Every February 17, there are balloons in the sky. Each carries a note on the wind to a young boy gone too soon. The balloons are released from Grapevine Cemetery, where the Day family gathers to remember.
In the fall of 2006, Martin and Marsha Day rushed to the front of a healing service at the Gateway Southlake Campus, ready to get prayer. A year and a half earlier, their twins were born three months premature. From the beginning, every diagnosis their twins received was negative: they would be deaf, blind, mentally disabled, and brain dead. Miraculously, they watched their daughter, Makeelie begin to heal and grow, but their son, Brexton, did not. He was cognitively aware but the significant brain damage he sustained as a preemie limited him physically. “That first year, there were so many unknowns. We were new parents ... to twins ... one was really sick and the other was slowly healing,” Marsha says. “I dreamed of being a mom my whole life, and this just wasn’t what I expected.”
Martin and Marsha, who had been married for eight years at this point, grew up in church and loved the Lord. They saw Brexton’s smile, his joy, and the life bursting from him and tried, through all the tough days, to keep in mind that God had a plan in it all. That night they came to Gateway, they brought their son to the altar and asked the man waiting to pray for them to lay hands on Brexton. Instead, the man looked right at Marsha and said, “This is not your fault.” Marsha thought, Yeah, yeah, now let’s get to healing my boy! He said it again, and Marsha thought the same thing. But then, a third and final time, he looked into her eyes and stated, “This is not your fault!” Tears burst from Marsha’s eyes. “We had gone that night in hopes that our precious boy would be healed,” Marsha says, “and instead we left with healed hearts and a great hope. We had a long journey ahead of us, and God knew my heart needed healing for me to move forward.” They also left that night with a promise from God for Brexton: one of restoration and wholeness and a day when he would have a platform to share his story. Although they didn’t understand it completely, they believed it was from God. Thus began the long wait for that glorious day.
After that night, the Day family began attending Gateway regularly and even started their own Gateway Group. “The first night of our group, only one couple came! We knew the Lord asked us to open our home, but we were shocked by the small beginning!” Marsha says. “Over the next few years though, the Lord brought dozens of couples into our home and into our lives. We had desperately missed community in the first few years of the twins’ lives because we couldn’t really go anywhere with them, so this was so sweet for us.”
All the while they waited, prayed for Brexton’s healing, and cared ceaselessly for him. It wasn’t easy—Brexton couldn’t hold up his head or sit without support. Meanwhile, Makeelie was growing quickly and beautifully. She was walking, talking, and laughing. “Doctors were quick to point out the milestones he was not reaching,” Marsha says. “But he was pure love, smiles, and happiness, and God’s provision for him was so evident.”
But the morning of June 2, 2009, Marsha checked on Brexton only to find him not breathing and without a heartbeat. She called 911 in a panic, and they walked her through CPR. “As much as I wanted to fall on the floor and sob, I knew I had to keep it together until the ambulance arrived,” Marsha says. “I had no idea how long Brexton had gone without oxygen, but I did know that he was technically dead. All I could do was cry out the name of Jesus over and over again.” The paramedics arrived and asked Marsha to leave the room so they could try to save his life. Martin was at a business conference that day, and Marsha’s phone calls kept going to voicemail. The paramedics were able to jump-start Brexton’s heart, and they loaded him into the ambulance where Marsha called friends and family with the devastating news.
Brexton spent three weeks in the ICU. Martin and Marsha stayed beside him day and night, and friends from their group came daily to pray, bring food, and offer encouragement. They barely slept as doctors and nurses did all they could for Brexton. Tragically, his brain scans indicated what was left of his healthy brain tissue had been severely damaged. They realized they were going to take a very different boy home. “He was alive, but the smiles, the joy, and the love in his eyes were all gone,” Marsha says. “Memories of what happened that morning in June, in my own home, began to haunt me, and the ‘if onlys’ consumed me in the months and years that followed.”
