A year after Brian passed away, we launched a massive campaign to help kids with cancer around the country and help fund cancer research. Our efforts were not only well-received by the community, but we got help from unexpected sources as everyone rallied around BMF’s mission!
Tributes to Brian Morden
So many people loved Brian and were touched and inspired by his life. We (Brian’s parents and brother, Jamin) are grateful to all those who took the time to express their thoughts and feelings about Brian as well as to those who have made contributions to the Brian Morden Foundation.
The Beasom, Pappal, and Merschiltz families asked the Altoona Area School District for permission to plant three Morden Fireglow Roses in honor of Brian. The roses and plaque are to the left of the AAHS auditorium where Brian performed many times with the concert band, jazz band, orchestra, and pit orchestra.
Jamin (Brian’s younger brother) and some of his friends purchased BMF t-shirts and wore them to school. Here are six of them on the last day of their 9th grade year on the steps of Roosevelt Jr. High.
The Altoona Area School District participated in our Relay for Life in 2003 in memory of Brian. They earned over $8,000 for the American Cancer Society. Here’s hoping some of that money goes to research for a Ewing’s sarcoma cure.
Brian loved computer gaming and was a member of Wolfpack. Wolfpack was formed in early 1999 by a a group of bungie.net regulars who enjoyed late-night marathon sessions of Myth II co-op and big team games, night after night.
The group wrote the following in their 2003 bio:
This February, Wolfpack suffered a great loss when its beloved wolf, Ar-Isildur, lost a two year battle with cancer. Ar-Isildur was always a leader in the departments of tournament organization and moral boosting. He was best known as the defender of <3 to the Bungie community. His hearty spirit will live on forever in this community and in the pack. His strength and courage has brought us from the far reaches of the wilderness and has made us a unified pack once again. We sport some love of our own as we myth in his honor. We sincerely wish everyone the best of luck in what is sure to be a memorable tournament.
The Suckling family (Dawn’s parents, brothers and sister, and their families) has vacationed together for the last 8-10 years. This was our first time without Brian so everyone wore a Brian Morden Foundation t-shirt for the annual photo.
- Dawn Morden's Eulogy for Brian
- Fred Morden's Eulogy for Brian
- Eulogy by Brian Johnson
- Eulogy by Reverend Jaime G. Olson
- Brian's Legacy
- Jesse's Letter to Brian
- External Links for Brian
Dawn’s Eulogy for Brian Andrew Morden, my son
at First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Altoona, Pennsylvania 16601
Saturday, February 22, 2003; 5 PM
I am proud and honored to say that Brian Andrew Morden a.k.a. *Ar-Isildur is my son. He and I shared many experiences and traits, some of which I know were a blessing to others and some which were a source of frustration at times especially to his dad, my wonderful, wise husband who played the other part in creating baby Brian. (AND) Who, with many many others, helped Brian to grow into the beautifully special and unique young man he was.
Brian and I shared a love of Italian food – I had spaghetti the night before he was born and Fred was reminded of that before Brian made his entrance into the world. Brian and I shared a passion for computers and finding friends on the Internet. I know he broke my record for meeting Internet friends in person – something Fred, Jamin, and I had the great pleasure to share in. Brian and I both loved to read, but it was years before he and Jamin could convince me that starting and finishing the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was worth it. Tolkien is definitely worth it and during the latter part of last week Brian and I explored how to find God in The Lord of the Rings.
Brian and I shared a love for the Altoona Area High School bands and I was privileged to be on the field with him during alumni day in 1999. I got such a kick out of sharing in many of Brian’s video creations, a love for both of us. Probably the one I’ll remember the most will be the driver’s ed video. I was the camerawoman for the two Brians, two very special friends.
We’re both very indecisive at times, impatient, and make others wait for us. Most of our friends and family forgive us these faults. Brian loved his family and was never ashamed to be around us. He shared so many experiences with us – trips to Europe, the Grand Cayman Islands, Seattle, Washington, Myrtle Beach, Ocean City, NJ, and many more wonderful places. We also shared many closer-to-home experiences including Brian’s second viewing of the Two Towers on the same day, December 18, 2002. It was probably one of the last times he could really fully enjoy himself.
We’re both very stubborn at times so we both fought to the end, believing what the chaplain at Children’s Hospital said, “Never give up hope. God does miracles and I’m praying for that miracle for you on THIS side of heaven. But, if it doesn’t happen here, it will happen in heaven.” All of us who loved Brian were ready to continue helping him fight like hell as his aunt Betty used to say. He did – and he did not disappoint his friends, his family or himself.
Brian was way stronger than I ever thought; he was a better person than I dared dream. He was afraid to look toward heaven even after he had suffered so much because he was afraid that he would never see some of his friends who were atheists there. I’m sure Brian has discovered that even those who don’t believe in Jesus until the last second before their death will see him in heaven. The thief who was crucified with Jesus asked Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King.” Jesus said to him, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.”
Fred and I loved Brian very much and he knew that. He also knew how many other people loved and cared about him – Grammy and Poppop, Jamin, Uncle Scott, Uncle Kevin, Aunt Lisa, Aunt Yvonne, Aunt Lori, Matthew and Kayleigh, Uncle Paul, Chelsea and Nicole, Aunt Louise, and the rest of the family. They showed him their love in so many wonderful ways. He also knew that an incredible number of friends and strangers loved and cared about him because they/you took the time to send cards, email, gifts, call or visit.
