'He's taught us all how to live'

Truth be told, you shouldn’t be reading Brady’s story yet.

This project was initially conceived as the opportunity to follow one youth’s passage through hospice care. It was designed to record Brady’s final six months — or less — and the emotional journey of a family losing a child a little bit at a time.

Along the way, however, we not only learned that Brady lives at his own pace — he dies at it, too.

As it unfolded throughout most of this year, this story became less about Brady’s slow death and more about his quick life.

A life that deserves celebrating and not mourning.

Not yet anyway.

“I don’t know how he does it,” said Sheron Drake. “It’s one miracle after another.”

Thanksgiving Day delivered a double dose of gratitude in the Thompson house. Brady’s 16th birthday was a day no one would have dared envision earlier in the year.

And yet, even the celebration of that milestone brought temperance to the Thompsons.

“I was writing down all the names of people coming for Thanksgiving and I wrote down ‘Brady,’ ” Lori said, “and I wondered if it would be the last time I would be doing that.”

It’s an outlook the Thompsons have been forced to adopt for some time. They do, however, take time to stop and smell the roses — that is if Brady hasn’t already uprooted them for delivery to the elderly women in the neighborhood, as he has done in the past.

“As long as he’s here and wants to keep going ... as long as there’s quality to his life and he wants to live it, then we’re in it for the long haul,” Darrell said — way back in February.

The haul has been longer than expected as Brady’s fight continues.

And it’s a costly one at that. Brady is on Medicaid, which pays the bulk of his bills, but there are countless out-of-pocket expenses. Brady’s stay in Primary Children’s Medical Center after his fall on Easter, for example, incurred a total charge of more than $150,000.

“I can’t even make a good guess,” Lori said of Brady’s annual medical expenses. “All I can say is the last two years, an average would be over $200,000.”

Whether financial or emotional, it all exacts a toll.

“I don’t think anybody has a clue what Darrell and Lori go through on a daily basis,” Sheron said. “They don’t see that emotional roller coaster of wondering if your son is going to die on a daily basis.”

Which brings us back to the search for Brady’s birth mother — an effort that seemingly stalled several months ago despite all the information she had provided the Thompsons at the time of

Brady’s adoption.

On Nov. 26, that information was sent to Jill Ekstrom who runs Utah Finders, an agency that specializes in tracing and reuniting willing adoptees with their biological parents. Two days later, Ekstrom reported that her Utah County associate, Van Canann of Counter Strike Investigations Inc., had, in fact, located Brady’s birth mother.

According to Ekstrom, she is currently living in Michigan.

With the desired contact information now available to them, it still took the Thompsons three weeks to wrap their heads around the virtual reality of facing something that had been on their minds for more than seven months.

“Until we contact her, there will always be that little voice in the back of our heads telling us this will break her heart,” Darrell said on Dec. 8, when asked about the delay. “It is the overriding of that feeling that says if there is any possibility that she would want to meet Brady, that we have to make that call.

“We’re one phone call away now,” he said.

The Thompsons, however, never got the chance to place that call.

As fate, destiny or complete coincidence would have it, on Dec. 17 — the very day the Thompsons actually anticipated the possibility of placing the call — Darrell answered a “private number” call on his cell phone.

Brady’s birth mother was on the other line.

It turns out that she had received the query the Thompsons had sent through Social Security after all. She had been sitting on the information for a while, trying to work up the nerve to risk opening a chapter of her life that still remains a complete secret to her family.

The two parties were able to share sentiments they each had nurtured over the past 16 years — since that night they stepped off a UVRMC elevator together and entered totally different worlds that would be forever altered for different reasons. (Yes, Brady’s birth mother confirmed — that was her in the elevator.)

“I just told her, ‘You know, I want you to know, he’s never been just ours,’ ” Darrell said of Brady.

“I said, ‘This is a neat, neat kid’ and I thanked her again for what she had done for us. And I said that ‘I wanted you to have the opportunity to get to know this kid, because he’s really amazing.’ ”

While she naturally was saddened to learn of Brady’s health problems, Darrell said his birth mother knew she had done right by him by allowing his adoption.

“She ultimately came to the conclusion, especially after talking, that this was where he was supposed to be,” Darrell said. “She said ... ‘It just confirms to me that you guys were meant to be his parents.’ ”

Like contemplating a still-wrapped Christmas present under the tree, what this gift of knowledge will ultimately offer its recipients is still unknown.

But there is hope, faith and peace of mind — even if there might not be a lot of time.

“I think the ability to have us be open and willing to let her be a part ... was absolutely priceless to her,” Darrell said. “Whether she feels like she can act on it or not, the ability to do it and acknowledge that he’s here and who he is, and all that, was well worth anything else.”

The doctor who delivered Brady twice — first at birth and then to the Thompsons — has managed to keep occasional tabs on Brady over the years.

“I think Brady’s been kind of a challenge for them, I mean, he’s had some problems along the way, and yet I think he’s made their life really cool, too, in spite of those challenges,” said Dr. David Broadbent, an OB/GYN who has been practicing for 31 years. “(Lori) will bring him by occasionally and I’ll see him. He’s not had the easiest life in the world, but he seems like a really nice kid, just a wonderful person.”

No matter what the future holds for this remarkable teenager, his impact certainly will be felt long after his fight is over.

Just ask his best friend.

“Once you get to know him you can’t just forget him,” said Joel Drake. “He’s one of those people you will never forget.”

Joel’s mother couldn’t agree more.

“Brady has brought out a compassion, concern and love that I haven’t seen before,” said Sheron Drake of changes she’s seen in her son. “He’s brought out a compassion and concern for another human being that is pretty awesome to see in a teenage boy. Now (Joel) makes friends easily. I think Brady’s taught him a lot, especially tolerance.

“He’s taught us all how to live.”

And die.

Although a few of those lessons have yet to be taught.