Nothing prepares you to bring home a four-year-old with severe brain damage. “Life went from difficult to miserable as we tried to figure out how to care for him in his current condition,” Marsha says. “The nurses taught us how to insert his feeding tube and how to feed him with a feeding pump, but other than that, there was no class, no training.” The feeding tube caused Brexton to spit up regularly, so Marsha spent much of her time cleaning him and changing his clothes, a task that would have been easier if she felt like her boy was still there. But all the recognition was gone, replaced by cries. Although they truly believed Brexton knew what was going on around him, pain was the only emotion they saw from him. “Honestly, sometimes we wondered if death might have been easier,” she says. His muscles were constantly tight and spasming because there was damage to the portion of his brain that controlled voluntary movement. He seemed uncomfortable no matter what position he was in, and the only thing that seemed to give him a few minutes of relief was a warm bath. “At night, he would just lay there with his eyes wide open for hours. It was heartbreaking. And when he cried, we had no idea how to comfort him,” Marsha says. “We stayed awake with him for hours. I’d wake up each morning thinking it was a bad dream. Then reality would hit me, and I would literally drag myself out of bed.”
Marsha was exhausted, weary from trying to hold onto hope. She watched her daughter grow in ways Brexton could not, and she watched her husband care daily for his son alongside her. “Other dads were out kicking soccer balls or riding bikes with their sons, while Martin was continually changing diapers or moving him and his wheelchair,” she says. And when Brexton got sick and they had to call 911 again, Marsha and Martin were nearing the end of their rope. “I looked around Brexton’s bedroom, which should have been filled with toys, games, and books, but was overtaken with a large oxygen machine, feeding machine, suction machine, containers full of medicine, and a heart rate monitor,” she says. “Martin and I looked at each other with tears streaming down our faces. What had our life become?” Run down and defeated, they spent another few weeks in the ICU.
Marsha became angry and offended at God for letting this happen to them. They had faithfully served God and the church throughout their marriage. They loved people and had gone on ministry trips around the world. But the days in the ICU were long, and the Lord began to speak. “Anger itself is not a sin,” Marsha says. “But I was directing my anger toward God, when I should be directing it toward the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” And in a lonely, sterile hospital room, Marsha came to grips with the fact that we live in a broken world where tragedy strikes the just and the unjust. This wasn’t punishment or a lesson. “We had to come to a place where we were so grounded in God’s love for us that even when we did not understand, we trusted Him,” Marsha says.
They started to see God in little and big ways. One woman, a friend of a friend, dedicated several days a week to help with Brexton’s care. Martin and Marsha became friends with other parents of special needs kids, finding solace and encouragement in one another’s journeys. And right after Brexton’s hospital stay, Martin and Marsha felt led to expand their family. “It made absolutely no sense, which we have learned is always a good indication that it could be from the Lord,” she says. “And a few weeks later, we found out we were expecting!”
Breney Faith was born in June 2010—a beautiful, healthy little girl. She had so much joy and was always smiling, which was such a contrast to Brexton. And two years later, they welcomed another daughter, Kenzington Karis. During this time, God showed up in another miracle. Brexton was accepted to a special needs program at a public school, which gave Marsha time to homeschool Makeelie and spend time with Brenley and Kenzington. The teachers and fellow students treated him with such kindness and respect. “Brexton may not have taken any tests or met any milestones, but he got an education and had a life,” Marsha says. “He got to experience the joy of riding a big, yellow school bus each day and hear laughter daily and live beyond the walls of our home. I’m beyond grateful to the teachers and the school district who loved a little boy who, in the world’s eyes, had nothing to offer.” The Days continued to care ceaselessly for Brexton while they waited for God’s promise, but he continued to have many close calls.
In February 2015, Brexton was in the hospital again. Fear and panic seized Marsha, the trump card questions plaguing her: What if Brexton died? What if all you believed and prayed for was lost? For days, his numbers fell and rallied. He endured procedures, and his tiny body was covered with wires and IVs. “He was such a fighter! We had seen it time and time again over the 10 years of his life,” Marsha says. “He defied every doctor who spoke negative words over him. He overcame tremendous odds. But this time was different. We started to feel a shift. I can’t explain it, but we had so much peace.” It broke their hearts to see him suffering, his body worn out and beaten. They didn’t know what the days ahead would hold, but they chose to worship their way through it. On Valentine’s Day, they stuffed 15 people into a small hospital room around Brexton’s bed and they worshipped like never before. “We sang, we prayed, and we declared,” she says. “And we began praying that the Lord would move speedily on behalf of our precious boy.”