Even still, I wish we had had more time to love Brian, this side of heaven. We miss him so much already. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Frances Gunther who wrote about her son in Death Be Not Proud, ” Missing him now I am haunted by my own shortcomings, how often I failed him. Today, when I see parents impatient or tired or bored with their children, I wish I could say to them, But they are alive, think of the wonder of that. Exult and sing.”
We will continue to love Brian until we die and hopefully that love will be apparent each and every day as we love and care for each other, his friends, and even strangers. We plan to continue Brian’s legacy and fight against this horrible disease and we hope to see a cure before we meet him in heaven.
Fred’s Eulogy for Brian
at First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Altoona, Pennsylvania 16601
Saturday, February 22, 2003; 5 PM
This has been a brutal, heartbreaking, journey. 26 months. Thank God we were never alone. We could have never made it alone. Your cards, emails, gifts, love and prayers…..God’s angels among us….so much help, so much encouragement…we could have never made it through alone. Our family, our friends, our colleagues and supervisors, even people we don’t know, never met…all over the world…such an outpouring of love. So appreciated, so needed. Brian was so overwhelmed with you that he thought he was disappointing all of you because he was dying. He was so young, so innocent, so selfless.
Brian’s room at the hospital was hardly ever a dull or sad place. Yes, there were very disappointing, unspeakably painful, gut-wrenching moments. But we had decided to give the disease only what it could take from Brian and give it nothing for free, no fear, no depression, no loss of faith. I kept paraphrasing Gandolf from the Fellowship of the Ring; “We can not choose the times we live in only what we do with the time we are given.” OK, crawl in a hole during chemo….but, live it up when it’s over.
So, what did we do with our time apart from medical tests and chemotherapy? We could fill an entire day with a movie like the Pink Panther, Chris Farley, Jackie Chan. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, we hung out in the vending machine room and discussed the various sandwiches as they rotated in the machine, the order in which we would rank them for visual appeal, taste, quality of ingredients, and which drink would go best with which sandwich. I remember we took hours developing something we called “Brian’s Punch”, a concoction of orange juice and either Sprite or Squirt. We finally decided that 1/3 OJ and 2/3 Squirt was the best formula. We also decided that the drinks must be cold to begin with because melted ice would compromise their favors and change the mixture proportions. We joked about the side effects of chemotherapy and worked and played around them. Over some 88 chemotherapies, we developed the most effective anti-nausea meds staying away from steroids, that caused a personality change in him. Steroids caused him to experience a deep, embarrassing depression, but I told the doctors and nurses not to use them because under their effect, he was transformed into Elvis. We either used the hospital’s computer or our own laptop to keep Brian connected to his friends on the Internet. And, of course, we had “Cardtime.” He lay on his back with his eyes closed, resting, and we read the cards, letters, and Emails you sent him. Of course, there were some cards that he insisted on reading himself before allowing us to see their contents. (I think it was a lingering form of adolescent censorship.) It wasn’t a happy place, in the sense we normally think of happiness, but it was far from depressing. When there was work to do, we did it. When the work was done, we played.
As a baby, Brian was an enthusiastic nurser. Later, we blamed Dawn for his passion for Italian food, explaining that it was because she had a spaghetti dinner just before delivering him that he confused mother’s milk with marinera sauce. We also told him that it was the sauce that caused his hair to be so red. But, he loved his red hair, one of the few physical attributes he loved about himself…especially when the ladies cooed in admiration and envy.
He enjoyed sleeping all day and playing most of every night. While it was very frustrating for his mom, it was delightful for me. I actually enjoyed getting up at 4am to hold him, singing any number of arrangements of “HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HAND.” Brian loved the attention, providing smiles of encouragement for ever-more ridiculous treatments of the old spiritual. Some nights, the two insomniacs sat on the kitchen floor with just the stove light on and had cookies and milk. I guess this was an early form of male bonding.
During his first year of life, his mother reluctantly returned to work, permitting his care to rest in the loving hands of his Grammy. Brian’s nursing schedule remained unbroken however, enjoying daily lunches at his mother’s breast in a secluded space at her school. Dawn would eat with one hand and hold Brian in the other.
Brian was a true romantic. He loved stories about good overcoming evil and since he always wanted to be the good guy, it was my job to be the evil one…until the arrival of his baby brother. This relationship between the two boys was perfect from the beginning. Brian, the leader, Knight in shinning armor, and Jamin, his squire and part time villain. It was easy for Brian to defeat his brother, the diapers slowed him down and he had a considerably shorter arm reach. It wasn’t until Jamin began to grow into a scraping toddler, and for his age, a formidable game player, that Brian pulled me aside to ask the timeless question of all older siblings “Can we take him back to the hospital now?”
People outside our family and friends think of Brian as shy. It’s true, he was never the first one in the pool. Well, once he was. I can remember challenging him to see who could change and be in the Park Hills Country Club pool first. (He behind one curtain and me behind the next.) I thought I was way out in front, but when I pulled back his curtain he was gone and on the white, painted, wooden plank lay his clothes and his bathing suit. I grabbed his clothes and ran out the door just in time to hear one mother say to the other, “Mildred, did you see what I just saw.” As I reached the edge of the water, there was Brian, standing in the center of the pool in his all-together with his hands raised in victory.
