Redman family moves forward after tragic loss

Redman family moves forward after tragic loss

Professional

Redman family moves forward after tragic loss

Susie Kirk put her fist through a wall when she got the phone call at 10:28 p.m.

Her oldest son, John Redman, and his fiancee, Brittany Huber, had been in a car crash April 28 on Interstate 85 southwest of Atlanta. Huber died instantly. Redman sustained eight broken teeth, 21 fractures in his skull, a broken jaw and busted ribs. The first person on the scene, a stranger who had witnessed the accident, put the couple’s hands together and said The Lord’s Prayer.

The Good Samaritan couldn’t know that John and Brittany were en route to Mobile, Ala., for their wedding.

Kirk and her husband, unable to drive to Georgia because of bad weather, stayed up through the night waiting for the first flight out of Houston.

“That night I made my husband take my dresses for the wedding and throw them away,” said Kirk, who for years played on the LPGA as Susie Redman.

It marked the beginning of a journey filled with tragic loss, uncommon compassion and a steadfast hope. It’s a love story that brought together two small Southern towns, and a game that served as a refuge.

• • •

Mercifully, John Redman can’t remember anything about the accident. He talks about stops made along the way at Huber’s favorite store, Anthropologie, to buy a couple of dresses and at Starbucks for her favorite drink.

“Everything I just told you,” he said, “somebody else told me.”

Redman knows his fiancee was happy that day. And frankly, that’s all the information he needs.

No one can explain why Redman lost control of his 2008 Lexus and drove into a highway median in Meriwether County, hitting a concrete bridge support. His mom said there were 90 tornadoes in the area that day. Emergency responders couldn’t find Redman’s ID but phoned the Department of Public Safety at Dalton (Ga.) State College because he was wearing school gear.

The last tweet that Huber posted was of the couple’s dog, Paige, resting comfortably in the car on their way to Mobile. Remarkably, Paige was found alive on the floorboard of the car. She now lives with the Huber family.

The first time Redman set eyes on the love of his life was at her little brother Michael’s basketball game. Redman was Michael’s coach.

“We played like crap because I quit coaching, watching her all the time,” Redman said in his strong Southern drawl. “We got blown out, and I didn’t care. She was mesmerizing.”

Redman spent much of his childhood in LPGA day care, traveling the country with his mom and two younger brothers. When Redman started getting serious about sports, he left the road and stayed with his grandparents full time in Spanish Fort, Ala.

For as long as he can remember, Redman wanted to be a basketball coach. When he got injured during his freshman year at Spring Hill College, he kept his scholarship by working as an assistant coach.

“I was 19 years old, and I was recruiting,” he said.

When Redman graduated and was offered the job of assistant coach for a start-up NAIA team at Dalton State, he jumped on it.

“We started with three basketballs and no players,” he said. “We went from nothing to everything overnight.”

Redman told Huber that she could stay in Mobile, where she had a job, and finish graduate school. But Huber insisted on joining him in Georgia, eager to help pursue his dream.

“I really couldn’t believe someone would want to put your interests above their own,” Redman said. “She was a great, loving person.”

On the day before the accident, Huber posted a photo on Instagram of Redman passing her a basketball on a railroad track and attached a lengthy love note. It read in part:

In the picture, the basketball symbolizes him asking me if I am willing to help him achieve his dream which I of course accepted. Moving away from my family was without a doubt one of the hardest things I had to do, but watching John grow closer towards his dream makes me the happiest soon-to-be wife and our relationship grows stronger daily.

Huber, who was deaf but could read lips, was a teacher’s assistant at City Park Elementary School in Dalton and a budding artist who loved to paint crosses and flower bouquets. Her art was simple and sweet, and it mirrored her strong faith.

Redman said he recently thumbed through a Bible that Brittany kept on her nightstand.

“She almost had the whole book highlighted inside,” he said.

• • •

Kirk described the days and weeks following the accident as a thick fog. She went through five memorial services for Huber and stayed in close contact with her parents.

Redman was in a drug-induced sleep at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and fighting for his life when family and friends held a funeral service for Huber on May 2 at the church where they were to be wed the next day.

What was intended to be a celebration of a new life had turned into the most horrific kind of loss.

When Kirk walked into the church and saw Huber’s friends wearing bridesmaid dresses, she walked to the bathroom, fell to the floor and broke down.

“We were supposed to be doing this other thing,” Kirk said. “We were the ones that were supposed to be hosting a rehearsal dinner that night.”

And then the obvious guilt: Her child lived and the Hubers’ didn’t.

“She has faced difficult situations as a mom before,” said LPGA chaplain Cris Stevens, referring to the childhood cancer her son Jesse faced while Kirk was on tour. “She had to really dig down deep for this.

