|JUDI (BROOKS) BRODERICK--WE LOVE YOU
In October of 2001, at the age of 33 and just one year after having delivered her third child, Judi Brooks Broderick was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. At the time of diagnosis, the cancer had already spread throughout most of her body, which meant that there was no way to cure it. Although her doctors did not expect her to live more than a few months, Judi fought an incredible battle for four years, until the cancer that had spread to her brain could no longer be contained. She is a true hero to everyone who knew and loved her.
Judi was an extremely unique person who didn't let growing up destroy her child-like hopes for goodness in all people. She honestly cared more about the happiness of good people than about her own fortunes. There was nothing superficial or fake about her or her views, nothing contrived at all, just her true perspective, for better or worse.
It is not unusual for a child to value community happiness over individual gain. But an adult with such an caring, youthful approach to life is very rare in this day and age. By being so honest and youthful, Judi unintentionally disarmed most adults that met her, which inevitably caused them to open up to her and, in doing so, to learn more about themselves. If you met Judi for the first time you could not help but let down your guard. She made people feel comfortable being who they were, and that's is one reason why everyone who met Judi liked her immediately.
Judi also had a child-like perspective of what was "right", and always expected people to be "nice" (i.e. "that's not nice"). If Judi saw something that she thought was not nice, she was not afraid to speak her mind to anyone - whether a corporate executive (like her father!) or a homeless person (as a social worker she saw them all) - because, in her mind a person is a person. If something needed to be said, she said it. If she really was angry with you, she always spoke her mind directly to you, not behind your back, and never in a condescending tone - she was incapable of that tone.
Extremely compassionate, Judi always tried to find the good in people. Even where most people saw only bad, Judi always looked deeper because she believed that behind many bad actions was a good person who simply screwed up. Judi could imagine herself in the place of the person everyone thought was bad and then rationalize to herself how the negative perception came to be. But, she so clearly recognized bad from good. If you were a bad person, you could not hide this from Judi - she saw right through to the real person inside and, as mentioned, she was not afraid to tell you so.
Judi had fears like everyone else. She was more humble than most people. But, despite her fears and humility, she was much more determined and courageous than most. This is something that she unequivocally proved during her 4-year battle with an uncontrollable cancer. But she always considered the feelings of others even when exercising her strong determination. This means that once she decided to do something, she found a way to get it done in the most non-threatening manner, and despite any obstacle.
Judi was always there to listen to other people's problems and wanted to help them, but she never whined to others about her own very real problems. Most people can complain about somthing -even when there is nothing to complain about. There are a very few people whose lives are filled with mostly negative things but consistently find something positive - these people are treasures. They tend to have more friends and earn more loyalty. They make other people around them feel more alive.
When you think of people who deal with adversity on a regular basis, mainly this brings to mind people who confront their own mortality. Soldiers, for one (for whom Judi always felt amazement, awe and sympathy). Perhaps policemen and firemen. And, of course, people who have incurable diseases such as most every form of advanced cancer. People with terminal illnesses have a perspective that no one else could possibly understand. Their view of life is more realistically negative - a view that would make 'normal' people panic and disappear from the world, complain incessantly and find nothing but sorrow and pessimism. That would be the expected behavior.
In the year 2005, there are so many bad things effecting the world: terrorism, school kids shooting one another, AIDS, cancer, financial problems, war in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.... That is why the ability to find a silver lining makes a person so irreplaceable in this era; it is simply, in all honesty, an extremely difficult lining to find. Judi found it.
Judi had a terminal illness for 4 years (and for who knows how much longer before being properly diagnosed), yet she never once complained and always found the silver lining. Only a truly incredible person could do that. And very few of us will ever meet a truly incredible person in our lives.
An honest, compassionate child-like idealist with humility, courage and determination. Before her diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer and forever thereafter, no one we have ever known has shown the strength, courage, bravery and optimism that Judi did. No one has had so much innate compassion for others despite their own very real problems. No one has ever had Judi's unique ability to do what she wanted without concern for being made fun of - she was the first to laugh at herself and she did what she wanted so long as she never hurt anyone. No one has been so selfless, and no one has been so loved.
