A loss, a gift and a reflection: RIP Christine Braswell
Saturday I got two texts: one saying that a friend had been in a car accident and was critical. The second saying that she didn't make it. Christine Braswell was an amazing woman I had the good fortune to meet because of a series of random confluences. My life has been greatly enriched by the very short time I spent with her. Her passing, unexpected and fast, has inspired a pause to reflect, be grateful for the people in my life and to let the things go that aren’t important.
In November of 2015, Lou Ann Hamblin invited me to attend two of her LouKa Tactical training courses: Developmental Marksmanship and Survival Pistol for female law enforcement officers. The courses were to be held at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in December of that year, in Palm Beach, Florida. At the time, I was in New Orleans for Thanksgiving and mid way through my four month training walkabout. I had gone from MN to VA, NC, SC, GA, FL and AL and my plan was to continue west, as I had just left Florida.
An opportunity to attend a great class with an instructor I admired, but hadn’t trained with yet, didn’t require much thought. I jumped at the chance and .. back to Florida I went! The class started with a classroom portion, after which we went to the range. Once there, Lou Ann called over a tall, very fit looking woman and introduced me to Christine. She then said that we were to stay together for the entire class. Christine looked at me and said, “What did I do?” I laughed and said, “I don’t know, but I am sorry!” and we both laughed.
Christine was a sniper on the Delrey Beach SWAT team and one of the best shooters in the class. I was, quite frankly, a bit challenged with accuracy and consistency issues. Lou Ann’s plan: put us together so that I would learn from Christine's expertise and experience. My goal: to make those damn bullets go where I wanted, consistently. (Sheer force of will was not working for me.)
It was a week of phenomenal training made all the more amazing by working with Christine. She was an amazing woman, coach, and, in a very short time, someone I considered a friend. Another student in the class, Kim, was also an exceptional shooter. She and Christine were so competitive with one other that they made each other better. Since I was attached at the hip to Christine, I was there while they pushed each other to get better and better, which meant that I got better too. (A whole lot better!*)
As Christine was also a martial artist and a defensive tactics instructor, after the course I went to see her teach her criminal justice students in Delrey Beach. We trained a bit, did some Kali and I even did a brief demo for her students. A couple months later, I was back in Florida for yet another training (I never did get west of New Orleans!) and we met for lunch. It was her first day back on patrol after being in the training department for years. We ate, laughed, joked, took a selfie together and off I drove.
It never occurred to me that I wouldn't see her again and that even if I didn't see her, she wouldn't continue to be a larger than life presence in all the lives she touched. Posthumously learning about exactly how amazing she was through Facebook and the news has been both heartbreaking and inspiring. I am so grateful to have been at the right place at the right time and with the right people to meet, learn from and get to know this amazing warrior woman. My life will be forever improved by the very short time I spent with her. After Lou Ann texted me the bad news Saturday evening, I excused myself from the dinner I was at to have a moment. Just as I walked away from the table, Lou called. We talked about how we’d been thinking about her all day and that we both thought that she would make it. She then said, “You know, I put you with her for a reason.” “I know. It was a gift I’ll forever be grateful for. Thank you.” I replied. She said, “You’re welcome.” and we both cried.
Christine was funny, kind, patient, could swear like a pro, a true badass and an unexpected gift in human form. RIP Christine, wherever you are, you’re making it better by being there.
- I started the class shooting a group the size of the Milky Way and ended it with an actual respectable group! She and I even shot the smallest group in a partner drill/contest hilariously named the 'Shoot my hole drill'. I got to teach her a little knife, some double stick and some other martial arts stuff. Thank you Christine, you will be missed by so many. Thank you Lou Ann Hamblin for putting me with her for that week. It was truly a gift.