It was July of 2017 when Army Staff Sgt. Alfred “Fred” Brazel died of stage 4 rectal cancer. He was just 37 years old and left behind his wife, Kait Brazel, and their two sons, Mason and Mylan.
The boys’ parents had done all they could to bravely and honestly prepare them for the reality that their father was going to pass away.
Just five months after Brazel was diagnosed with cancer, he took his final breath. The family grieved as they laid their loved one to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
“We never once addressed it as a sad thing,” Brazel told “Today” of her husband’s cancer diagnosis.
“That was the attitude and mentality we had throughout the battle. We as a family lived and continue to live life to the fullest in every moment.”
On Nov. 20, 2017, about four months after Fred Brazel died, Kait Brazel and her boys made the 24-hour drive from their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Arlington National Cemetery to visit his gravesite.
The visit was a sad one, but it was also filled with touching moments.
“We brought a blanket. Mylan said he felt like he could feel his daddy, and he wanted to take a nap with him,” Brazel told ABC News.
“He is laying there taking a nap with his dad and Mason is beside him praying. They took time together with each other and I just stood back.”
Seeing her sons’ responses during the visit to the gravesite made Brazel’s heart swell with pride.
“I felt proud while we were there,” Brazel told “Today” in an email.
“Obviously it was sad because the boys are talking to their dad and he can’t talk back, but really I’m proud because throughout the fight our goal was to be realistic with the boys without the losing their innocence as children.
“Seeing them share their lives with their dad’s headstone, I knew we accomplished exactly that,” she wrote.
Mylan even ran back to his father’s headstone to “give Daddy a hug” as they were leaving, Brazel told ABC News.
Brazel believes that being transparent with her children has helped them cope with the reality of their father’s death. Nothing about their father’s prognosis was sugarcoated, but rather, the boys were invited to be part of their father’s cancer fight as a family.
“We don’t shelter them from ‘adult things.’ It was their dad and they were a part of the fight,” Brazel told “Today.”
“We have always been very open with them, and because of this I believe they have handled the whole journey amazingly.”
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