Two months ago, when he was hospitalized for an anal fistula……in the door, making their daily rounds, came Dr. Shaw with his entourage, four residents, one fellow, Brian’s nurse, her aid, and the head nurse of the unit. Dr. Shaw apologized for asking Brian to turn over on his stomach to reveal and evaluate his sore bottom. I was sitting beside him and could see Brian’s face. They thought he was crying from embarrassment, I could see he was struggling to keep from laughing. Dr. Shaw continued, ” It can’t be easy showing your bottom to a room full of doctors and staff.” And then, Dr. Shaw paused. “But of course,” He said, “it depends on how you think of it. You could be mooning our entire daytime staff.”
By the time he was in chemotherapy, Brian hated his body. It was difficult for him to get it to do what he wanted it to do. When he saw the MRI of the soft tissue tumor that had grown out of his swollen, cancerous pelvic bone he said he believed his body was trying to kill him. “You can cut me in half,” he said, “just let me live.”
Brian loved music, especially Miles Davis and later John Coltrane….he identified with the frustration and pain in Coltrane’s music and made “A Love Supreme” his anthem. He loved good movies and video games. He loved Marlin Brando in the Godfather and we rented several more Brando films including On the Waterfront with the musical score written by Leonard Bernstein. Brian couldn’t wait to get his chemotherapy over so he could move to the University Park campus at Penn State to get his hands on their video and computer equipment.
If Brian was shy in the company of males, he was petrified to speak to girls. He complained that it seemed so easy for all the other boys, but he just couldn’t collect himself to say much of anything to the fairer gender. It seemed like every gesture backfired with embarrassment. A few times, he mustered his courage to express the bewildering feelings he had for girls. During one Valentine’s Day, he flatly refused to give any girl a valentine in person but agreed to slip only one into the locker of Julie Houseman when she wasn’t looking.
Later in high school he discovered that girls can be great friends and began to open up to them and enjoy several strong boy/girl relationships. In fact, Brian was able to attend his senior prom with long time friend Melissa Hunter (who wore the dress of the year.) They had a great time and kept in contact with each other until near the end of his life. With the help of her mother Dottie, Melissa was able to visit Brian in January at Children’s Hospital. (Many of you know that Brian is extremely near sided, so when friends came to visit, he wouldn’t always put on his glasses. He would lay on his back and talk, snooze, or sleep depending on the visitor, conversation, etc… ) Suddenly, in through the door came Melissa and her mother for a visit before she flew off to Hawaii to dance for the Pro Bowl half-time show. After scrambling to cover himself with a sheet, the first thing out of Brian’s mouth was, “Dad, hand me my glasses.” It was a great visit, even though he was heavily sedated, he sat up and talked for three hours.
It is my honor to be Brian’s dad. I considered it a blessing to have helped Brian through to the end of his life. During over 100 or so trips to Pittsburgh, countless nights in the hospital, over 26 months we listened to hours and hours of music, watched Mario Betali on the food channel, discussed all manner of issues, and I was privileged to watch my boy grow into a courageous, noble, human being, a real man.
In his last days, it was his body that failed him; it was never his spirit or his will to fight. The doctors simply refused to continue to treat him even though he insisted on trying experimental drugs. He had very little bone marrow left to keep him alive, his blood pressure was getting lower and lower, his kidneys were failing. I confess that I had resigned myself to throwing in the towel and, to use a phrase Brian hated, “keep him comfortable” for whatever time was remaining. But, Brian and his mother wanted no part of anything resembling a status quo. Mothers are like that. They never give up on their children. There is something in the nature of the bond that never gives up hope and fights like hell for all their children. And Brian has the most determined, absolutely devoted, unretreating, ever- hopeful mother, who never gave up, never. Brian wasn’t coming home to die. He was coming home to try alternative medicines. To the end, to his last breath, Brian fought to live. He said that he would never quit fighting until it was over and he kept his word.
Well, my brave son, I’m here to tell you it is still not over. We, your family and friends, will take up your flag. We will face down this cancer and work toward the day when no young man or woman will face death as a result of Ewing’s Sarcoma. It is not over. We will raise awareness in the pediatric medical community to diagnose adolescent bone cancers earlier; we will support research that will unlock the cellular code of tumors to destroy every last cancer cell. It is not over, Brian.
We will bring hope and encouragement to your follow bone cancer fighters, Scott, Sarah, Jacob, Danika, Blake, Joshua, Susan, Abdula, Tulous, Jeffrey, David, and the staff of 8 North who, with great compassion and determination, help their daily struggle. It is not over. Brian, big guy, we will make meaning out of your suffering and your death. We will confront this monster with our love for you and all of the other cancer patients who are forced to look into its darkness. This is not the end, my boy.