Doctors soon told Martin and Marsha to gather those who would want to say goodbye—he wouldn’t last much longer. Martin and Marsha knew they needed to bring Makeelie to visit her twin brother, perhaps for the last time. It was sobering. “We talked to Makeelie about the beauty and joy of heaven,” Marsha says. “Then Martin asked her, ‘If God gave Brexton the choice to be completely healed on earth or completely healed in heaven, what do you think he would choose?’ and she replied, ‘I’m not sure since I’m not him, but I think he would choose heaven.’” They were floored that their 10-year-old would express something it had taken almost their entire lives to realize—heaven was better! That day, Makeelie laid in the hospital bed beside Brexton, ran her fingers through his hair, and touched his face. They all held hands and told him how much they adored him. “Martin said to Brexton: ‘If God told you to fight, then you fight! But if you are fighting for us, it’s okay, you can rest,’” Marsha says. “We told him what an honor and privilege it was to be his family. Then we all released him.”
The next morning, surrounded by family and friends, Brexton met Jesus.
After Brexton died, Marsha felt numb. “I was not ready to say good-bye—what mommy is ever ready to do that?” Marsha says. It wasn’t until about a week and a half after his death that Marsha truly took time to mourn. Intense grief and even a sense of failure filled their days. Normal things like taking the girls on a walk or piling in the car to go to a restaurant sparked guilt for enjoying those moments without Brexton. Makeelie, in particular, missed him terribly. She was Brexton’s favorite person, and they had a very special bond. The whole family was so focused on his earthly healing for so long that they hadn’t even dreamt about what life would be like without him, and they found themselves mourning their dreams as well. “Nothing we planned would be the same without Brexton. God had used him as a compass for our entire family for so long,” Marsha says. “And we felt completely lost without him.”
New dreams arrived in an unexpected way. Marsha heard God say, “Build Brexton’s House” and felt the dream take root in her heart. “We have dear friends in Zambia, Africa, working for Family Legacy,” she says. “Their Tree of Life Children’s Village is on 130 acres of beautiful land with a community of homes for orphaned and vulnerable children in need of haven and hope. We knew that’s where we would build Brexton’s House.” Over the next two years, the Day family raised enough money to build the home, and in July 2017, they flew to Zambia to dedicate it in his honor. The whole family got to meet the young boys who would live in the safety of Brexton’s House, and they got to share about who he was. Pictures of Brexton adorn the walls of God’s promised platform. And it was a glorious day.
For Marsha, February 17 would always be the day she lost her son. But she felt the Lord say to her, “Remember, this is a day that I made, rejoice and be glad in it.” It seemed so simple, but it held profound wisdom. “Setting up a memorial in my heart to the enemy and to pain every year on February 17 was neither healthy nor beneficial. This is a day the Lord has made, and some really sad things happened on it, but I still want to rejoice,” Marsha says. “I made a decision—I would not give that day, or any other bad anniversary day, to the enemy any longer. I could remember, but I would not make myself or my family suffer.” So each year Martin and Marsha and their three precious girls gather at the cemetery. They bring balloons of all colors, and they spend time writing notes to Brexton, telling them how they missed him and how much they loved him. “We laugh, we cry, and we remember,” Marsha says. “Then we attach the notes to the balloons, let them fly, and go do something fun to celebrate his beautiful life.”
Martin, Marsha, and their three daughters, Makeelie, Brenley, and Kenzington, attend the Southlake Campus.
Marsha’s book In the Waiting was released on the first anniversary of Brexton’s death and is a raw, wisdom-filled account of their journey with Brexton. It is available at brextonshouse.com.