“She had to balance tragedy and hope.”

• • •

On the Rancho Los Amigos Scale of post-brain injury cognitive function, Redman was a two on a scale of 1 to 10 after the crash.

“There was a period of 3 1/2 weeks where the doctors couldn’t tell me if he was going to live a functional life,” Kirk said.

Little by little Redman began to show improvement, though doctors advised the family against telling John about Brittany’s death because of the emotional trauma.

Then on May 23, the same day that every student at Huber’s school released a balloon in her memory, Redman turned a corner in his recovery and kept asking about Brittany.

“At first I was pissed off,” Redman said. “She hadn’t come to see me one time.”

Redman’s younger brother, Ben, told his mom that it was time to tell him the truth. Brittany’s parents stopped by the hospital on their way back to Mobile.

They got down on the floor to be level with Redman, who was in a wheelchair, Kirk said. Brittany’s father delivered the news.

“We’re so lucky to have you,” Mike Huber said. “Brittany, she didn’t make it.”

The words stunned Redman.

“That was the worst day of my life,” he said. “I’ll never forget the way he told me. I’ll never forget how I felt.”

Kirk said the Hubers harbor no blame toward her son. In fact, each time Redman goes back to Alabama to visit his grandparents, he spends half the time at the Hubers’ house.

“They mean the world to me,” Redman said. “They are the closest thing I can get to Brittany, and I’m the closest thing they can get to Brittany.”

Redman was in a hospital room for more than two months. Head basketball coach Tony Ingle put a poster by Redman’s bed with words he’d written in memory of his mother: Life is short, serious and frail. Learn from it, laugh at it and live it well.

Whatever doctors and therapists prescribed Redman to do, he strived to double it.

“I wanted to get out of there,” he said, “and live my life and live it to the fullest.”

In August, Redman moved back to Dalton to coach. He started out slowly, battling headaches and exhaustion. By October, he was really starting to hustle, Ingle said, to the point where the head coach ordered him to take a nap before practice.

“Basketball coaches, if we don’t have intensity in practice, our players won’t either,” Ingle said. Eventually, Redman agreed to rest.

The toughest part though came at home.

The couple’s apartment hasn’t changed. Huber’s paintings still hang on the wall. When Redman wakes up each morning, for the first 15 or 20 minutes while he makes his coffee, he asks the same question over and over: Why?

Then he goes back into the bedroom and makes the bed with 12 pillows on it the same way Huber did each morning.

“And then I feel better,” he said.

Redman isn’t sure when he’ll start to move Huber’s things out of their home. Some days he goes into her closet and sits there for hours because it still smells like her.

“When I leave the house in the morning,” he said, “I almost try not to come home until I’m ready to go to sleep.”

Redman can’t yet bring himself to go to the restaurants they used to frequent, so every night he eats dinner on his own at Dalton Country Club. Redman calls joining the golf club “the best decision I’ve made, post-wreck.”

Despite coming from a family of golfers, Redman never showed any interest in the game until his life turned upside down.

Desperate for an outlet, he took up golf.

Every Sunday Redman can be found at the club having brunch at 11 a.m. followed by 18 holes.

“It’s good for your brain,” he said, “thinking about what shot you want to hit next.”

Kirk, an instructor at The Woodlands in Texas with husband Kevin, who teaches PGA Tour standout Patrick Reed, describes golf as her safe haven. She played in a Legends Tour event after the accident and was overwhelmed by the number of players who wrapped their arms around her and offered support.

“Golf has always taught me to get better, to strive, to push,” Kirk said. “This experience has taught me something more – less of me and more of others.”

• • •

Nearly seven months after the accident there are still dark days. Kirk doesn’t know if it’s post-traumatic stress but, in some ways, she’s struggling more.

Redman wears his wedding band and has Huber’s ring on a chain around his neck. He used to wear it on the outside but now tucks it inside his shirt to avoid awkward conversations.

Ingle makes it a point to talk about Huber every day with Redman. He reminds the coach who has become like a son that although Huber was in his life for only a short time, she shaped him greatly.

“I just told him you have no control over any player that we coach or you’ll ever coach,” Ingle said, “but don’t ever forget you do have influence. That was Brittany’s contribution to you, and to every kid that you touch as long as you coach for the rest of your life.”

On Oct. 31, family and friends gathered at Brittany’s grave on what would’ve been her 25th birthday to release balloons and celebrate a life cut tragically short.

Attached to Redman’s balloon was a birthday note, Dalton State’s basketball schedule, and his bride’s season tickets.

“I never got to go to her funeral,” Redman said. “In a way, that was like saying goodbye.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home