This is not an indifferent crowd in these seats; they are your friends and family. They have prayed for you, cried for you, loved you, and they are not ready to quit either. Ignited by your unyielding fight, inspired by your unwavering faith, we will join hearts and hands to bring an end to this pernicious and evil disease of young adults. And when we do, there will be no more adolescent bone cancer, no more suffering, no more chemotherapy, no more amputations. We will have found meaning and purpose from your death and benefit the lives of young people living and yet to be born. Brian, you are not only our child, but the child or brother of everyone here. Your courage, determination, and faith lives on in us because of your example. The medicines on the horizon are hopeful. It is only our indifference that we have to fear. With the help of God and your angels here among us, we will convert this tragedy into victory and look back at this moment as the beginning of your legacy, not the end of your life. So, rest easy Brian, we’ll take it from here.
Eulogy for Brian Morden
at First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Altoona, Pennsylvania 16601
Saturday, February 22, 2003; 5 PM
Giving a Eulogy for my best friend is a true honor, and the number of mourners gathered here today is a testament to his character. Brian Morden was a truly special person. For the 15 years I knew him, he emitted an unmatchable and enthusiastic zest for life. His unshakable optimism was visible daily through a grin that stretched from ear to ear. It was a sort of visual chivalry. You can’t picture Brian Morden without a smile. Seeing his grin made you feel warm inside because you were reminded that true innocence exists. One of his smiles could make a slow morning brighter or a stressful day peaceful because it renewed your sense of hope. Brian Morden simply helped me to see the good in people. There was a lot of good in Brian and he had a lot to smile about. He had a great family, supportive friends, and a happy hearty and wholesome life.
When we got news of Brian’s cancer those two long years ago, we were all very concerned. However, because each of us knew Brian as a strong and optimistic person, we knew he would fight, and that the cancer could never take him. We knew his character would not allow defeat. It is impossible for me to guess what was going through Brian’s mind as he first got the news. I can tell you he never sought pity, or showed weakness. I never heard a moan or groan; I never heard him openly ask those impossible and unanswerable questions that were surely swimming through his mind, instead, he simply resolved to fight, he wanted to show us his strength. He fought because he knew he had qualities and gifts that he needed to share with people, talents he wanted to use. Brian always wanted to create. Whether it was making music or editing a movie, Brian loved entertaining, because it was the perfect medium for him to share his intriguing imagination. He needed to get better because he had so much to share. With his fight came new places, new people new words: Chemo, radiation, Pittsburgh, neupogen, broviac, platelets, this was his new life. Through this beginning battle, his talents meant much more, his well known battle helped him to reach more people.
One day much later, I got a call from a sniffling Brian. He told me simply “Brian…I relapsed, I am just going to have to fight harder”. Relapse was that complicated word none of us wanted to hear. Brian made it very simple. Again, the stone cold resolve to fight harder was evident in his voice; it was an unceasing hope; a trust that God would let Brian do what it was he was meant to do on this earth. Brian was familiar with the concept of clinging to hope in the darkest times. He had worshipped the Tolkein books that revolved around this theme. It was a theme Tolkein hit upon so often in his books because of the tragedy he had in his own life as a World War II soldier. Brian had this hope, and it wasn’t just because he read about, it was a genuinely original feeling that stemmed deep inside… because he knew the cancer would never take him, we all did. He still had so much to share with the world.
He fought harder, and we all missed him more and more as his attendance in school was less and less. Each day we would see the empty chair in band, we would be reminded of the important things in life, Brian showed us what they were. The Morden family showed us what it was to be a family; two selfless parents a strengthening brother and a fury stress ball named alie. It is obvious to me the weeks, the months, and the quality of life the Morden family was able to add to Brian’s life, to keep the physical and emotional resources replenished on Brian’s battlefield. What they accomplished together was amazing.
While this battle raged on, the band would often leave a chair out for Brian, and place a Morden substitute, a trumpet case with a glasses and a button down shirt. It didn’t quite take the place of Brian, but it reminded us of his battle, of his strength, and it was something the trumpets could put their arm around when they weren’t playing. That’s how much he was missed. That’s the impact he made on us. That’s how much his smiles meant to us. Each trip to Pittsburgh, each Monday back in band, we would see how special Brian really was. His talents of evoking hope, and strength and kindness, and bringing out the best in people. That’s what it was he was hear to do. He was an emotional massoose.
That’s what he was sharing. He and his family fighting, enabled him to keep on sharing, to touch more lives, whether it was young girl in high school, an internet friend in Australia, or an entire software branch of Microsoft. His fight embodied the human spirit and we all tried to fight along side, to live life better, he showed how to live and why it is so important.
In the later stages of the battle Geo and I would visit Brian as often as we could in the hospital. We would walk in and see that smile again, and it alone was worth the trip. It meant something different though, it illustrated courage. Even after being told he had a few weeks to live, Brian was barely deterred from fighting. When his kidneys began to shut down, Brian’s doctors asked him what he wanted to do. Mr.Morden told me Brian felt he still had work to do. The hope remained but the doctors felt that Brian should go home keep hope but stop the fight. Shortly after the Morden’s reported that it looked like Brian was taking his last breaths and that he might not be able to live through the night. Brian set a goal then, he wanted to go home and say goodbye to everyone. Somehow, as the toxins poured into the bloodstream, he made it home and rested on his bed while friends and family visited and called. He had done it, he had won. He was still hoping for a miracle but said he accepted God’s will. I see his making it home as a miracle in its self. There he passed peacefully into the night as his parents lay beside him. He was calm, unafraid, and at peace with himself. His passing could only have been better if it were 60 years later. His heart, mind and soul were intact, and the cancer didn’t conquer any of that. He beat that part, we all knew that he would never let the cancer spread to his will to live or spread to his spirit. Although he may have still questioned why he was given a shorter time, why he couldn’t go on sharing, I am sure as he smiles down on us all from above he can truly realize how his fight with cancer amplified his gifts.