Ultimately, Judi always made other people feel important and loved. She let you know how smart she thought you were, and she always made a big deal out of you when you walked in the door - just like a kid. The next time that you think life is unfair or is too difficult, I hope that you will think of Judi, and use her life as a model to help you find some happiness. That life, I hope, will unfold in the text that follows, to be completed in due time.
Judith Lyn (Brooks) Broderick was born on November 5, 1966, the third of four children and the only sister to three brothers: Jim and Steve, identical twins, who were born four years earlier, and Doug, who was born two years later than their sister. Judi grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts, a town of about 14,000 people located about half an hour west of Boston.
As the only girl in a family of four children, Judi was, by far, the center of compassion and emotion in the family. By this is meant both that she expressed her emotions with great ease and that her innate instincts were always to first feel empathy for the sad and enmity for the cruel. Like most people, Judi's barometer of what was the "right" thing to do or who was a "nice" person, was largely a subjective one. In her case, it was also an innocent, idealistic child-like one. However, unlike most people, she was probably right more often than she was wrong. And, unlike most people, she could demonstrate her feelings and opinions toward people - whether those sentiments were positive or negative - in a manner that made the recipient of those expressions think twice. Her child-like innocence made others inclined to know that she would not say something if she did not believe it. In other words, when she made a pointed statement to you, about you, you had the strong impression that you should listen to what she said
From the time that Judi was a young girl and throughout her life, she operated with three innate thoughts guiding her way: (i) she loved children - she instinctively wanted to do something nice for every child that she saw; (2) she wanted everyone in the world to be nice, or "fair" to one another (as in "that's not fair" or "that's not nice"); and (3) have as much fun as possible right now because you never now what will happen tomorrow.
As a young child, Judi always made it known that she wanted a sister. She felt that boys had all the advantages and wanted a sister to commiserate with her about the plight of girls. Our parents were not going to have any more children, so, one day, they bought a girl dog, named Shasta, and Judi was so happy to have another girl in the house.
School comes easy to some people. They can get good grades without doing much work at all. Others have to work very hard for every point on every quiz or test. Judi always worked very hard in school because it was important to her that she got good grades. She always sought out extra help if she needed it, and she always tried her best. Her experience with school added to her naturally sympathetic character, because she knew what it was like to struggle.
In her teen and adolescent years Judi became a very beautiful woman. That beauty, along with her incredibly kind and compassionate nature, won her friends amongst all types of people. She was very popular and was as much a friend to the bookworm as to the burnout, and to everyone in between. Her favorite thing to do was to have fun with her friends and to enjoy life as much as possible.
One of Judi's proudest moments was when she graduated from college, a degree she worked extremely hard to earn. She had proven to herself that she could accomplish something very difficult - which was very important to her. Judi took that degree and became a child services social worker in Boston. The job was an obvious choice for her, she truly loved all children. From the time she was a child herself, every time she saw a baby she would point and smile from ear to ear. She loved babies.
One day, while Judi was on her way to check in on one of the cases that she was covering for social services, a thief grabbed Judi's purse and started to pull it off of her shoulder. Judi, weighing all of 115 pounds, jumped onto the back of the bad guy and tried to get her purse back. The thief learned how tenacious Judi could be when she thought that something unfair was being done. Well, eventually he pulled out a knife and Judi stopped resisting - though she did manage to call him a "loser" as he scurried away with the loose change that was in Judi's purse.
Disillusioned with social services, Judi went in to another area of helping other people - she became a concierge at the Copley Marriott in Boston. There, she met her husband Patrick and, in 1994, Judi began to fulfill her lifelong dream - to have kids of her own. She had three beautiful children with Patrick. Daniel, Leah and Luke represent a dream accomplished and a constant source of joy to Judi and to the rest of her immediate and extended family.
In mid-2001, Judi began to experience random and inexplicable pains around her body. More specifically, she had a prolonged headache and pain in her leg. After many less than able doctors failed to discover the source of her pains, she was diagnosed, in October of 2001 with Stage IV breast cancer. Stage IV means that the cancer had already spread from the breast to distant parts of the body by the time that Judi felt the pains in her body. Stage IV means, at the time of this writing in 2005, that there is no cure, and that any treatments are considered palliative (that means to make your quality of life better, not to cure). Despite an initial prognosis of 3 months, Judi defied the odds with her incredible strength and her endless optimism and enjoyed her children and family for another 4 years.
