that I have made in the Lord’s holy temples. I pray that when I make mistakes, I will have the courage and the strength to ask for forgiveness and to repent fully so that when my time on this earth is up, through the Atonement, I may be clean and worthy to enter the presence of my Heavenly Father.
#5- Jesus can and will succor us, if we will but let him. Throughout my childhood, I viewed crying as a sign of weakness. In fact, it has probably taken me until just recently, (within the last 10 years or so) to be okay with crying in front of others. Just the other day, I burst into tears after having used the last slice of cheddar cheese that my brother had given my family (he had worked at a cheese factory and would supply us with large quantities of cheese). I cried for practically half the day, and spent the second half reassuring myself that it was okay. I know that I am not out of the woods. I am coming to grips with the fact that random out-of-the-blue things spark memories and those memories lead to tears. It has been easier for me to accept this as I have realized that Jesus Christ loves me, and understands me, and that he gets it. Jesus has already suffered for my pains, my trials, and my heartaches. He knows how I feel. I have felt him succor me as I have allowed Him more fully into my life. I am thankful for the Atonement and for the peace and understanding that it has brought me in my life. I know that it is through the Atonement that I am able to be succored, to be healed, and to find peace through this difficult time.
In honor of my brother, Shane, my family and I will be running in the Ogden Half Marathon on May 18th. It is the very half marathon that he had been training for prior to his death. I will also be running a series of races throughout the summer and fall, most of which were his favorites, and ending with a full marathon in October. I know that it will take effort day by day to train for these races, and that through each race I will get stronger, both physically and spiritually. I view each race as a challenge, yet a stepping stone. I know that each will be a celebration of the life that my Brother lived.
Each morning as I lace up my shoes to run, I am reminded of how grateful I am to experience this life, the good times and the bad. As I breathe in the crisp air, my thoughts are turned to the Plan of Salvation, and to the beautiful opportunity I have each day to start fresh, and to try again. The sound of my feet on the pavement reminds me of those encouraging words that my brother Shane spoke, words which have taken on an entirely new meaning, words which I hope to live up to throughout my life, “You’ve got this, Amanda.”