His fight brought out the best in him, and it helped to project him into the lives of everyone he knew. The internet allowed him an entire new medium to reach. He not only touched this community but people all around the world that knew him, that prayed for him, that sent him cards and encouragement. They all know the Brian we know, it’s the same one. This is what he was put on this earth for; he showed us all how prayer and good thoughts make a soul indestructible. He showed us that when bad things happen to good people, good people fight back. He gave hope to us all, and showed us that optimism is an invisible lifting hand that can help us all get through the tough times. His death has only made these ideals stronger. Like Gandalf the gray becoming Gandalf the white, Brian is now Brian the white, smiling down on us all stronger than ever and forever in his prime. Our community and the people around the world that know him will hold him in their hearts forever. Even Bungie, the part of Microsoft, said how he will be placed in each and every one of their games in some way, so that his message won’t soon be forgotten. Brian did it, he won, the battle is over and his legacy lives on stronger than ever, his spirit admired, his character loved, his gifts appreciated, his love accepted and returned. Its so easy now, he has made it so easy, the pain and the battles we will all go through in life will be made less as we remember that smile, because the memory of it, the image of it, the meaning of that grin, will never lose its power, it will forever warm our hearts in the coldest times. Thank you.
Eulogy for Brian Andrew Morden
The Reverend Jaime G. Olson, Associate Pastor
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Altoona, Pennsylvania 16601
Saturday, February 22, 2003
A seven-year history is all I can attest to knowing Brian. It was my first year at seminary and being assigned to First Lutheran Church. Coming to First also meant being assigned a confirmation class to teach each Sunday morning. It would be wonderful if I could stand here today and say that it was with enthusiasm that we began our first year together. However, when you factor in a group of young people where they, their bodies, and their intellect are trying to fit into the greater schema of things, is mixed with a rookie, well, you can figure out who it was that did the teaching.
It was our first class that I saw for the first time a bushy red-haired pre-teen, a young man at an awkward age in an awkward place, fulfilling the obligations of a father and mother whose baptismal promises ensure a new generation of responsible members of an Altoona Lutheran Church. Needless to say, God’s grace was abundant as hours of tedium passed and the chance for a relationship began to unfold. As a pastor want-to-be, what I learned most about confirmation class is that while they are important, church history, biblical studies, and Luther’s small catechism really has very little to do with what youth really want to experience at church. Acceptance, love, and the assurance that God does really exist and that God does really care about them, becomes the foundation for anytime youth gather under the umbrella called the church.
Together, we made it! Brian was confirmed, I was ordained, and through time, a quiet bond was felt by two people brought together by God’s Spirit of placement. As time passed, the dreadful announcement was made that this young red-haired now teen was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and treatment would begin. Mom and dad vigilant in their search for answers and a brother beyond his years on many levels stood firm in their care of Brian. Family and friends, ‘Briansroom’, ‘Relay for Life’ activities, prayers and more prayers were a way for all of us to be proactive–to be involved on Brian’s journey.
Joseph and the Dreamcoat was Brian’s choice for the local ‘Relay for Life’ event, and I was so pleased in the midst of treatments that Brian along with many of you were able to walk the survivor’s lap. The brilliance of the coat was a reflection of the joy that we felt on that day.
After many hours of treatments and painful intrusions into the body of the teen with the red hair now lost, we gathered here to offer thanks to God for the announcement of remission and a night of worship and praise, food, fellowship and games. Brian’s thank you was sincere for all that was done in his name, but I knew also that a room set up for fun was foremost on Brian’s mind as he edged closer and closer to the door.
We do not understand why his remission was short-lived, why our prayers were not answered the way we wanted. Once again, the announcement was made and the man with the red hair was experiencing much pain and his battle though vigilant was losing to this dread disease. If all the prayers, love, care and concern that were offered in Brian’s name could have healed him, we would have succeeded, but that was not the case.
Being with Brian in his final days meant watching the pain that weighed heavy on everyone around him. Offering communion to Brian and his family at this time assured a rookie pastor that Brian had now resolved with God his relationship and even though he wanted to continue to fight, he was prepared to be with God in a new way.
Yes, Brian wanted to live! Yes, Brian wanted to fight to the end, and that is what he did.
I will never forget Brian with the red hair, and I look forward to the day that we meet again in God’s glory where all pain and sorrow will be no more–a place with a brass ensemble flanked on one side with the man with the red hair–Brian!
Brian’s Legacy <3
There are people who will live to be 100 and will not come anywhere near to leaving the legacy that Brian has left us. His is a tale of courage and faith. It’s clear from the testimonies of everyone he came in contact with that his was a “life that was transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before his suffering.” (Peterson from his introduction to the Book of Job)
Brian found himself confronting danger that he did not willingly seek, but instead of letting it defeat him, he summoned the courage necessary to overcome his fear and face jeopardy head on.