"I was so very distressed to read of Judi's passing. As you know, Judi was
At Judi's funeral service, a tremendous amount of wonderful, thoughtful things were said about her by everyone who knew and loved Judi (and always will love her). As her brothers, Steve, Jim and Doug tried their level best to relay the ideology of, and paint a true picture of Judi. Who she was. What she liked and disliked. Most importantly, what the rest of the world should learn from her amazing ability to touch others so deeply in a world where people have grown ever distant from one another. Why was Judi so loved in a world where material possessions and social status have, sadly, replaced community spirit and cohesiveness as measurements of the good life? She had no desire either to own the nicest home on the block or to dine with the Kennedies. To the contrary, she was driven by old-fashioned goals--love of family, love of good friends, and a desire to be nice to nice people and to have nice people be nice to her.
A large portion of the text of our (Steve, Jim and Doug) speech is excerpted below, if only to give anyone who should choose to read this a little sample of what our sister was like. So that you will know her better than before you decided to visit this page. Here is much of what we said:
Just over four years ago, Judi was a healthy, young and vibrant woman and full of hope for the future. Then, suddenly, she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer at age 34. We were utterly devastated. We refused to believe that our sister, the most innocent and beloved person any of us knew, not only had cancer, but that it had already advanced to the point of being incurable. And having to watch her battle this disease for four years has been 1,000 times more painful than anything we have ever experienced before. And we prayed that we could somehow take her pain away even if we had to suffer instead of her.
Most people are miserable when they feel the least bit under the weather. A sore throat, a headache, a little nauseous, forget it, most of us whine and moan and hold on until it all passes. We often asked Judi to explain how she felt. She said she could not really explain it, but the closest she could come was to say that you should imagine the worst flu you have ever had, with the worst fever, the worst nausea, and constant and unbearable fatigue--to the point where you just cannot move. Now imagine feeling like that all the time. For nearly four years, that was Judi’s life with a few good days sprinkled here and there. Judi often said that only someone with the disease could understand how she felt. And Judi did share her journey by email, phone and instant messaging with many women her age who also had young children and who suffered the same crippling disease. Unbeknownst to Judi most all of them have since passed away. One who has not, named Lida, wrote the following upon learning of Judi's passing:
a wonderful friend and pen pal for me; we both were young survivors! She
always had an inspiring and optimistic attitude which [in turn] inspired me..."
They say cancer doesn't build character, but rather cancer reveals character. Judi revealed herself to be an incredible warrior, a woman of incredible bravery, a woman to be admired and from whom the rest of us can truly learn. She fought harder and longer and beat the odds of every doctor. The initial prognosis, given over 4 years ago, was 3 months, Judi would not listen, and stole 4 more years. Her doctors would tell their other patients about Judi’s attitude and her success and they were amazed at her will power and her strength. Many of you may know about what she went through and don’t understand how she could have possibly taken such abuse of her body: 2 hip replacements, 7 chemotherapies, one experimental treatment, untold side effects including hair loss, uncontrollable weight gain, nausea and the complete inability to get out of bed for long periods of time. If we listed everything she had to deal with it would take up another two pages. It was simply torture. But she took it all in stride and said “what’s next”. Over the last few weeks she even lost her sight and much of her hearing. Through all of this Judi never felt sorry for herself nor wanted to give up the fight.
On July 4 of this year, the doctors told us that Judi would not make it through the day. We rushed in to the hospital to be by her side. She woke up the next day, we took her home where she wanted to be, and she lived another month. She had more fight in her than anyone we have ever known. She also showed us how not to fear death, to fight as hard as you can no matter the circumstances, and to maintain a positive attitude in difficult times. Quite simply, her character was greater than anyone of us can ever expect to live up to----but we will try, because she showed us how.
For a while, we thought Judi was going to defy the disease. We hoped beyond hope that we'd get a miracle. I guess hope keeps you going when reality is unacceptable to you. We didn’t get the miracle we were hoping for as the tumors in her brain were too much for anyone or anything available through modern medicine. But we did get something. We got four more years of the same old Judi that we love and treasure every single day.
Who was the same old Judi?
She had the uncanny ability to connect with other people very easily. Most people who met Judi would end up becoming friends with her. She was just an extremely likable person with such a kind heart who always managed to find the good in all people.
