MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Brandie Cook is pretty blunt about the upcoming holiday.
"I hate Christmas," she said, laughing uneasily. "I know that's horrible. But it's not the same with him gone."
The person missing from Cook's life is her father, Timothy "Tim" Rees, who died during a robbery in March 2006.
"Christmas was his favorite holiday," Cook said of her father. "When Christmas came, he decked us all out. My dad would donate money to the Salvation Army, Muncie Mission and Amvets every Christmas. He bought gifts for the trash man, the mailman, the newspaper delivery man and the bank he frequented."
And, as it turns out, he had purchased one final gift for his daughter.
Tim Rees was 51 years old on March 21, 2006, when intruders entered his Benton Road home. Rees and his girlfriend were bound and he was beaten and robbed. Rees died after being unable to breathe because of his bonds.
Two men, Michael W. Johnson and Christopher Wilfong, were subsequently arrested, tried and convicted.
Not long before the night he was killed, Rees bought a pair of diamond earrings for his daughter. Brandie's birthday is March 30 and she was about to turn 28 years old.
Rees gave the earrings to his mother, Brandie's grandmother.
"When they robbed him, they took his safe, his coin collection, everything," Rees told The Star-Press . "The fact that he had the earrings at my Grandma's is the only reason I have them today."
Cook's family took her to a birthday lunch. Only a few days had passed since her father's death, and she didn't want to go.
She was glad she agreed to go when she saw her father had given her one last gift.
"My grandmother handed me a box that was wrapped and had a tag that read, 'To Brandie, from Dad.' I began to get emotional and couldn't figure out how this could be. I unwrapped it and it was a pair of diamond earrings that my dad had purchased at one of his favorite shops, SilverTowne."
The earrings were not a Christmas gift, of course, but her father's thoughtfulness and his personal enjoyment of Christmas are helping her rediscover her love of the holiday.
Cook's son, Rees, is named after her father. Young Rees has seen photos of his grandfather and has visited his grave. "We tell him that's Papaw Tim, who he was named after."
Cook is hoping seeing photos of his grandfather and hearing stories about his love of Christmas will help her son — and maybe help her, too.
"Now that I have a child, I'm trying to find the spirit of Christmas again," she said.
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