“But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.” Sam reflected. “And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.” (Sam to Frodo–Book IV, Chapter 8)
As we follow Brian’s example and press on in courage and faith, as Matthew and Kayleigh come face to face with jeopardy, it is my hope that they will ask to hear their favorite tale, the one where Brian and his faithful companions stubbornly clung to their faith and came to “a good end.”
Thank you Brian for this legacy!!!
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12”
OFTEN THE SCENES WE LEAST DESIRE ARE THOSE MOST IMPORTANT TO THE STORY BEING TOLD.
This is not going to be one of those “I’m so sorry such a bad thing happened to such a good person” letters. If there is one thing I have learned from my mother’s illness, it is that pity doesn’t help anything. When other people feel sorry for us, it only makes us feel more sorry for ourselves. I hate that feeling. I hate pity.
I’m not sorry that pain has attacked your life. It isn’t just unlucky coincidence that Satan has besieged your body and mind. You are truly a shining example of love, and for that, you have been targetted. I have no pity for you … only admiration. We first met on the halo.bungie.org forums, but the first meaningful conversation I had with you was on the Psyjnir HL. I remember it fairly well. My mom was more sick than she had ever been or has been since and I was struggling with my own helplessness. In fact, I wasn’t very good at helping people in the first place. Most of my life had been spent guarding my cold heart from any pain people might inflict on it. And so I met you; this kid who, even when faced with his own struggles, cares about everyone else. You helped me help my mom … and many more people God has put in my path since then.
But that is only the beginning. There are very few people who understand the true power of love; who understand that love can change this fallen world in radical amazing ways. Love is more powerful than fear, pain, or death. It threatens Satan’s rule over this world more than anything else. (See Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and Jesus Christ) Love gives us and those around us unbelievable strength. Matt Soell said, “One marvels at the resilience of the human spirit under extreme duress,” but you are packing more ammunitionthan the standard-issue human. spirit. The love that you have, bolstered by the love imparted on you by those aroundyou, continually leads you to accomplish things that the rest of us can only regard with dumbfounded awe. This, my friend, is the TRUE power of <3.
There are those who, in an entire lifetime, don’t do half of the good you have done in the year I’ve known you. You have changed my life.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is Jove. (1 Corinthians 13.13)
Hope you feel better.
P.S. I have attached an essay Iwrote for English last semester. I am kind of ashamed of it but I think there are some nuggets in there you might enjoy.
Below are some other links related to Brian’s legacy and impact:
Brian’s Bungie Trip
A website of the adventure created by Brian’s mom with the help of
Brian, Brian J., Fred, and Jamin
Brian’s Bungie Trip
written by His Father
Brian’s Story from family friend, Betsy Bryce’s website
“THE AUTUMN! SHE’S BEEN HIT!”
In the original Halo: Combat Evolved game for Xbox, during the cutscene where Master Chief and several Marines are headed toward a Halo Ring in an escape pod, Bungie used Brian’s recording for a Marine who sees the Pillar of Autumn torn apart by a Covenant ship and screams, “The Autumn! She’s been hit!”
You can hear his voice in the original clip, shown below, at 0:46:
The original clip from the escape pod scene. Brian’s voice was used for this Marine’s line in the script.
When Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition was released, 343 Industries (who bought Bungie) still used Brian’s voice in the updated graphics version of the game.
Pleasant Valley Recreation Center
March 30, 2003
Thanks to all the participants, sponsors, Sally Balmforth and her “partners in crime:”
- MaryAnn Ritchey, Vice President, Alumni Band Parents
- Becky Klingeman, Secretary AAHS Band Parents
- Jim Miller, Treasurer, Alumni Band Parents
- Alumni Band Parents – food tables/sold tickets
- Brittney Ritchey -sold BMF T-shirts
“Without these people and their collective ideas and boundless energy for this event, this project would never have left the ground, let alone soar to the heights it did! I will be forever grateful to them all.” – Sally
Two thousand dollars were raised for Ewing’s sarcoma research, patient care, and higher education scholarships.
Wolf’s Furniture Company
Delgrosso’s Amusement Park
Kings Restaurant donation and 2 Teams
Mastercuts donation and a Team
Altoona Veterinary 1 Team
Lori Tremmel (Jr’s Coach PVRC 1 Team)
Dirt Busters 1 Team and donation
Altoona Corvette Club 1 Team
Oak Spring Winery
Phil Riccio 1 Team
Larry Detwiler 1 Team
The Book Store
Bath & Body
David Aboud 1 Team
Ward Trucking 2 Teams
Altoona Area High School Band 17 Teams
Froggy 98 and Forever Broadcasting Free advertisement for the event
Brian’s best buddies organize hours of fun and raise money for the Brian Morden Foundation.
Brian Johnson, Jamin Morden, and Geo Horvath at the Halo/Games Night on August 8th and 9th, 2003
BMF Halo LAN Party Fundraiser
From 7pm on Friday August 8th till noon on Saturday August 9th, the Brian Morden Foundation held what is hoped to be an annual fundraising event. Fun, games, and more games were available on four Xbox consoles set up to play the best selling game Halo, along with three computers with Unreal Tournament and Starcraft. For the adults, card games and puzzles were set up in a separate area.
Among those present at the Fundraiser were some of Brian’s friends from high school such as Chris Miller, Ian Cohn, Rob Hilton, and Chris Ferguson. Coupled with the veritable army of Jamin’s friends and various parents, saying there was a good turnout would be an understatement.
