Remembering Remi Brunson
“I just always knew that she was a gift from God and Louie and I were chosen to be her parents,” says Amy Brunson of New Underwood, South Dakota. Their daughter, Remi, passed away on Jan. 29 of this year, after leaving an enormous impact in her four short years of life.
While Amy experienced a normal pregnancy and birth, she soon realized that Remi was not reaching the milestones that her older sister, Bryndel, had. When Remi was an infant, a bad case of RSV turned to pneumonia. The family was flown to the pediatric intensive care unit in Sioux Falls, where doctors began running other tests. She wasn’t able to hold up her head and was extra “floppy” even as a child, according to Brunson. Eventually, she was diagnosed with LAMA-2 Muscular Dystrophy, of which both Louie and Amy are carriers. The diagnosis made sense when considering Remi’s lack of strength, and throughout her life, she would continue experiencing significant atrophy and weakness of the skeletal muscles. She had difficulty eating and her mobility was limited to a wheelchair.
While taking in the news, Brunson’s friends, Jen and Will Meyer, gave some lasting encouragement. The Meyers also have a child with a congenital condition–a heart defect that has needed several operations since her birth. Brunson says, “Jen and her husband were so strong and they said to me when they got the diagnosis that they were not going to let [Susy’s] heart condition define them. They were going to live their lives and that just really stuck with me.” She determined that Remi’s condition would not define their family, either.
So, they carried on, living each day as fully and normally as possible. Amy was able to work from home for Affiliated Mortgage in order to also serve as Remi’s full-time caregiver. Still, she continued doing things she enjoyed, at the advice of doctors and counselors. In order to keep her “tank full” to be the best mother possible, Amy continued running barrels, even having success pro rodeoing last summer. She also raises some horses, and through her grieving process, she says the horses have also been an immense gift to her from God.
Since Remi’s passing, Louie and Amy have leaned into showering love on their firstborn, Bryndel. At six years old, she wants to be a bull rider, with heroes like Dale Brisby and JB Mauney. She watches Dale’s show on Netflix and YouTube.
Four years ago when Remi was a baby, Dale Brisby was a central part of the success of the fundraiser held in New Underwood, which featured goat roping and live music. One month ago, Dale once again got ahold of Brunsons, offering to pay for the power wheelchair that Remi was set to receive by now. They thanked him, and gratefully declined the offer, saying they had already saved up the money from his help at the fundraiser.
Though Brisby’s costumed appearance is comical and playful, behind the sunglasses, he is a “wonderful man,” according to Brunson. He is a Christian, and quietly donates and does charitable works without these actions making it to the limelight. “So I’m okay if Brindle is obsessed with him,” Brunson laughs.
Her husband, Louie, enjoyed an impressive professional bronc riding career, and has since retired from the arena. Still, he hosts local practices to help young roughstock riders and has begun to pick up. He also takes in outside barrel horses that need miles on the ranch, which is easily incorporated into taking care of his cows. Their rodeo family is vast, and the support from their friends across the nation was felt from the time Remi was diagnosed until her passing. The color purple, Remi’s favorite color, was worn by competitors and spectators during the week of pro rodeos in Fort Worth and Rapid City, showing the Brunson family support from afar.
The Brunsons have always believed in God’s plan and God’s timing throughout Remi’s life. She was a joyous child, bringing light everywhere she went. Still, day to day could be difficult. While other children were playing, Remi expressed wishes to walk, though she never would. The family knows that Remi left this world at her peak of living, and they are grateful they did not have to witness her body’s further degradation as she got older. “She wasn’t in a lot of pain. She was still able to eat and function, but we knew that she was going to start declining. With their muscles being weak, their body wears down,” she says.
Brunson says that she believes God’s mission in bringing Remi to this earth was to teach lessons: have stronger faith, smile more, and don’t take life too seriously. Being strong in faith, the Brunson family has been at peace. “A lot of people are angry with God when they lose someone, but we know that Remi is free now. She’s able to walk and run and ride and she’s not trapped in this body that she couldn’t do things in. It’s just crazy how having that faith can help you through. We’re obviously still so devastated and miss her so much and wish we could have her back, but we know that she’s in a better place and we will be with her again,” she says.
The family extend their deepest gratitude for the support received throughout Remi’s life and after her passing, from donations, cards, and heartfelt words.