To Judi, other people always, always, came first. No matter how bad her own circumstances, she believed that someone else was worse off and needed her help. These traits led her to initially pursue a career in social work, helping abused children. Judi never had a bad word to say about anyone, even when someone disappointed her or let her down. She was a person who always made other people feel better…better about life and better about themselves. If you were down, you would probably call Judi and she would make you feel better.
Judi also knew from the time that she was just a child that she wanted to be a mom and raise a family. With Patrick, she was blessed with 3 absolutely beautiful children, Daniel, Leah and Luke, who brought her endless joy. She was a dedicated mother who truly loved her children and was happy watching them grow. Just talk to any one of them and you will see the incredible job that she did. The hardest part of fighting her cancer was the loss of her independence, because she was unable to be the kind of mother that she wanted to be. She just didn’t have the strength. She was still an amazing mother, by the way, just not the mother she wanted to be.
And Judi was more than that:
She lived life her way, she was independent, and she was definitely not materialistic. If Judi wanted to eat or drink something, she didn't care about things like the Atkins or South Beach diets. If she enjoyed it, she had it. That was Judi.
She was incredibly caring and selfless:
Also, recently when the EMTs picked her up to bring her to the hospital to drain fluid from her head, she apologized to them for being so heavy, which was due to the steroids she took, and told them they must be very strong. Those EMTs looked forward to coming back to help her and would tell her they missed her when they came back. And when Doug called his future father in-law with Judi (who couldn’t see at that point) by his side in order to ask for permission to marry Beth, Judi was so proud of Doug, clapped her hands and told him she loved him. She continued to have her child-like honesty--If Judi told you that she thought you were "wicked-awesome", she meant it, and this was the highest compliment that she could pay you. If she told you that you were being a jerk, trust us, you were. Judi gave us 4 more years of that incredible sense of humor: even during her last days while she was blind and had difficulty hearing, she was sitting in her bed, eating Jello, and said to those of us in the room, "it must be funny for all of you to be sitting there watching me eat Jello." That was classic Judi. One day, when she was in high school - she was very tired and the phone rang. She picked it up, said hello, and then said "you have the wrong number, can I take a message. Then she hysterically laughed at herself. Recently, when Patrick kiddingly threatened to withhold her morphine, she quickly replied with “then I am not going to give you your beer today” even though she knew she couldn’t get out of bed.
She continued to ask how you and your family were doing even when she felt lousy. The day before Doug and Beth got married, just less than 2 weeks ago, as Judi was getting a pedicure, she held the pedicurist’s one-month old baby in her arms and caressed it, and then she fell asleep. When she awoke a few minutes later, she felt for the baby and screamed “where is the baby” even though she was extremely ill at the time. We told her that the baby was safe and she breathed a sigh of relief. And, even in her last days, she was more concerned about her sister in law’s pregnancy or about how we, her brothers, were going to handle her passing than she was with herself.
She kept her innocent curiosity:
She used to ask the funniest questions when we were growing up. Something like “would you rather have one leg and one hand or one eye and one ear? When she was a week away from dying, she asked us, “how do you die? What am I supposed to do? Should I just fly away?
Her Strength and Spirit remained strong:
Her beautiful smile:
During the four years she fought this dreadful disease, we NEVER heard her complain once, and to be honest with you, up until her last second when we thought we saw a tear, we never saw a tear out of her, even while she tolerated unbearable pain. At times, we couldn’t move her head a quarter of an inch without her yelling in pain, but there were never any tears; we never understood how she could do that. We are sure she said frustrating things about her predicament to Patrick while they were alone, but not to anyone who visited her.
Three college buddies of Jim’s told him the other day that the one thing they remembered about Judi was her beautiful smile. And, they each only met her once more than 20 years ago.
When we were growing up, Judi wasn’t the most athletic girl in the world. But when she wanted to play goalie in soccer, the boys trained her for hours on end. And, we will never forget this amazing diving save she made during a game that followed that training. We were so proud of her. And, we all love the story when we were kids in Florida on vacation and she complained that the boys got everything; she persisted with a rant until our dad succumbed and bought her a $70 doll, which was probably equivalent to $400 today. She then proceeded to throw the doll at my dad while he was driving the car.
One day our dad lectured Judi during a summer day after high school because she wasn’t doing anything to better herself. Dad said “Summer is not all fun and games”. Judi responded with “yes it is” and proceeded to show him the final cover of the Wayland High School newspaper which read “ Summer is here, time for fun and games”.