As the night went on, the Fundraiser kicked into high gear with many team games of Halo being played, including the traditional Battle for the Really Big Plate of Hot Wings, as well as several games of Unreal Tournament Capture the Flag on the computers.
Finally, after 17 hours and more than $500 in merchandise sales and donations later, it was time to send everyone on their way to home or bed (they both are interchangeable) and draw an extremely successful fundraiser to a close.
2003 BMF Scholarship
Meet Geo and Brian
Both Geo and Brian were awarded the Brian Morden Memorial Scholarship because they met the requirements set forth in the conditions of the scholarship. They exemplify those qualities that represent the best of Brian Morden: friendship, loyalty, courage, and love.
Brian Morden loved music and computers. Geo Horvath played trumpet with the Altoona Area High School Band for 3 years as well as with the AAHS jazz ensemble He is a 2003 graduate of AAHS. Prior to his senior year, Geo was accepted at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Information Technology during the summer of 2002. Geo plans to major in computer science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. He begins his college career in August 2003.
Brian Johnson played trombone with the Altoona Area High School Band for 3 years. He also played in the jazz ensemble, orchestra, and pit orchestra. Brian completed his freshman year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2003 where hewas and plans to continue as a composition major. He will continue his college education there, returning in August 2003. Brian Johnson also loves computers and recently coordinated efforts by a group of players – Wolfpack to compete in the Myth World Cup 2003.
Geo and Brian with their parents.
Geo and Brian with the Mordens.
2003 BMF Activities
See what we were up to in 2003 and how it all got started!
Marking a Memory
Thanks to the hearts and hands of Becky, Dennis, and Andy Beasom, Lisa and Steve Merschiltz, and Scott and Jennifer (Beasom) Pappal, a permanent marker surrounded by Morden roses rests just outside the entrance of the Altoona Area High School Auditorium, a very special place to our whole family. The marker reads simply “Morden ‘Fireglow Roses’ in memory of Brian Andrew Morden Class of 2002.” Approved by the school administration, we are deeply moved and grateful for this wonderful tribute to our son.
Relay for Life
The Altoona Area School District participated in our Relay for Life this year in memory of Brian. They earned over $8,000 for the American Cancer Society. Here’s hoping some of that money goes to research for a Ewing’s sarcoma cure.
The BMF in Action
In May, Fred made the journey back to Pittsburgh where he met with Doctors Ritchey and Wollman, Oncologists at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. The purpose of the trip was to share the goals and vision of the BMF to see how it could assist the efforts of the doctors in CHP, discuss the bedside computer idea, and to seek information about research possibilities. There is much common ground for mutual efforts. The CHP through Drs. Ritchey and Wollman invited the BMF to join their TEEN INITIATIVE which will seek to identify and solve protocol, treatment, environmental, and logistical issues unique to older teens in a pediatric hospital unit. This will be a multi-disciplinary effort that will include all care givers, staff, patients, siblings, and parents involved with older teens with cancer. With the building of a new children’s hospital coming, it’s a good time to get started in order to impact the planning of a teen senstive physical structure.Work on the bedside computer is continuing with CHP blessing.
Bowling for Brian
Well, bowling for the BMF. Led by dynamic Sally Balmforth, the March 30th event was organized and hosted by the Alumni Music Parents from the Altoona Area High School who have always been one of Brian’s biggest supporters. This time they put on a great show for the benefit of Ewing’s cancer research and scholarships for graduating seniors. Thirty two lanes at the Pleasant Valley Rec Center were not enough to hold the participants, music students, and parents as bowling activities had to be split into two shifts so everyone could participate. 256 participants led the first wave of bowlers at 7pm with wave number two hitting the lanes at 9pm. Great door prizes, food, and esprit de corps led the enthusiastic “bowlers” to a net contribution of $2,000 for the BMF. WOW!
First Evangelical Lutheran Gets Everyone Involved
First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brian’s church, has led the way for total involvement in the BMF, not only in their prayers since Brian was diagnosed, but through their actions and pocketbooks. Fundraisers erupted from the Temple Choir (hoagie sale), the Circle of Hope, and the Craft Club. Pastors Fred Romig and Jamie Olson were not only welcome visitors in the Morden home but traveled to Pittsburgh to bring their comfort, prayers, and communion to our family while Brian was at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Our spirits were and remain strong due, in large part, to the constant flow of love and concern from the good people of First Church in Altoona.
Music Making for the BMF
The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Altoona was the site for an evening of jazz, produced by the instrumental music teachers and students of the Altoona Area School District. Leading off the evening was Dennis Moses and the Elementary Jazz Band. It’s always a shock because these kids are not only cute, they really swing. Next the junior high schools, Keith and Roosevelt, led by their directors Jon Yon and Kent Martin respectively, each performed a short set of three tunes. A familiar face appeared in the trumpet section of the Roosevelt Jazz Band … why it was Jamin Morden playing lead trumpet. (I thought he was a french horn player) And finally, the AAHS Jazz Band and Advanced Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Larry Detwiler brought the evening to an exciting close. All monies donated were matched by Thrivent Insurance. There was talk about making this a yearly event. We hope it becomes a tradition. We appreciate everyone’s efforts and help.
