Brande Jo Booher was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on August 18, 1959, the second child to Eddie and Jeanetta Booher. Eisenhower was president. Elvis had a new song that was rising on the charts. It was a Saturday, and as predicted in the old nursery rhyme, “Saturday’s child works hard for it’s living,” her life would be full of toil.
She grew up in Simpson County, Kentucky, except for a short stay in Southern California, and eventually welcomed eight more siblings into her parent’s home. Indeed, living on a farm in Kentucky as one of ten children certainly brought its share of hard work, but the work did not define Brande. She had a constant twinkle in her eye and a quick smile. She lightened the load with song. She eased the burden with laughter.
She grew into a woman and got married to a man who already had two boys. She became an instant mother by treating Scott and Shane as her own children from day one. She added to their family by bringing three more children into this world—Anna, Daira, and Zack. Each child added to the work and worry of life. Yes, life did force her to work hard for a living. Her life was full of heartache, heartbreak, and eventually her heart stopped. But it isn’t the toil or heartache of life that we remember about Brande. We remember her as a song, a poem, a laugh, a story, and a listening ear.
Brande lived her life with song. Growing up on the farm, she spent hours snapping green beans, cutting strawberries, picking blackberries, or helping with a variety of tedious tasks that carried a sense of drudgery. Brande would often sing to lighten the load. We figure she must have always had a song playing in her head. In addition to working beside her, we spent hours squished into an old station wagon or the old VW van watching the scenery pass by wondering if we were there yet. She would sing to us, and her favorite song to sing was “Country Roads” by John Denver. After a while we would often join in. Imagine a station wagon full of kids hurtling down the backroads of Kentucky belting out “Country roads, take me home! To the place, I belong!” She continued the tradition with her children and grandchildren by singing them to sleep or singing to them on their birthday. She always had a song in her heart. She carried some heavy loads in her life, but we all remember how she would sing to lighten her load and the load of everyone around her. Brande was a song.
Along with carrying a song with her wherever she went, Brande carried along a verse of poetry. She would quote a poem or rhyme to teach a lesson. She would share a verse to make us smile. Her children and grandchildren remember her favorite way of showing affection and love was to quote the popular Robert Munsch verse -
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
(Incidentally he wrote that verse after he and his wife had two babies born dead.) I think that verse helped carry Brande through the dirty diapers, the crying babies with colic, and the late-night hospital visits. She loved to write poetry herself and in one verse explained –
Poets write in verse and rhyme
Authors tell a story.
But the words a woman lives and writes
Will be her personal glory.
Chock awoke the other night (it was a full moon after all) and wrote down this poem about Brande –
My Sister’s Eyes
My sister’s eyes
in peaceful slumber
While she awaits
To open them
Yet she is here
A presence felt
A vision seen
In the eyes
Of her family
No matter the color
No matter the hue
Here is a message true
In the eyes of her children
Grand and great grand children too
She lives on
In each of you.
Brande was a poem.
Brande lived her life with laughter. She had an inviting smile and was quick to laugh at life. When the work piled up and it seemed like the list of chores was endless, she would make things fun. She was quick-witted, especially when someone complained, and would smile and say, “Well…” before finding something lighthearted or optimistic about the situation. One time while shopping at Wal-Mart she found an item without a tag. After haggling with the clerk they offered the item for one dollar. Without missing a beat she said, “In that case I’ll take five.”
Her laughter kept her childlike. She played with children not because she had to, but because she wanted to. On Christmas morning she would wake up her children because she was more excited than them to open presents and play with toys. Her laughter wasn’t the loud guffaw or annoying knee-slapping mocking laughter. Hers was a jolly belly laugh, and her eyes practically twinkled as her laughter built. She looked for the joy in every situation. Brande was laughter.
Brande could often be found telling or reading a story. Like her mother, she was an avid reader. She devoured books for her own personal pleasure. She read bedtime stories to her children and grandchildren and told them stories that inspired their imagination and sense of wonder. Daira says she always brought home books for them to read hoping that her enthusiasm for reading would rub off on her children. She would use stories to teach life lessons and after watching the news and seeing that people who lost homes to tornados were always barefoot, she made her children go to bed with shoes on when thunderstorms were around.
In addition to making reading such an integral part of her life, she also worked with children’s reading programs teaching children to read and encouraging the love of books. She loved to listen to, and tell, family history stories that made us laugh, and cry. Because of her love for reading she made a donation to charity and won the chance to have her name as a character in a published novel. You can find her immortalized in the pages of the romance novel The Matchup by Laura Walker as the character Brande Levington. She always told her children, “You are the author of your own book of life. When one chapter ends, a new one begins. But you determine the final ending.” Yes, Brande was a story.
Brande was a good listener. Friends, family members, and total strangers found it easy to share their life story with her. Mom used to wonder if Brande had some sort of subconscious sign that said, “I care. Tell me all your problems.” Her children and grandchildren described her as their emotional rock, their shoulder to cry on, and their personal cheerleader and counselor. Something about her made you open up and share what was troubling you. She would listen intently and sift through your troubles without judging, and when you were finished your burden was lighter because of her empathetic ear. She was a crackling fire, cushy chair, homemade quilt, and hot blackberry cobbler with ice cream you could visit on any cold dark night. It was so easy to be there and she appreciated the visit. Brande was a listening ear.