Speaking her mind:
While lying in her hospital bed just one month ago, she called for everyone’s attention to ask when Doug and Beth would get married, she said “everyone loves Beth, I love Beth, and Dougie, if you don’t marry Beth, I will.” They were married at Judi’s bedside at home two weeks ago.
Back in February of this year, Judi was under a new trial drug that made her extremely ill. And, even so, knowing that her kids were going to DisneyWorld, she wanted to go. More importantly, she didn’t want to deprive herself of her favorite ride. Out of her wheelchair, feeling lousy- dizzy and nauseous, she somehow mustered up the effort to go on Space Mountain. And, she loved it.
Life is not and will never be the same for us without Judi in it. No brothers could have more love for their sister and we feel like parts of our hearts have been ripped out. And, we will miss many other things including:
But most of all, we will miss the simplest things. No one ever pronounced our names the way Judi did whenever she greeted us: JIMMMAY, STEVEAAY, DOUGAAY. And we loved it.
- Giving her foot rubs- she loved those
- Running out to get her an ice cream sundae - she really loved those; and when we would bring her a chocolate pudding in the hospital it was as if she was a kid getting a new bike
- Going to Maine with Judi and her family every Summer.
- Seeing Judi raise her three great kids as a wonderful mother
- Having Judi and her family visit our homes and vice versa
- Being the best Aunt in the world to Kirstie, Jessie, Kaitlin and her future nieces and nephews, who all already miss her so dearly--we will speak of her every day to all of them.
The last four years have been a difficult and trying time for the Brooks and Broderick families. To Patrick’s parents, thank you for coming over from England as often as you could and providing as much love and support as possible. To our parents, we thank them for giving us the best, most caring, most lovable sister any brothers have ever had, who we were lucky enough to have in our lives for 38 years, who will always be a part of who we are and who we and our children become. She was truly a gift. For her three brothers to lose their sister, who was the heart and soul of the family, there was frustration and anger for not being able to save her and a tremendous void will be in our lives forever. For Doug, who essentially earned his honorary MD while researching cancer to the point where he intelligently challenged Judi’s world class doctors and even introduced potential treatment protocols that they were not aware of, we thank him for his persistence - he gave everything he had to care for Judi. And for Patrick, we give a special and heartfelt thanks. He truly honored his sacred commitment to love and cherish his wife “in sickness and in health until death do us part”. We thank you for taking care of Judi these past four years, for the incredible devotion you showed, and for giving every last bit of yourself in an attempt to help Judi to get better. We thank you for somehow keeping your family together, and for keeping the extended Brooks family together, through unimaginably horrible circumstances. Thank you for comforting us all at the times when you were the one who most needed comforting. Your devotion, dedication, selflessness, and overall caring in the face of the most stressful situation life can possibly throw at you were unbelievable (and on top of you had to deal with the Brooks family!). We love you very much and want you to know that you are our brother, and that we will be here for you and the kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until death do us part.
Judi, we miss you so much already, but we will see you again someday in the place where you are now - with no pain, where no one and nothing can ever harm you and where you can once again see, hear, walk and run, and are now getting the biggest, longest hug from our grammy and pa, nanny, and uncle Joe. And, where we know you are watching over your family. Every time we see Daniel, Lukey, and Leah, we will see you. And your philosophy of life, where people are always nice to each other, will continue to guide us, and we will hear you approve or disapprove of everything we do, and we will listen, and we will act accordingly. You are that important. You had that much of an impact during your life. We are incredibly proud to be your brothers—you made us better people.
You know, they say that if you have 5 good friends at the end of your life and have made an impact on them, then you have done all that you can be expected to do with your life. Judi accomplished 10 times that in her short life, and everyone who knew her must figure out how she did that, because she obviously knew something the rest of us have yet to figure out. Judi, you are without question the best, most nurturing person, and most genuine person we will ever know. The truth is, Judi, the world did not deserve you.
And, Judi, Billy Joel was right- “only the good die young.”
Goodbye Judi, Our Baby Sister, Our Hero, Our Friend – we love you forever."
[The story of Judi (Brooks) Broderick will be continued as time permits--check back often]
Click here to go to Judi's page and read more about her