Lutheran High School Band Donates Gate
“Families First” an intergenerational family ministry of the First Lutheran Church, Altoona, sponsored a benefit concert for the Brian Morden Foundation on March 20, 2003. The touring Lutheran High School Wind and Jazz bands from Indianapolis, Indiana, presented a concert — Rock to Bach. A free will offering was taken and all proceeds were matched by Thrivent Lutheran financial. Thanks to Pastor Jamie Olson and Families First for their efforts in sponsoring the concert as well as feeding and serving the 44 member band and adults.
Thrivent Adds More Than Its Two Cents
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans provided matching funds for all monies raised by the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Altoona. Andrea Paul-Day, our local representative for Thrivent, said that they were proud to assist the community effort to bring an end to the suffering caused by Ewing’s Sarcoma. Thrivent Financial is not only an insurance/investment company but a valuable partner in the development and support of all kinds of community activities all across the country. Thank you Thrivent, Gary Thomas, Sandra Kurtz, Phyllis Fee, and Andrea Paul-Day.
Altoona Symphony Plays Tribute
At their final concert of the season the Altoona Symphony dedicated its performance to Brian. The idea, first generated by the musicians of the orchestra, was picked up later by the board and was included in the printed program. A lover of all kinds of music, Brian was especially attached to Jazz and the music of John Coltrane. In the concert hall, Brian enjoyed the music of Tchaikovsky and American composers Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland. Appalachian Spring, by Copland was performed by the ASO.
Altoona Dons a New Look
Royal blue T-Shirts, polo shirts, sweat shirts, and jackets with the BMF logo (“Brian’s Heart”) can be seen all over Altoona. Worn by adults and many of Brian’s gaming buddies and friends, these high quality T’s are both comfortable and good looking. You can order one at the brianmordenfoundation.org online. Don’t be the last person in the world to have one. Order today.
AASD Schools Honor Brian
Faculty and staff from Brian’s alma maters (Baker Elementary, Roosevelt Jr. High, and AAHS) provided much needed support and encouragement during the two years he fought against Ewings. The Music Parents at AAHS contributed great amounts of time and energy to earn funds to help us financially as well. Faculty and staff from Pleasant Valley, Logan, Juniata, and Juniata Gap Elementary Schools also helped Brian and our family. After Brian’s death a number of schools including Baker, WJ, and RJHS placed books in memory of Brian in their libraries or had fundraisers such as dress down days to donate money to the Brian Morden Foundation. Jamin’s ninth grade class at RJHS sold copies of their 9th grade slide show and plan to donate part of those monies to the foundation. While we were not blessed with a long life for Brian, we have been blessed with a wonderful community of friends throughout the Altoona Area School District.
The Gifts of “Sons” and “Brothers”
During his two year struggle against Ewing’s Sarcoma, Brian became part of the prayers, thoughts, and gift giving of many people throughout this country and abroad. Cards, letters, food, gas, coupons, books, just about anything you can imagine was given to Brian and our family to inspire and assist in his struggle. Since Brian’s death on February 15, 2003, the giving has not stopped. It continues in support of the Brian Morden Foundation and its goals of research, assistance, and scholarship. At Brian’s Memorial Service, his father said, “This is not an indifferent crowd in these seats; they are your friends and family. They have prayed for you, cried for you, loved you, and they are not ready to quit either… Brian you are not only our child, but the child or brother of everyone here. Your courage, determination, and faith lives on in us because of your example.”
Living On In Us
And now for some very exciting news: After investigating various research efforts to stabilize, improve, and/or cure Ewing’s Sarcoma, we feel we may have found a research project that merits our support. Dr. James Geiger, Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan, is a tumor immunologist and has a specific interest in pediatric surgical oncology with significant experience in both laboratory and clinical immunotherapy. He leads a team of eight other investigating doctors at the C.S.Mott Children’s Hospital, part of the University of Michigan Medical School.
The Problem: When the standard chemo/radiation therapy fails, like it did with Brian and so many other ES patients, the chances for survival drop significantly because the disease has become or was treatment resistant. So, there is nothing to stop the disease from growing. One reason why it can’t be stopped is because the cells in your body that normally protect you from disease don’t recognize the tumor cells as foreign objects.
The Solution: Dr. Geirger has developed a method whereby your own white cells are “taught” to recognize tumor cells. Once they “see” them, they surround and kill or limit the growth of the tumor cells.
Results: In a pediatric Phase I trial, Dr. Geiger and his colleagues administered their vaccine at two-week intervals to patient volunteers (some near death). They found no significant toxicities associated with the treatment, a prime limitation of standard chemo treatments. Five patients have remained stable (no disease progression) for as long as 30 months post treatment, others experienced a total regression of the disease (disappeared).
Why aren’t there millions of dollars funding this research? Funding for vaccine therapy has been limited to public dollars including The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan.
Why not the big drug companies? This process is not a drug so it can’t be patented and profit can not be made from it, therefore, there is no finanical recovery possible from millions of dollars of investment. Public dollars and some private gifts to the UofM help this project because it will benefit patients first and not drug companies. It is a natural process.
A Phase II Clinical Trial is ready to go. Our funding would help move this vital research forward more quickly and make this treatment more widely available to those patients who are literally dying for help. More details to follow.